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Photo: Mark Mahaney

Singer and Composer

Guest Speaker - Class of Spring 2010

Joan Labarbara’s career as a composer/performer/soundartist explores the human voice as a multi-faceted instrument expanding traditional boundaries, creating works for multiple voices, chamber ensembles, music theater, orchestra and interactive technology, developing a unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques: multiphonics, circular singing, ululation and glottal clicks that have become her “signature sounds,” garnering awards in the US and Europe, including the 2008 Letter of Distinction from the American Music Center for her significant contributions to new American music; the 2004 Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition, the prestigious DAAD Artist-in-Residency in Berlin and 7 National Endowment for the Arts fellowships: Music Composition, Opera/Music Theatre, Inter-Arts, Recording (2), Solo Recitalist and Visual Arts; ISCM International Jury Award; Akustische International Competition Award; Meet The Composer and ASCAP Awards and numerous commissions for concert, theatre and radioworks.


La Barbara has collaborated with artists including Lita Albuquerque, Cathey Billian, Melody Sumner Carnahan, Judy Chicago, Ed Emshwiller, Kenneth Goldsmith, Peter Gordon, Bruce Nauman, Steina, Woody Vasulka and Lawrence Weiner. In the early part of her career, she performed and recorded with Steve Reich, Philip Glass and jazz artists Jim Hall, Hubert Laws, Enrico Rava and arranger Don Sebesky, developing her own unique vocal/instrumental sound. She has premiered landmark compositions written for her by noted American composers, including Morton Subotnick’s chamber opera “Jacob’s Room.”


Educated at Syracuse and New York Universities and Tanglewood/Berkshire Music Center, studying voice with Helen Boatwright, Phyllis Curtin and Marian Szekely-Freschl, she learned her compositional tools as an apprentice with the numerous composers with whom she has worked for three decades. La Barbara served on the faculties of California Institute of the Arts, Hochschule der Künst in Berlin, The College of Santa Fe and the University of New Mexico, as well as maintaining a private studio. She served as Vice President of the American Music Center in New York; co-Artistic Director of the New Music America Festival in Los Angeles; was Contributing Editor for Musical America/High Fidelity and Schwann/Opus magazines and from 1989-2002 produced and co-hosted “Other Voices, Other Sounds,” a weekly radio program focussing on contemporary classical music for KUNM-FM.


La Barbara was Artistic Director of the Carnegie Hall series, “When Morty met John”, celebrating the music of John Cage and Morton Feldman and The New York School; was Artistic Director, Curator and Host of “Insights”, a new series of encounters with distinguished composers, for The American Music Center; and co-produced the “EMF 10” concert series in New York City. La Barbara is a member of SAG, AFTRA, AEA, The American Music Center, and is a composer and publisher member of ASCAP.

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