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Mary Jane Leach

b. 1949

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Mary Jane Leach is a composer/performer whose work reveals a fascination with the physicality of sound, its acoustic properties and how they interact with space. In many of her works Leach creates an other-worldly sound environment using difference, combination, and interference tones; these are tones not actually sounded by the performers, but acoustic phenomena arising from her deft manipulation of intonation and timbral qualities. The result is striking music which has a powerful effect on listeners.

Critics have commented on her ability to "offer a spiritual recharge without the banalities of the new mysticism" (Detroit Free Press), evoking "a visionary quest for inner peace" (Vice Versa Magazine), and "an iridescent lingering sense of suspended time." (Musicworks Magazine)

Leach's music has been performed throughout the world in a variety of settings, from concert stage to experimental music forums. In recent years Leach has received considerable acclaim for her choral music. Drawing on inspirations as diverse as Monteverdi, Bruckner, and 14th century Ars Nova, these pieces "enliven a choral repertoire starved for good contemporary work." (Village Voice).

Leach has been commissioned by many notable ensembles, including Fondazione ICO Tito Schipa, Relâche, The Downtown Ensemble, Newband, and the New York Treble Singers, and by soloists such as Manuel Zurria, Emanuele Arciulli, Sarah Cahill, Guy Klucevsek, Shannon Peet, and Libby Van Cleve. She has received commissioning awards from the NEA, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, and many other funders.

Recordings of her work are on the Modern Love, Blume, Die Schachtel, New World, XI, Lovely, Innova, Starkland, Capstone, and Aerial compact disc labels. Writing about her work has appeared in: American Music in the Twentieth Century by Kyle Gann, La musica minimalista by Paolo Coteni and Giovanni Antognozzi, The New Generation of Mystery/Kunstler des XXI Jahrhunderts by Maria De Alvear, and Het Tweede Thema of de Verwaarloosde Geschiedenis van de Componerende Vrouw by Simonne Claeys.

In 1995 Leach was selected for a prestigious grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, which was established by Jasper Johns and John Cage to support innovative artists in the performing arts. She has recently moved out of New York City to upstate New York where she has bought an old church (with good acoustics), where she lives and presents concerts.

"People say that Leach's music is hard to listen to. Well, Beethoven's music is hard to listen to - at first." —Otto Luening

Biography taken from composer’s website.
Photo: Courtney Asztalos

Windjammer | 1995 | 10 mins

Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon

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