Meira Warshauer Composition Techniques
Meira Warshauer has developed a wide musical palette with a distinctly personal voice. In it, she synthesizes her early atonal training, which she calls her “Conservatory style,” with subsequent exploration of Jewish prayer modes, minimalist textures, jazz-‐inflected rhythms, and her own melodic impulse.
Warshauer’s composition training at New England Conservatory was rooted in the atonal style of the 1970’s and ‘80s, and early works such as Awakening for solo piano and String Trio developed that language. But a desire to move beyond the confines of atonality was never far from the surface. Her very first composition, Lament for solo oboe, blends a modal improvisatory melody with an atonal edginess facilitated by a tritone motif. She continued to experiment with synthesis, as exhibited in Serenade Fantasy for flute and cello, which moves freely from a neo-‐Baroque theme into atonal forays, bridged by a whole tone scale.
With Shacharit (Morning Service), her doctoral dissertation, Warshauer relished the opportunity to develop a musical language which would incorporate the full spectrum of influences needed to express the text. The traditional Jewish prayer modes, motives, and cantillation, which distinguish various parts of the service, provided a tonal basis for organizing the large scale structure. With the whole tone scale as a bridge, she could move freely towards more atonality and dissonance or towards a calmer tonal palette, while incorporating jazz-‐inflected rhythms or hypnotic minimalist textures as the text and dramatic needs shifted. Maqamot for flute and string quartet by Israeli composer Odeon Partos, Bernstein’s Jeremiah Symphony, John Adams’s Harmonielehre, and Ernst Bloch’s Sacred Service were influential in forging this new territory.
As former New York Times critic Robert Jones wrote of the performance at Piccolo Spoleto, “(Shacharit) vibrates with color and excitement and summons up enormous power on both the emotional and decibel levels. Ms. Warshauer’s style is eclectic in the very best sense of the word; she chooses swiftly and certainly among all the techniques currently available to composers, and she has a flair for instrumentation."
The dissertation became the basis for much of her subsequent compositions. Aekha (Lamentations) uses the traditional cantillation for chanting the Book of Lamentations, along with a more dissonant language reflecting the angst of the text, while Yishakeyni (Sweeter than Wine) employs the cantillation for the Song of Songs, with a gentler language for sensual, meditative affect. Warshauer’s style continues to evolve.
Warshauer’s style continues to evolve. Recent large scale works such as Symphony No. 1 Living Breathing Earth exhibit a wildly colorful orchestration and expansive melodic breadth, while Tekeeyah (a call) incorporates Jewish motives (the shofar call) in a contemporary context, with novel textures such as orchestral whispering and quiet shofar pulsing. Her newest choral composition, Akhat Sha’alti (One thing I ask) borrows textures from collegiate a capella singing.
For more information and a complete catalog of works, visit http://meirawarshauer.com