Symphonies by Women

How many women have achieved the compositional milestone of writing a symphony for large orchestra?  The answer is, quite a few!  What follows is what I believe to be a comprehensive list of all symphonies written by women.  If you know of others—or if you find anything here that needs correcting—please post a comment.  So many of these works have been unjustly neglected.  The day will come (hopefully soon) when any short list of the greatest composers will include women.

Looking towards the future, one composer to watch will certainly be Alma Deutscher.  Her first of many symphonies is eagerly anticipated!

Elfrida Andrée (1841-1929)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Lera Auerbach (1973-)
Symphony No. 1, “Chimera”
Symphony No. 2, “Requiem for a Poet”
Symphony No. 3, “The Infant Minstrel and His Peculiar Menagerie”

Elizabeth Austin (1938-)
Symphony No. 1, “Wilderness Symphony”
Symphony No. 2, “Lighthouse”

Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4

Judith Bailey (1941-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Elsa Barraine (1910-1999)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Gaelic Symphony

Sally Beamish (1956-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Luise Adolpha Le Beau (1850-1927)
Symphony in F Major

Johanna Bordewijk-Roepman (1892-1971)
Symphony

Ina Boyle (1889-1967)
Symphony No. 1, “Glencree”
Symphony No. 2, “The Dream of the Rood”
Symphony No. 3, “From the Darkness”

Elisabetta Brusa (1954-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2

Gloria Coates (1938-)
Symphony No. 1, “Music on Open Strings”
Symphony No. 2, “Music on Abstract Lines/ Illuminatio in Tenebris”
Symphony No. 3, “Symphony for Strings/Symphony Nocturne”
Symphony No. 4, “Chiaroscuro”
Symphony No. 5, “Drei mystische Gesänge”
Symphony No. 6, “Music in Microtones”
Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 8, “Indian Sounds”
Symphony No. 9, “Homage to Van Gogh”
Symphony No. 10, “Drones of Druids on Celtic Ruins”
Symphony No. 11
Symphony No. 12
Symphony No. 13
Symphony No. 14, “The Americans”
Symphony No. 15, “Homage to Mozart”
Symphony No. 16, “Time Frozen”

Jean Coulthard (1908-2000)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2, “Choral Symphony, This Land
Symphony No. 3, “Lyric”
Symphony No. 4, “Autumn”

Nancy Dalberg (1881-1949)
Symphony in C minor

Yvonne Desportes (1907-1993)
Symphony No. 1, “Saint-Gindolph”
Symphony No. 2, “Monorythmie”
Symphony No. 3, “L’Éternel féminin”

Sophie Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté (1899-1974)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2, “Manitoba”

Pozzi Escot (1933-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6

Tsippi Fleischer (1946-)
Symphony No. 1, “Salt Crystals”
Symphony No. 2, “The Train”
Symphony No. 3, “Regarding Beauty”
Symphony No. 4, “A Passing Shadow”
Symphony No. 5, “Israeli-Jewish Collage”
Symphony No. 6, “The Eyes, Mirror of the Soul”
Symphony No. 7, “Choral Symphony”

Ilse Fromm-Michaels (1888-1986)
Symphony in C minor

Ruth Gipps (1921-1999)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5

Julia Gomelskaya (1964-2016)
Symphony No. 1, “SymPhobia”
Symphony No. 2, “Ukraine Forever”
Symphony No. 3, “Magnet”
Symphony No. 4, “Ra-Aeternae”

Minna Keal (1909-1999)
Symphony, op. 3

Helvi Leiviskä (1902-1982)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3

Ester Mägi (1922-)
Symphony

Nina Makarova (1908-1976)
Symphony in D minor

Emilie Mayer (1812-1883)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3, “Military”
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6
Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 8

Anne-Marie Ørbeck (1911-1996)
Symphony in D Major

Alla Pavlova (1952-)
Symphony No. 1 “Farewell, Russia” for chamber orchestra
Symphony No. 2 “For the New Millennium”
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6
Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 8
Symphony No. 9
Symphony No. 10

Dora Pejačević (1885-1923)
Symphony in F-sharp minor

Victoria Polevá (1962-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2, “Offertory to Anton Bruckner”
Symphony No. 3, “White interment”

Florence Price (1887-1953)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4

Shulamit Ran (1949-)
Symphony

Johanna Senfter (1879-1961)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 6
Symphony No. 7
Symphony No. 8
Symphony No. 9

Verdina Shlonsky (1905-1990)
Symphony

Alice Mary Smith (1839-1884)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor
Symphony No. 2 in A minor

Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2, “True and Eternal Bliss!”
Symphony No. 3, “Jesus Messiah, Save Us!”
Symphony No. 4, “Prayer”
Symphony No. 5, “Amen”

Lucy Wilkins (1939-)
Symphony

Grace Williams (1906-1977)
Symphony No. 1, “Symphonic Impressions”
Symphony No. 2

Judith Lang Zaimont (1945-)
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 2, “Remember Me”
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4 “Pure, Cool (Water)”

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (1939-)
Symphony No. 1, “Three Movements for Orchestra”
Symphony No. 2 “Cello Symphony”
Symphony No. 3
Symphony No. 4, “The Gardens”
Symphony No. 5, “Concerto for Orchestra”

Average Orbital Distance

If a planet is orbiting the Sun with a semi-major axis, a, and orbital eccentricity, e, it is often stated that the average distance of the planet from the Sun is simply a.  This is only true for circular orbits (e = 0) where the planet maintains a constant distance from the Sun, and that distance is a.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical planet much like the Earth that has a perfectly circular orbit around the Sun with a = 1.0 AU and e = 0.  It is easy to see in this case that at all times, the planet will be exactly 1.0 AU from the Sun.

If, however, the planet orbits the Sun in an elliptical orbit at a = 1 AU and e > 0, we find that the planet orbits more slowly when it is farther from Sun than when it is nearer the Sun.  So, you’d expect to see the time-averaged average distance to be greater than 1.0 AU.  This is indeed the case.

The Earth’s current osculating orbital elements give us:

a = 0.999998 and e = 0.016694

Earth’s average distance from the Sun is thus:

Mercury, the innermost planet, has the most eccentric orbit of all the major planets:

a = 0.387098 and e = 0.205638

Mercury’s average distance from the Sun is thus:

Why are the Pleiades called the Seven Sisters?

The famous and beautiful Pleiades star cluster, which lies between 429 and 448 light years from us in the constellation Taurus the Bull, contains at least 2,109 stars that were formed around 125 million years ago—relatively recently on an astronomical timescale.  But when you look at the Pleiades with the unaided eye, unless you have unusually good vision and excellent sky conditions, you’ll see only six Pleiads.  If you see more than that, you’ll probably be able to see 8 or 9 Pleiads, maybe more.  But not seven.  So, why are the Pleiades called the Seven Sisters?

Here’s my conjecture.  Take a look at the Pleiades on a dark, moonless night. What do you see?  I think you’ll see a group of stars forming a tiny dipper shape, reminiscent of the much larger Little Dipper.

How many stars make up the Little Dipper shape?  Seven.  How many stars make up the Big Dipper shape?  Seven.  How many bright stars does nearby Orion have?  Seven.  Given this, and the fact that seven has long been considered a mystical number, it comes as no surprise, perhaps, that the Pleiades are called the Seven Sisters and not the Six Sisters or the Eight Sisters.  How many do you see?

The Pleiades will culminate1 at midnight for SW Wisconsinites on Friday night / Saturday morning, November 17/18.

1cross the celestial meridian; reach their highest point in the sky, due south

References
Bouy H., et al., 2015, A&A, 577, A148
Galli P. A. B., Moraux E., Bouy H., Bouvier J., et al., 2017, A&A, 598, A48
Stauffer J. R., Schultz G., Kirkpatrick J. D., 1998, ApJ, 499, L19

Saturn V

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the inaugural flight of Wernher von Braun’s magnum opus, the giant Saturn V moon rocket.  This first flight was an unmanned mission, Apollo 4, and took place less than 10 months after the tragic launch pad fire that killed astronauts Gus Grissom, 40, Ed White, 36, and Roger Chaffee, 31.

Apollo 4 launch, November 9, 1967
Apollo 4 image of Earth at an altitude of 7,300 miles

The unmanned Apollo 4 mission was a complete success, paving the way for astronauts to go to the Moon.  After another successful unmanned test flight (Apollo 6), the Saturn V rocket carried the first astronauts into space on the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968.  On that mission, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders orbited the Moon for 20 hours and then returned safely to Earth.

Bill Anders took this iconic photo of Earth from Apollo 8 while in orbit around the Moon

“As of 2017, the Saturn V remains the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful (highest total impulse) rocket ever brought to operational status, and holds records for the heaviest payload launched and largest payload capacity to low Earth orbit (LEO) of 140,000 kg (310,000 lb), which included the third stage and unburned propellant needed to send the Apollo Command/Service Module and Lunar Module to the Moon.  To date, the Saturn V remains the only launch vehicle to launch missions to carry humans beyond low Earth orbit.”

Reference (for quoted material above)
Wikipedia contributors, “Saturn V,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Saturn_V&oldid=808028027 (accessed November 9, 2017).

Greater Intelligence

Allen Telescope Array; Photo Credit: Seth Shostak, SETI Institute, 2006
Calvin and Hobbes, November 8, 1989, by Bill Watterson

Could we please replace our idiocracy with a meritocracy?  Before it’s too late?  With checks and balances, of course.  Let’s raise the bar across our society instead of continuing to appeal to the lowest common denominator.  Our very survival depends upon it.

LED Residential Streetlight Debut in Dodgeville: Too Bright!

A new bright white LED streetlight made its debut in Dodgeville, Wisconsin on Friday, November 3, 2017, and it isn’t pretty.

The white-light LED streetlight is located at the NE corner of W. Washington St. & N. Johnson St. in Dodgeville.  The illumination level on the ground peaks at 3.15 fc.  An existing orange-light high pressure sodium streetlight at the SW corner of W. Division St. & N. Virginia Terrace peaks at 1.23 fc, which is typical.

Even though the reduction of uplight and near-horizontal light (i.e. “glare”) from this luminaire is a welcome improvement, an illumination level 2.6 times as bright as before is neither welcome nor justified.  Furthermore, lower illumination levels may be acceptable when using white-light LED luminaires in comparison with high pressure sodium (Glamox n.d.).  More research is needed on the effect of spectral composition on both brightness perception and, more importantly, visual acuity at various illuminance levels.

I do not have an instrument to measure the correlated color temperature (CCT) of this luminaire, but visually it looks to me to be around 4000 K, which is too blue.  I will check with the City of Dodgeville and report back here.  The International Dark-Sky Assocation (IDA n.d.) and the American Medical Assocation (AMA 2016) recommend using “warm white” LEDs with a CCT no higher than 3000 K, with 2700 K preferred.

References
AMA (2016), Human and Environmental Effects of Light Emitting Diode (LED) Community Lighting H-135.927.  Retrieved November 5, 2017 from https://policysearch.ama-assn.org/policyfinder/detail/H-135.927?uri=%2FAMADoc%2FHOD-135.927.xml.

Glamox (n.d.), The Glamox Brightness Sensitivity Test. Retrieved November 5, 2017 from http://glamox.com/gmo-recreational/led-brightness.

IDA (n.d.), LED: Why 3000K or Less.  Retrieved November 5, 2017 from http://www.darksky.org/lighting/3k/.

Oesper, D. (January 9, 2017), Avoid Blue-Rich LED Lighting.  http://cosmicreflections.skythisweek.info/2017/01/09/avoid-blue-rich-led-lighting/.

Changing Solar Distance

Between January 2 and 5 each year, the Earth reaches orbital perihelion, its closest distance to the Sun (0.983 AU).  Between July 3 and 6 each year, the Earth reaches orbital aphelion, its farthest distance from the Sun (1.017 AU).  These dates of perihelion and aphelion slowly shift across the calendar (always a half year apart) with a period between 22,000 and 26,000 years.

These distances can be easily derived knowing the semi-major axis (a) and orbital eccentricity (e) of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, which are 1.000 and 0.017, respectively.

perihelion
q = a (1-e) = 1.000 (1-0.017) = 0.983 AU

aphelion
Q = a (1+e) = 1.000 (1+0.017) = 1.017 AU

So, the Earth is 0.034 AU closer to the Sun in early January than it is in early July.  This is about 5 million km or 3.1 million miles.

How great a distance is this, really?  The Moon in its orbit around the Earth is closer to the Sun around New Moon than it is around Full Moon.  Currently, this difference in distance ranges between 130,592 miles (April 2018) and 923,177 miles (October 2018).  Using the latter value, we see that the Moon’s maximum monthly range in distance from the Sun is 30% of the Earth’s range in distance from the Sun between perihelion and aphelion.

How about in terms of the diameter of the Sun?  The Sun’s diameter is 864,526 miles.  The Earth is just 3.6 Sun diameters closer to the Sun at perihelion than it is at aphelion.  Not much!  On average, the Earth is about 108 solar diameters distant from the Sun.

How about in terms of angular size?  When the Earth is at perihelion, the Sun exhibits an angular size of 29.7 arcminutes.  At aphelion, that angle is 28.7 arcminutes.

Can you see the difference?

Emergence of Complexity

We continue our series of excerpts (and discussion) from the outstanding survey paper by George F. R. Ellis, Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology.

7.3 Emergence of complexity
As the universe evolves an increase of complexity takes place in local systems as new kinds of objects come into being that did not exist before—nuclei, atoms, stars and galaxies, planets, life, consciousness, and products of the mind such as books and computers.  New kinds of physical states come into being at late times such as Bose-Einstein condensates, that plausibly cannot exist without the intervention of intelligent beings.

The first atoms formed about 400 thousand years after the Big Bang.  The first stars, at about 100 million years.  The emergence of atoms, stars, planets, life, intelligence, humans, morality, a Brahms symphony, etc. are a natural consequence of all the physical laws that existed at the moment of the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago.  There is nothing supernatural about the unfolding of the universe, remarkable as it is.  It is a completely natural process.  The only possibility of anything supernatural, I believe, is the cause of the Big Bang itself.  And, without scientific evidence…

We may never know or be able to understand the Big Bang, but the parturient possibilities contained in that creative moment are truly mind boggling: all that we see around us, all that was and is yet to be, existed then in a nascent state.  The universe as it evolves is not merely moving the furniture around, but it is creating entirely new structures and entities that never existed before.

Through the emergence of intelligence across billions of years, the universe has, at last, become self-aware.  Our consciousness is its consciousness.

References
Ellis, G. F. R. 2006, Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology, Philosophy of Physics (Handbook of the Philosophy of Science), Ed. J. Butterfield and J. Earman (Elsevier, 2006), 1183-1285.
[http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0602280]

Henry Norris Russell

Today, we celebrate the 140th anniversary of the birth of one of America’s greatest astrophysicists: Henry Norris Russell (1877-1957).  Called the “Dean of American Astronomers”, he is perhaps best remembered for his discovery of the relationship between the luminosity (absolute brightness) of a star and its color.  We call any plot of luminosity vs. color for a group of stars an H-R diagram, named after Russell and Danish astronomer Ejnar Hertzsprung (1873-1967) who independently discovered this relationship.

Russell noticed that cool (relative to other stars) red stars come in two varieties: those that are dim, and others that are very bright.  The only way a cool, red star could be so bright would be if the star were very, very large1.  In this way, Russell discovered that there are red giants and red dwarfs, but no medium-sized red stars.  Further studies by Russell and others led to the use of the H-R diagram as a tool in understanding the life cycles of stars.  Red giants, it turns out, are one of the final stages in the life of an ordinary star (like the Sun, for example).  Red dwarfs are low-mass stars that change very little throughout their lives.

After famously rejecting the revolutionary conclusion (in 1925) by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979) establishing that hydrogen is the primary constituent of the Sun and other stars, Henry Russell concluded four years later that Payne-Gaposchkin was correct, and acknowledged her significant contribution.  Moreover, he surmised that the main physical characteristics of stars are determined by just two basic parameters: mass and chemical composition.  This idea is known as the Vogt-Russell theorem, named after Russell and German astronomer Heinrich Vogt (1890-1968), who independently came up with the same idea.

An interesting sidenote.  Early in his stellar career, when he was just 24 years of age, Henry Russell wrote an interesting article published in the May 1902 issue of Popular Astronomy and dated March 24, 1902: “Shadows Cast by Starlight”.  It is a fascinating read—all the more special because it was written at a time (now over 115 years ago) when light pollution had not yet destroyed our nocturnal environment.

1Here we are comparing stars at comparable distances, such as in a star cluster.

Four Last Songs

German composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) composed his Four Last Songs (Vier letzte Lieder) in 1948 at the age of 84.  These extraordinarily beautiful orchestral songs were the last completed compositions by Strauss, save for a song for soprano and piano called “Malven” composed later that same year and virtually unknown until 1984.

John Rockwell writes in the September 15, 1984 issue of the New York Times: “Strauss, who died in September 1949 at the age of 85, is widely believed to be the finest composer in the German song tradition after Franz Schubert and Hugo Wolf, with an affinity for the soprano voice.  In addition, his final compositions of the 1940’s are especially prized, blending autumnal mastery with late-blooming inspiration.”

The Four Last Songs were neither published nor performed until after Strauss’ death.  Their first performance was on May 22, 1950 at the Royal Albert Hall in London by legendary soprano Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962) and Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886-1954) conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra.

  1. Frühling [Spring]
  2. September
  3. Beim Schlafengehen [When Falling Asleep]
  4. Im Abendrot [At Sunset]

Earlier, I wrote about the extraordinary recording of Also sprach Zarathustra by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.  Another indispensable Strauss recording is soprano Kiri Te Kanawa (who retired from professional singing just last month) singing Four Last Songs and six other Strauss orchestral songs with Sir Andrew Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra (Sony Classical SK 92606), January 13-20, 1977.

Te Kanawa is the perfect soprano to sing Four Last Songs, and I doubt you will find a better performance.  Six additional R. Strauss orchestral songs make this a recording that should be in every Strauss enthusiast’s collection.

  1. Morgen [Tomorrow]
  2. Muttertändelei [Mother-chatter]
  3. Ruhe, meine Seele [Rest, my soul]
  4. Wiegenlied [Lullaby]
  5. Befreit [Released]
  6. Zueignung [Dedication]