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If you look at the listings of the major orchestras in America you will see two things in common; very few of them are programming major pieces by women composers, and almost none have a woman on the podium. Despite the abundance of wonderful compositions by women, the world of classical music has been, for centuries, a man’s world.

Composer Augusta Read Thomas crafts music in exquisite forms

Composer Augusta Read Thomas with a musical score
Anthony Barlich
Composer Augusta Read Thomas aims to talk to musicians through what she writes

Composer Augusta Read Thomas describes her process of writing music as combining materials (notes, chords, harmonies, rhythms, etc.) with the appropriate form.

She is one of today's leading composers, with her music performed around the world. Any given day, there are thousands of musicians learning her music, ranging from the Houston Symphony to the Berlin Philharmonic to right here in Rochester. She tries to consider each of these performers with every measure of music she crafts, while also speaking to them through the ways she notates her music with descriptions in the score.

"I make the music for the musicians, I really do," she says, "I was a musician my whole life. So I'm very empathetic to players, I want to feel how it feels to them to play it, or how it looks on the page, the actual printed music and how the paper feels on the part. And just every detail, I care about it for them."

Read Thomas is visiting Rochester for the world premiere of her recent work "Dance Mobile," in a performance tonight at 7:30pm at Eastman's Kodak Hall and streaming online.

This music combines three dance sections that can be understood as three sections of a spinning mobile, a rush of dance-activity, interspersed with moments of rest before the mobile is spun again.

Color Diagram - map of the form of Dance Mobile by Augusta Read Thomas
Augusta Read Thomas combines dances in the form of a spinning mobile in her new work for Eastman's Musica Nova

Read Thomas taught at the Eastman School of Music from 1993 to 2001. After she took the role of composer in residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1997, she had to make the difficult decision to leave Eastman when the cross-country commute became too much.

She says that she hopes to collaborate with dancers more in the future, especially, as she says, "I think of all of my music as dance music, actually, because when I compose it, I'm sitting at the piano, I'm scatting, I'm singing, I'm moving my body, I'm conducting, I'm jumping around my living room to the rhythms, trying to embody the sound, feel the phrase, to feel the inner life of the sound."

Mona Seghatoleslami is the Music Director, host and producer on WXXI Classical 91.5 FM weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. She also hosts the lunchtime concert series Live From Hochstein Wednesdays at 12:10 p.m., interviews musicians, produces special programs, and works on any project she can find that helps connect people and music in our community through WXXI.