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Johanna Beyer

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Johanna Beyer was born in Leipzig, Germany, but very little is known about her life prior to her move to the United States in 1923/4. She sang for three years at the Leipziger Singakademie and graduated from the Deutscher Konservatorien and Musikseminare, having studied piano, harmony, theory, counterpoint, singing, and dancing. Colleagues in New York recalled that her pianism and musicianship were excellent and that her musical training seemed traditional and solid. She spent 1911–1914 in America, though nothing is known of her activities during those years. Returning to the U.S. in 1923 (according to the biographical notes she provided in a Composers’ Forum concert program), she studied at the Mannes College of Music, receiving two degrees by 1928. She taught piano to support herself, and may have taught at Greenwich House Music School, but struggled to make ends meet, resorting at times to WPA work and Ladies’ Home Aid. In the late 1920s or early thirties she began studying with Ruth Crawford, Charles Seeger, and Dane Rudhyar and in 1934 took Henry Cowell’s percussion class at the New School for Social Research. Her musical life during these years was intertwined with Seeger, Crawford, Cowell, John Cage, and others in this modernist circle such as Jessie Baetz, a now-forgotten composer and painter who studied with Beyer.

Though she was largely ignored as a composer, even by the experimental music community in New York, she did have a number of important performances.

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  • rm508

    Interesting chamber & choral music. More listeners will improve the accuracy of the "similar artists", which should be people like Crawford Seeger, Wolpe, and Lutyens. See: eamusic.dartmouth.edu/~larry/misc_writings/talks/beyer.index.html

    30 Oct 2011 Reply

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