New World Records Recent Releases

Source: New World Records.


Through her novel approaches to texture and melody, German-American composer Johanna Magdalena Beyer (1888–1944) became one of the most distinctive modernist voices of the mid-20th century. Beyer was the first woman known to have composed for electric instruments (Music of the Spheres, 1938). Her compositions anticipate elements of minimalism, a movement that would manifest two decades after her passing. Beyer was long omitted from the written history of ultramodernism, but her activities as a composer and pianist in 1930s New York City placed her within the orbits of many important artists. Her mentors, friends, and collaborators included Ruth Crawford, Charles Seeger, Henry Cowell, John Cage, Lou Harrison, Otto and Ethel Luening, Marion Bauer, Dane Rudhyar, Percy Grainger, and choreographer Doris Humphrey. At last, in the 21st century, Beyer’s name is now invoked alongside these others, as the significance of her music is becoming more widely recognized.


Radiolarians comprises fourteen compact pieces, each derived from a specific species of radiolaria and ranging in duration from one to nine minutes. Each piece features a mixture of harmonic, melodic, and noise elements corresponding roughly to the structures of each radiolaria, where pitched elements serve as tonal spines unfolding in time as well as spatially within the ensemble, and noise elements capture the twitches and undulations of the protozoic bodies contained therein.