Composer Biographies (Famous Author Edition)

Let’s face it, writing a composer biography is hard. It’s really super hard to write one’s own biography, and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever met a composer who is totally content with his or her own bio. I consider updating my own bio to be pure and unadulterated torture. Much of the time these bios all sound the same—a drone of awards, commissions, and famous, impressive teachers. Boring! It would be great to see some more creative approaches to the composer bio, as other artists seem to be able to do on occasion; to read a biography that really provides a sense of the composer as a person.

Last week we here in Baltimore had a bit of fun on Twitter, when Oscar Bettison began tweeting about “problem phrases” in composer biographies. For example:

Oscar Bettison Tweet 1

Several folks joined in the discussion, and there was some effort to come up with:

Andrew Nogal tweet

Several attempts were made, and while #composerbiononos seemed like the best option, Oscar made a good point:

Oscar tweet 2

Anyway, Molly had a good idea for how to approach writing a composer bio:

NMBx tweet

It would be brilliant to see some bios like that! Long story short, we started getting completely goofy about this topic—I believe there were also cold meds involved—and started imagining biographies written in the style of various famous authors:

NMBx tweet 2

Alex tweet

This sparked a bit of creativity (including in the spelling of author names, ahem), which, although not so much effective in the traditional sense of the hashtag, was awfully entertaining nonetheless. Behold a few examples:

Famous Author tweets

My very favorite one of all arrived later that evening:

cage bio tweet

I don’t know about you, but if more bios started like these tweets, I would definitely keep reading!

Additional examples are welcome in the comment section, and/or on Twitter. Have fun!

9 thoughts on “Composer Biographies (Famous Author Edition)

  1. Molly Sheridan

    He was an old man who composed alone at a desk at a Midwestern university and he had gone four years now without completing a string quartet. #hemingwaywrotemybio

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in want of a good composition education, must actually be in want of a family if she would just think about it carefully for a second. #austenwrotemybio

    Reply
  2. Daniel Wolf

    A composer’s short biography, intended for a general audience who is unfamiliar with the composer’s work is not an academic CV or an application for a prize, a residency, or the blessings of Sts. Elliot and Pierre. Your reader doesn’t care about your awards and residencies, but might care about your teachers, if your relationship to your teacher suggests something about your music, even the most extreme of Oedipal counter-reactions. Dare to say something interesting about your background, maybe even something interesting that is relevant to your music. Composers come from interesting places on the planet and have done interesting things other than study and win brownie points. Dare to say something about the identity of the music itself. Intrigue your potential audience. Finally, don’t ever describe yourself as an “emerging”, as you’ll run the risk that someone who happens not to fancy your music might want to know from whence you emerge and suggest that you stuff yourself right back in there.

    Reply
  3. Kevin Clark

    Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of non-tenured composers. #Homerwrotemybio #Faglestranslation

    Sing, divas, the operas of this new composer. #Homerstillwrotemybio #Lattimoretranslation

    Reply

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