New York City-based composer, librettist, and multimedia artist Nell Shaw Cohen (b. 1988) evokes visual art, natural landscapes, and the lives of mavericks and artists in her lyrically expressive works ranging from orchestral tone poems to mobile apps.
Cohen has been commissioned by Houston Grand Opera to write a chamber opera (premiere 2021) with librettist Megan Cohen for HGOco's Song of Houston initiative. Her chamber opera Mabel’s Call (2017) received readings in New York City and New Mexico and in 2018, the University of New Mexico will workshop the full score with Cohen in residence. Her monodrama The Coming of Spring (2014) was given a workshop staging in NYC. Cohen is an alumna of the Composers & the Voice fellowship with American Opera Projects and the Composer-Librettist Studio at New Dramatists.
Cohen’s residencies have included Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, NYU Symphony, and a Page 73 Yale Summer Residency with playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. She’s presented concerts with the Parrish Art Museum, Harwood Museum, and Peabody Essex Museum, and received commissions from Montage Music Society, Boston GuitarFest, and WordSong, et al. As Founder & Director of LandscapeMusic.org, Cohen advocates for music inspired by landscape, nature, and place.
Cohen studied at New York University (M.M.) and New England Conservatory (B.M.) with Herschel Garfein, Michael Gandolfi, Julia Wolfe, Missy Mazzoli, et al. As a student, her honors included the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Arts Award, NEC's Chadwick Medal, and the Presser Scholar Award.
Cohen is also an educational media producer and user experience designer. Her unique videos, multimedia installations, and interactive media have been viewed by thousands online. View her media design portfolio at beyondthenotes.org.
Featured Compositions and Multimedia Projects
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Mabel's Call (2017)
A chamber opera in one act (83 minutes), set in New Mexico in the 1910's and '20s, inspired by the life of writer, philanthropist, and salon hostess Mabel Dodge Luhan. Scored for 2 sopranos, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, and bass-baritone with seven-piece chamber ensemble and an optional SATB chorus. Video features excerpts from a piano-vocal workshop reading on August 12, 2016 at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, NM. Learn more at mabelscall.com.
Point Reyes from Chimney Rock (2014)
Orchestral tone poem inspired by the landscape of Point Reyes National Seashore and a woodblock print by artist Tom Killion. Commissioned by the NYU Symphony and premiered on March 3, 2014 at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York, NY. Conducted by David Rosenmeyer.
The Coming of Spring (2014)
Monodrama in one act (36 minutes) inspired by the life and paintings of 20th century watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield. Scored for tenor with flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, and piano. Learn more about the April 2014 workshop performance and listen to a complete scene at thecomingofspring.com
Narrative suite for flute, violin, cello, and percussion following the conservation stories of three wild animals and their habitats. Commemorating the centennial of the National Park Service, the World Premiere was given by Cadillac Moon Ensemble on a Landscape Music Composers Network concert at the Parrish Art Museum on September 9, 2016. Learn more about Refuge at LandscapeMusic.org.
Explore John Muir's Yosemite (2014)
This multimedia installation for web and iPad app illustrates the writings of naturalist and conservationist John Muir through interactive photography and music, offering an engaging new interpretation of Muir's vision of nature. Explore ten sites in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks with Muir as your guide. muirsyosemite.com
California Zephyr (2014)
Video and music for piccolo, clarinet, 2 percussion, piano, violin, viola, cello, and bass. Filmed from the California Zephyr Amtrak train over three days, traveling from Chicago to San Francisco. Music recorded live by the NYU Contemporary Music Ensemble.
A Musical Tribute to Charles Burchfield at the Parrish Art Museum performed by The Chelsea Quintet. Learn about Watercolors.
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