Lisa Bielawa

Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Gramophone reports, “Bielawa is gaining gale force as a composer, churning out impeccably groomed works that at once evoke the layered precision of Vermeer and the conscious recklessness of Jackson Pollock,” and The New York Times describes her music as, “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart.”

Born in San Francisco into a musical family, Lisa Bielawa played the violin and piano, sang, and wrote music from early childhood. She moved to New York two weeks after receiving her B.A. in Literature in 1990 from Yale University, and became an active participant in New York musical life. She began touring with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and in 1997 co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers.

Lisa Bielawa’s music is frequently performed throughout the US, and in France, Italy, the UK and Rome. Recent highlights include the premieres of Rondolette by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and pianist Bruce Levingston; Double Duet by the Washington Saxophone Quartet (with subsequent performance by the Prism Saxophone Quartet); Graffiti dell’amante performed by Bielawa with the Chicago Chamber Musicians in Chicago, and with Brooklyn Rider in New York, Harrisburg, and Rome; The Project of Collecting Clouds at Town Hall in Seattle by cellist Joshua Roman and chamber ensemble; the world premieres of Double Violin Concerto and In medias res by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), part of Bielawa’s three-year Music Alive residency with that orchestra; the premiere of The Right Weather by the American Composers Orchestra and pianist Andrew Armstrong at Carnegie Hall; and the premiere of The Lay of the Love and Death at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. Bielawa’s work, Chance Encounter, a piece comprising songs and arias constructed of speech overheard in transient public spaces, has been performed by soprano Susan Narucki and The Knights in Seward Park in Lower Manhattan and at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, in Vancouver, on the banks of the Tiber River in Italy, as part of the opening of the celebrated new MAXXI Museum in Rome, and in Venice.

Bielawa is currently at work on Airfield Broadcasts, a massive 60-minute work for more than 600 musicians which will be premiered on the tarmac of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin (May 2013) and at Crissy Field in San Francisco (October 2013). Bielawa will turn the former airfields into vast musical canvases, as professional, amateur and student musicians execute a spatialized symphony.

Other upcoming premieres include a Radio France commission for Ensemble Variances – the new 15-minute work will be performed in Paris, Rouen, Metz and Montreal as part of a program called Cri Selon Cri or “Cry by Cry” which explores the idea that the cry is a primary sound shared by animals and humans from all cultures of the world. In addition, Bielawa will compose a piece for the 50-member Finnish male choir Akademiska Sångföreningen on a text from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Both new works will feature Bielawa as the vocal soloist.

Bielawa’s discography includes A Handful of World (Tzadik); The Trojan Women on a disc entitled First Takes (TROY); Hildegurls: Electric Ordo Virtutum, (Innova); The Trojan Women in a version for string quartet performed by the Miami on The NYFA Collection (Innova); In medias res (BMOP/sound), a double-disc set of Bielawa’s solo and orchestral works; the world premiere recording of Chance Encounter (Orange Mountain Music), and Elegy-Portrait on pianist Bruce Levingston’s 2011 album, Heart Shadow (Sono Luminus). For more information, please visit

Lisa Bielawa appears in the following:

Lisa Bielawa on Early Days with the Philip Glass Ensemble

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Philip likes to say that I was “just a chick-let” when I first began touring with the Glass Ensemble. I was pretty much just out of college, and my couch-surfing lifestyle was evidence that I had not yet figured out how I would make a living, nor even exactly what I considered myself to be – a composer? A singer? Something else entirely? In retrospect, these uncertainties seemed to cause little anxiety for me – I was waiting for life to show me what was next.

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Chance Encounter on the Tiber

Monday, July 26, 2010

Greetings from hot and sticky Rome, where--in stark contrast to equally hot and sticky New York City--air conditioning is deemed bad for the human organism and therefore largely avoided. But the thick air gives the city a slow pace, so there is time now to reflect and report on what turned out to be a very busy spring of music-making.

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All Roads Lead (Back) to Rome

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Greetings after a grand hiatus in my blogging activity, due to a healthy-sized sojourn back on home soil (East and West coasts of the U.S.), and some adventures within Italy too, including a recent visit to nearby Palestrina, birthplace of Giovanni Pierluigi da... (Palestrina), memorialized here as the Prince of Music:

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Musicians Without Borders

Monday, January 25, 2010

American artists, writers, and musicians have been crossing the Atlantic for centuries now to find inspiration and international camaraderie. Since the moment I stepped off the plane, I was aware that I am in a city whose architectural and artistic treasures would be a lasting and life-changing source of inspiration for me.

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Voices from Above and Beyond

Friday, December 18, 2009

As I spend more time in the community here at the American Academy in Rome, I realize that being a performer as well as a composer brings so many more ways to integrate into community life, and to open myself up more completely to the various influences of Rome on my musical imagination.

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Extravagant Stories

Monday, November 30, 2009

An eventful two weeks here, including the first public performance of Don Byron’s and my work last Saturday as part of the 46th annual Nuova Consonanza Festival marathon concert and c...
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When in Rouen

Monday, November 16, 2009

It seems strange to introduce myself as your blogger in Rome, seeing as how I'm currently in CDG airport in Paris. But I’m on my way back to Rome now, where I’ve been living for the p...
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