Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. She explores the ritual and phenomenological nature of music-making and listening, employing instrumental forces in ways that are both dramatic and intimate in their use of time and space. The New York Times describes her music as, "ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart."
Ms. Bielawa is a graduate of Yale University with a BA summa cum laude in Literature. She began composing early in life—her father is a composer, and her mother a keyboardist and early music scholar—and she grew up singing and playing the violin and piano. Throughout her childhood, Ms. Bielawa was exposed to all types of music and she credits this circumstance for the palpable freedom from limitations and boundaries in her compositions.
In the 2007-2008 season, Lisa Bielawa composed her Double Violin Concerto during her time as a Radcliffe Institute Fellow. The piece was commissioned as part of Ms. Bielawa's three-year residency with BMOP, and is part of Music Alive, a joint program of Meet The Composer and the League of American Orchestras. Also in 2008, pianist Bruce Levingston will give the world premiere of a piece commissioned from Ms. Bielawa in New York. Ms. Bielawa is currently at work on Quartet in Translation, a companion piece to Oliver Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, to be premiered in the fall of 2008 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Messiaen's birth.
In 2007, the first commercial recordings of Ms. Bielawa's music were released on the Tzadik and Albany Records labels. The album A Handful of World features Kafka Songs, performed by violinist/vocalist Carla Kihlstedt; Lamentations for a City, performed by the Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble; and A Collective Cleansing, sung by the composer. In addition, Ms. Bielawa's The Trojan Women was released on Albany Records on a disc entitled First Takes, a collection of works by outstanding young American composers performed by the String Orchestra of New York City. Ms. Bielawa's next CD, The Lay of the Love and Death, is scheduled for release in the fall of 2008 as the inaugural disc of Premiere Commission Recordings, a new label based in New York.
Recent performances of Ms. Bielawa's music include the 2004 commission and premiere of Hurry, for soprano and chamber ensemble, by Carnegie Hall for Dawn Upshaw's Perspectives series, as well as the 2003 premiere of The Right Weather by the American Composers Orchestra and Van Cliburn prize-winning pianist Andrew Armstrong during Zankel Hall's inaugural season. In March 2006, Ms. Bielawa's The Lay of the Love and Death, based on an epic poem by Rilke and written for violinist Colin Jacobsen and baritone Jesse Blumberg, was premiered at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. In November 2006, Ms. Bielawa performed unfinish'd, sent with BMOP, at the inaugural concert of her residency with them.
Ms. Bielawa has received fellowships and awards from the Alpert-Ucross Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Italy, the Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation, ASCAP, and the Fondation Royaumont in France. An enthusiastic advocate for the field, Ms. Bielawa was a founding Artistic Director of the MATA Festival from 1997 until 2007, and now serves on its board. In addition, she has served on the board of the American Music Center and taught composition through the New York Youth Symphony Making Score program. As a vocalist, she has premiered and recorded countless works by her composer colleagues.