The International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) Blog

Encounters with Contemporary Women Composers part 1

Posted in Theresa_Sauer by iawmblog on March 19, 2010

Last November, I was down in Denton, Texas on invitation from Dr. Lynn Job. Lynn happens to be one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. She is also a dedicated and talented woman composer. Lynn kindly accepted my sincere request that she contribute to the Notations 21 anthology. She arranged lectures for me at the University of North Texas and showed me around town and campus. We ate at the best places, had lunches with the UNT faculty and listened to jazz at Sweetwater’s. Local book events at the ice cream shop and the Art Six coffeehouse left me with so many wonderful memories. Along the way, I met many incredible people. Thank you Lynn!

One very special person that I met from my visit to Denton was Da Jeong Choi. She is a Teaching Fellow, in the Division of Composition Studies and in the Division of Music History, Theory, and Ethnomusicology. She is President of the Composers Forum at UNT as well. She was introduced to me after my first lecture about Notations 21 and graphic score notation. I asked her about her work, and the more we spoke, the more I realized she had fascinating things to share with me about being a contemporary composer.

When I returned home after that whirlwind trip, we were able to find out more about each other through email, and I found that Da Jeong’s work was so inspiring and intriguing. ‘Reflection in the Glass’ for Vibraphone and Interactive Electronics (2008) was the first of her works that I explored.

pg.1 of Reflection in the Glass by Da Jeong Choi.

I recommend that you have more of “a look and listen” here.

Reflection in the Glass’ has been selected for the 2010 International Computer Music Conference, and will be performed at NYU and Stony Brook University, June 1-5, 2010. I am hoping to meet with Da Jeong this June in New York to share a lunch or dinner and maybe discover more about her ideas on new notation.

Da Jeong recently told me about her composition series, entitled Cantus Curatio (‘Healing Melody’ in Latin) for solo instrument, which is similar to the solo composition series by Luciano Berio and Vincent Persichetti.  Each piece is dedicated to victims who are diagnosed with a different disease. The inspiration for this series originated from a meeting with a dancer, Debra Keller (Keller is on the Dance faculty at Rutgers, New Jersey State University) with whom she was working for in a dance class in 2003. Da Jeong recalled “One day in 2006, she asked me whether she could use one of my works, ‘Healing Melody’ for Violin and Marimba (2003) for her dance project ‘to Mother’ in Princeton, New Jersey, because this particular piece reminded her of her mother who died of breast cancer. After the performance, I ran into several people who have suffered from breast cancer, which inspired me to write the first Cantus Curatio series piece, ‘Cantus Curatio I’ (2008) for Alto Saxophone and Piano dedicated to breast cancer patients.”

So far, Da Jeong has written six of them. ‘Cantus Curatio VI’ for Cello Solo was just premiered on March 1, 2010 at UNT. She says, “I would like to have a new piece of the Cantus Curatio series that consists of musical and theatrical elements with non-traditional notation in the future, and to talk about how graphic or abstract notation speaks to the new generation of composers, who are strongly engaged to (visual) intermedia.”

In addition, she is working on a Piano Concerto, ‘Dream of A Thousand Keys’ for Piano and Orchestra.  As she has been thinking about notation for theatrical space, she describes her thoughts on how to notate the pianist’s gestures, motion and touch level on the keyboard in this new piece.

Da Jeong says, “In a couple of sections throughout the work, the pianist’s hand gestures, motion and touch level on the keyboard will be unambiguously notated on the score and will be choreographed by the composer (me).  The space between soloist and piano will be designed as if gestures of prayer are delivered. This recalls Stockhausen’s thorough guideline for dance as in ‘Lecture on Hu,’ as an introduction to the composition ‘Inori’ (1974), for one or two soloists and orchestra. The piano soloist can be interpreted as a dancer and the black and white keyboard can be treated as a two and three-dimensional black and white floor.”

I know that I am looking forward to seeing your major work when it is completed, Da Jeong.

For more information on Da Jeong Choi’s work, and her upcoming performances, please visit: and

My book has given me the opportunity to make new friends and to find out more about women with extraordinary gifts that I hope to advocate with another project. The Notations 21 Project is ongoing global research discovering new notational systems and musical communication methods. It has been the beginning of the most exciting journey of my life.


Theresa Sauer is the author/editor of Notations 21, an anthology of innovative visual notation from around the world. She is the Director of the Notations 21 Project. She lectures, curates exhibits, produces concerts, and also composes music using innovative music notation. She is in the process of developing a documentary about Notations 21.

For more information visit: website and blog


2 Responses

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  1. Sabrina Pena Young said, on March 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Hello Theresa,

    I am glad that you decided to continue Notations 21 project. I have used the site for my theory and composition students who have not been exposed to graphic notation. I remember how excited I was about the project when I submitted “World Order #4”. It is great that your anthology covers such a broad spectrum of composers from a variety of backgrounds. Notations 21 is definitely an impressive and necessary resource in contemporary music.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Dr. Lynn Job, composer said, on May 5, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Dear Theresa,
    What an interesting follow-up! Here I am right in the same town with Da Jeong Choi and had not gotten as much information about her work in these areas–I learned something! Thank you! — Lynn

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