Miriam Gideon

Biography

Born: October 23, 1906  
Miriam Gideon was the daughter of Abram Gideon, a professor of languages at Colorado State University. Her mother was an elementary school teacher. Neither had a strong interest in music and she was brought up without a phonograph in the house. The only musical training she received was what was offered in the public schools, which included reading music and sight-singing.

Even so, she developed a strong feeling for music. When the
Read more family moved to Chicago when she was nine, she had piano lessons with a cousin and when they settled in New York a year later, she entered Yonkers Conservatory of Music. However, her uncle, Henry Gideon, was a musician and the organist and music director in Temple Israel in Boston. She spent summers staying with him and when she was 14, her parents accepted his assessment that she had musical talent that would benefit if she stayed with him and he directed her training. She took a large part in the Temple's musical activities, which became an influence on her music throughout her long life.

She graduated from the College of Liberal Arts in Boston at the age of 19. Deciding to devote herself to composition rather than a career as a pianist, she attended New York University, where her teacher was Marion Bauer. She studied for several years with teachers including Charles Haubiel and Lazare Saminsky. Saminsky referred her to the great American composer Roger Sessions (1896 - 1985). She studied with Sessions for several years.

Deciding to strike out on her own, she made a questionable decision in 1939: To move to Europe. She quickly left when Hitler started World War II by invading Poland in September of that year. In 1944, she obtained a teaching position at Brooklyn College. She also took a master's degree in musicology from Columbia in 1946. At Brooklyn College, she met English professor Frederic Ewen and married him in 1949.

By now, she was gaining attention for her compositions, especially her vocal music. Her Lyric Piece for Strings was premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra in 1944. Admiration for the deftness of her word-settings in particular grew and she wrote in various languages. One composition in particular, Mixco (1957), illustrates this, with the Spanish-language verse of Guatamalan poet Miguel Asturias alternating with its English translations. She began teaching at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1954 and soon wrote her first Jewish liturgical piece, Adon Olom.

She wrote one opera, Fortunato, and in 1970 was the first woman to be commissioned to write a Sabbath Morning Service, which she followed up three years later by writing a Friday Evening Service. In 1971, she became professor of composition at the City University of New York. She composed steadily, amassing an impressive catalog until her health began to fail in the late '80s. In 1989, her husband of 40 years died.

Her health markedly declined after surgery in 1993 and she died in 1996 in the same Central Park West apartment where she had lived for nearly half a century. Her friend and colleague, composer Louise Talma, who was born just eight days after her, lived in the same building and died eight weeks later.

Miriam Gideon did not compose to a system or do pre-compositional planning. Her style is freely atonal, sometimes relaxing into an extended tonal style, particularly in her specifically Jewish works, which often have elements of traditional Jewish music. She was the second woman to be elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1975) and had a number of gender-related "firsts" to her credit, but she objected to being stereotyped as either a "woman composer" or a "Jewish composer." Read less
Browse 1-16 of 16 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Elation
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1483 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Scott Lindroth,  Stephen Jaffe,  Miriam Gideon
    Performer:  Laura Gilbert,  Jonathan Bagg,  Daniel Lippel,  Donald Berman  ... 
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  • 2.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 481 Release Date: 04/01/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Roger Sessions,  Miriam Gideon,  Ben Weber
    Performer:  Robert Black
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  • 3.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 401 Release Date: 02/01/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Miriam Gideon,  Martin Boykan
    Performer:  Judith Raskin
    Conductor:  John DeMain,  James Dixon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Da Capo Chamber Players,  American Composers Orchestra,  Pro Arte String Quartet
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  • 4.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 343 Release Date: 12/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Miriam Gideon,  Hugo Weisgall
    Performer:  Jan de Gaetani,  Philip West,  Samuel Lipman,  Barry Jekofsky  ... 
    Conductor:  Fritz Jahoda
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Chamber Soloists
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  • 5.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 286 Release Date: 10/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Miriam Gideon,  Burrill Phillips
    Performer:  Arthur Bloom,  Jan DeGaetani,  Raymond Des Roches,  Fred Sherry  ... 
    Conductor:  David Gilbert,  Fritz Jahoda,  Dennis Russell Davies
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Juilliard Ensemble
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  • 6.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 170 Release Date: 06/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mark Brunswick,  Miriam Gideon,  Dika Newlin
    Performer:  Morris Newman,  Ralph Froelich,  Julius Baker,  Melvin Kaplan  ... 
    Conductor:  Fritz Jahoda,  William Strickland
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Imperial Philharmonic Orchestra Tokyo,  London Czech Trio
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  • 7.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 128 Release Date: 04/01/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Paul A. Pisk,  Paul Schwartz,  Charles Mills,  Miriam Gideon
    Conductor:  Jacques-Louis Monod
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Zurich Radio Orchestra
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  • 8.
    Milken Archive - Psalms Of Joy & Sorrow
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8559445 Release Date: 10/31/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Donald Waxman,  Zavel Zilberts,  Robert Strassburg,  Ralph Shapey  ... 
    Performer:  Joseph Evans,  Alberto Mizrahi,  Christopher Bowers-Broadbent,  Justin Bischof  ... 
    Conductor:  Stephen Gunzenhauser,  Neil Levin,  Patrick Gardner,  Avner Itai  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Schola Hebraeica,  Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir  ... 
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  • 9.
    Lucille Field Sings Songs By American Women Composers
    Label: Cambria   Catalog: 1037 Release Date: 10/24/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Patsy Rogers,  Ruth Crawford Seeger,  Nancy Van De Vate,  Miriam Gideon  ... 
    Performer:  Lucille Field,  Harriet Wingreen
    CD: $17.99
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  • 10.
    Childhood Memories - Music For Younger Pianists / Arzruni
    Label: New World Records   Catalog: 80590 Release Date: 09/24/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Amy Marcy Beach,  Roger Sessions,  Louise Talma,  Lou Harrison  ... 
    Performer:  Sahan Arzruni
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  • 11.
    New Music For The Piano - Dahl, Babbit, Perle, Et Al / Helps
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 874 Release Date: 05/29/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Josef Alexander,  Earl Kim,  Mark Brunswick,  Joseph Prostakoff  ... 
    Performer:  Robert Helps
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  • 12.
    Voices From Elysium - Copland, Cowell, Crawford-seeger, Etc
    Label: New World Records   Catalog: 80543 Release Date: 09/29/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ruth Crawford Seeger,  Henry Cowell,  Louise Talma,  Miriam Gideon  ... 
    Performer:  Beverly Morgan,  Phyllis Bryn-Julson,  Joan Tower,  Patricia Spencer  ... 
    Conductor:  Paul Dunkel
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Speculum Musicae members,  Da Capo Chamber Players
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  • 13.
    Gideon: Sonnets, Wing'd Hour, Etc / Degaetani, Et Al
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 782 Release Date: 03/17/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Miriam Gideon
    Performer:  Ronald Roseman,  Isidore Cohen,  Karen Phillips,  Fred Sherry  ... 
    Conductor:  Fritz Jahoda,  Arthur Weisberg,  Robert Black,  David Gilbert  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Contemporary Chamber Ensemble,  PRISM Orchestra,  Da Capo Chamber Players  ... 
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  • 14.
    New Cantatas & Madrigals - New Calliope Singers
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 638 Release Date: 06/13/1994   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jacques-Louis Monod,  Maurice Wright,  Steven R. Gerber,  Miriam Gideon  ... 
    Performer:  Wilbur Pauley,  Steven R. Gerber,  William Parker,  Mukund Marathe  ... 
    Conductor:  Peter Schubert
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Cornet and Sackbut Ensemble,  New Calliope Singers
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  • 15.
    A Miriam Gideon Retrospective
    Label: New World Records   Catalog: 80393 Release Date: 12/08/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Miriam Gideon
    Performer:  William Sharp,  Walter Hilse,  Constantine Cassolas,  Susan Jolles  ... 
    Conductor:  Robert Black
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Jubal Trio,  Speculum Musicae members,  New York Camerata members
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  • 16.
    Aequalis - Works By Brody, Davidovsky, Gideon, Steifer, Ung
    Label: New World Records   Catalog: 80412 Release Date: 12/08/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Chinary Ung,  Miriam Gideon,  Mario Davidovsky,  Martin Brody  ... 
    Performer:  Elizabeth Mohr,  Fred Bronstein,  Michael Parola
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aequalis
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