Marilyn Bliss

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Marilyn Bliss
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CitizenshipUnited States of America
  • Composer
  • Musician

Marilyn Bliss (b. 1954, Iowa) is an American composer and musician, specializing in contemporary classical music. She plays flute and has written and performed various orchestral, chamber, and solo works.

Early Life And Education

Born in Iowa in 1954, Bliss was raised in a musical household. Her mother was a pianist, playing in churches and throughout their small hometown. Growing up, Bliss enjoyed listening to showtunes by composers such as Lowell Liebermann, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Later, she began to draw inspiration from classical sources, especially Leonard Bernstein’s televised Young People’s concerts. Throughout her musical development, she was always drawn to more contemporary classical styles, looking for “the different things,” and “more recent repertoire.” Bliss’ contemporary classical music taste continued to evolve while studying composition under Jerry Owen at Coe College. She received a Bachelor of Music in Composition, Flute, and Voice Performance at Coe College in Cedar Rapids (Iowa), and went on to receive a Masters of Music in Composition at the University of Pennsylvania and the City University of New York.

Compositional Style

Bliss describes her compositional styles as “contemporary, but melodious.” She is not only interested in the harmonic quality or “vertical motion” of a piece, but also in the piece’s melodic strength, or “horizontal motion”. Bliss states, “The melody is important in the music, [as is] a sense of journey in the piece.” Her music sometimes draws inspiration from outside sources such as paintings, myths, and even natural events such as the Aurora Borealis; however, her compositions do not tend to be strictly programmatic. While her body of works include orchestral, chamber, and solo music, she is mainly commissioned to write solo and chamber pieces. As she is trained as a flutist, Bliss primarily composes her solo repertoire for the flute. Bliss’ music mostly lives in the area between tonality and atonality; while she does not use strictly functional tonality, her melody-driven, note-focused music is not entirely without a feeling of a tonal center.

Career Highlights

In addition to serving as the President of New York Women Composers, Bliss’ composition Veils was recently released with Navona Records as a part of their contemporary orchestral works project, Woven In Time. Bliss’ pieces have been performed internationally; she has traveled to Armenia several times for complete concerts of her orchestral and chamber works.

Body of Works:

Aria (1982), 2', tu. “Interesting for study and very functional in many performance settings due to its length.” Guide to the Tuba Repertoire(R. Winston Morris). Published by ACA

Aurora Borealis (1990)11'30", 4 perc 4 players, 2 vibraphone, 1 glockenspiel, 3 suspended cymbals, wood block, temple blocks, marimba, crotales, tam-tam, glass chimes, ceramic chimes, sleigh bells, maracas. Published by Mostly Marimba

Autumnal (1991), 14', fl, cl, vc, pn. Published by ACA.

Beneath the Azure Sky (2004), 12', sop, fl, vn, vc. Published by ACA.

Bestiary (1989) 12', vln "Theatrically descriptive... offering lovely two-part writing..." Philadelphia Inquirer. Published by ACA.

Blue Dawn (1998), Native American flute (or fl), vc Recorded on Albany Records Troy 1465, “Embrace the Wind,” James Pellerite, flutist. Published by Zalo.

Celestial Greetings (1983) 8', pn, sop Scottish folk prayers to the sun and moon. Published by ACA.

Chameleon (19B1) 9', fl, pn, vc Nimble, constantly changing variations on a four-note motive. Published by ACA.

The Discovery of Honey (2022, in progress), woodwind quintet, hand percussion

Encounter (1975) 3', fl “Appropriate introduction to the idiom.” - James Pellerite, Literature for the Flute. Alfred Publishing. Published by ACA.

Evocations (1981) 9', tu 4 movements for the advanced player. “An interesting work worthy of study and performance.” – Guide to the Tuba Repertoire (R. Winston Morris). Published by ACA.

Fantasies (1977) 11', pn

3 movements for virtuoso pianist. Recorded by Elena Ivanina, “Evocations: American Music from the Moscow Autumn Festival,” North-South Recordings 1017. Published by ACA.

Flocks (1988) 8', fl quartet "Avian illustrations" New York Times; Commissioned/Premiered the Powell Quartet. Published by ACA.

Huatzu Hill (1979) 12', f1, cl, hn, pn, sop, strs Premiered Composers Conference, VT; performances by the New England Philharmonic, Berkshire Symphony, Armenian Symphony Orchestra. "A series of rich landscapes - the colors sharp, the feeling powerfully concentrated, the expression concise..." Boston Globe. Published by ACA.

It Was the Wind (1995), Native American flute (or fl), sop. See Wind Songs for recording/publishing information.

Lament (1984) 4', alto fl choreographed by Ruth Meyer, former principal at American Ballet Theater. Published by ACA.

Murali (2003), 3', fl “A captivating piece and a great alternative to the more familiar works for solo flute.” (Chris Hankin, ) Recorded by Nina Assimakopoulos, “Points of Entry,” Capstone Records B000GW8RES and Kristen Stoner, “Colors,” (available through YouTube). Published by ACA.

Phantom Breeze (1993), Native American fl (or fl). See Wind Songs for recording/publishing information.

Rima (1989) 11', pn, pic commissioned/Premiered National Flute Association Convention.".. significant contribution to the literature..." Flutist Quarterly. PAN PUBLICATIONS. Recorded by Nicola Mazzanti on “A Night with the Piccolo”(on MP3 through Amazon) and Susan Glaser, Koch International Classics 7396 (available through Published by ACA. Rima is a piece for piccolo and piano, commissioned by the National Flute Association, and has been on the list of standard pieces for auditions/competitions.

Shadowflowers (1978) 12', sop, ten, pic/Al fl, ob/Ehn, perc, hp, vn, vc performed Tanglewood Festival, 1978. Dramatic setting of texts by Mallarme and Stefan George. Published by ACA.

Spirit Dance (1995), Native American flute (or fl), maracas. Recorded on Albany Records Troy 1465, “Embrace the Wind,” James Pellerite, flutist. Published by Zalo.

Three Farewells (1984) 11', fi, hp, vla, sop Poems from Greek antiquity. Published by ACA.

Three Short Movements (1989) 8', tbn Premiered by Jerry Owen; composed 1976, rev 1989. Published by ACA.

Trio (1979) 20', pn, vln, vc Commissioned/Premiered Philadelphia Art Alliance. Three movements, reinterpreting sonata form in a nontonal context. Published by ACA.

Veils (1986) 10', 2fl, 2 ob, 2bn, 2hn, strs Commissioned/premiered by the Haydn-Mozart Chamber Orchestra, Brooklyn, NY. “...a flair for orchestration... evoked large washes of sound from the players…lovely sonorities…. Brooklyn Phoenix. Recorded on Navona Records NV6369, “Woven in Time,” Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava, Jiří Petrdlík, conductor. Published by ACA.

Wind Songs (1995), pairing of Phantom Breeze and It Was the Wind. Recorded on Albany Records Troy 1607, “Mystic Voices Soaring,” James Pellerite, flute, and Amanda Russo, mezzo-soprano. Published by Zalo.


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