(born Alice F. Shields
, New York
, February 18, 1943) is an American
. She is a respected electronic
composer particularly known for her cross-cultural work in opera
As a performer, Shields has been a professional opera singer
, performing both traditional and modern roles with the New York City Opera, Metropolitan Opera
At-The-Forum, Washington National Opera, Clarion Music Society, Wolf Trap Opera, the Lake George Opera Festival and other opera companies.
During the 1990s she intensively studied and performed South Indian Bharata Natyam
dance-drama as a vocalist, performing nattuvangam, a form of South Indian rhythmic recitation with the Swati Bhise
Bharata Natyam Dance Company, at venues including the United Nations, Asia Society and Wesleyan University
. All Shields' compositions since 2000 reflect her immersion in Indian classical music and drama. Since 2016 Shields has been involved in the study of Noh theater.
Shields earned three degrees from Columbia University
including the Doctor of Musical Arts in music composition, studying with Vladimir Ussachevsky
, Jack Beeson
, Otto Luening
and Chou Wen-Chung
. She served as Associate Director of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center
and Director for Development of the Columbia University Computer Music Center. She has taught the psychology of Music as Professor of Psychology at New York University and lectures on the psychology of music at institutions including the Santa Fe Opera
Center for Developmental Neuroscience, International Society for Research on Emotion, American Psychological Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis.
Shields' 2018 environmental opera "ZHAOJÜN - The Woman Who Saved the World" for soprano, baritone and seven instruments was performed in concert in November, 2018 by the Association for the Promotion of New Music at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in New York City. In this opera, to end environmental destruction and create universal peace, Zhaojün steps out of ancient times into the 21st century to confront a character called The Emperor. [https://nmbx.newmusicusa.org/saving-the-earth-artist-activists-for-the-environment/]
Shields' 2010 feminist opera Criseyde
is a radical re-write of Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde
, and is sung in Middle English
. It was performed in concert at the New York City Opera VOX Festival
in May 2008.
Shields' work is published by the American Composers Alliance: , and is recorded on Koch International Classics, New World, CRI, American Composers Alliance Recordings, Tellus, Opus One and Albany Records.
JACK DUNNE'S’ REVENGE (1966) - opera in 1 act, for 2 singers & chamber orchestra; libretto & choreography by the composer in Middle English and Renaissance English, on the death-obsessed writings of John Donne & medieval English plays
The ODYSSEY of ULYSSES the PALMIPED (Odyssey 1) (1968) - opera in 1 act for 2 singers, male chorus & 4 instruments; libretto by the composer based on Roger Gilbert-LeConte’s Dada play The Odyssey of Ulysses the Palmiped
ODYSSEY 2 (1970) - opera in 1 act for 2 singers, male chorus, piano & percussion; libretto & choreography by the composer in Noh Theater style; based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead and Roger Gilbert-LeConte's Dada play "The Odyssey of Ulysses the Palmiped": two men aggress against each other
ODYSSEY 3 (1975) - opera in 1 act for 2 singers, male chorus & 21-piece chamber orchestra; libretto & choreography by the composer in Noh Theater style; on language from the Homeric Odyssey: Odysseus meets his son Telemachos without recognizing him, and tricks him
SHAMAN (1987) - opera in 1 act for 4 singers, chorus, 4 instruments & fixed audio media; libretto by the composer & Edward Barrett based on Native American shamanism
WRAECCA (1989) - opera in 1 act for 3 singers, cello & piano, based on Gregorian Chant & Anglo-Saxon poems; libretto by the composer, in which the god Odin manages to sacrifice himself
KOMACHI AT SEKIDERA (1990) - opera in 1 act for soprano, alto flute & koto; libretto by the composer based on the Noh play Sekidera Komachi
MASS FOR THE DEAD (1992) - opera in 1 act for 4 singers, chorus, 4 instruments & fixed audio media; libretto by the composer set in Latin, Greek and English, based on a ghost story & the Requiem Mass
SHIVATANZ (1993) - opera in 1 act for mezzo-soprano and fixed audio media; libretto by the composer based on traditional Sanskrit hymn to the god Shiva, and poem to Devi in Hindi by Shields
APOCALYPSE (1994) - opera in 2 acts for 3 singers, chorus, dancers, electric guitar, electronic keyboard & fixed audio media; libretto by the composer based on Greek, Gaelic, and Sanskrit texts; choreography by the composer in Bharata Natyam style
CRISEYDE (2010) - opera in 2 acts for 4 singers, ensemble of 3 singers & 14 solo instruments; the libretto by the composer is a feminist reworking of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, sung in Middle English.
ZHAOJÜN - The Woman Who Saved the World (2018) - opera in 1 act for soprano, baritone & 7 instruments; libretto by the composer, inspired by ancient Chinese poetry & plays: to stop environmental destruction & create universal peace, Zhaojün steps out of ancient times into the 21st century to confront the Emperor, the modern ruler of the world.
Instrument and Electronics
Azure (2003) for flute, violin, viola, cello & fixed audio media, in Todi raga
Mioritza — Requiem for Rachel Corrie (2004) for solo trombone & fixed audio media, with poem by Shields
Kyrielle (2005) for solo violin and fixed audio media, based on Gregorian chants associated with the Virgin Mary.
The River of Memory (2008) for solo trombone & fixed audio media
Vocal and Instrumental
Two Amerindian Poems (1965) for 2 unaccompanied voices, on Native American poems
Three Songs on Poems of Samuel Beckett (1965) for voice & cello
Sow (as in“pig”) (1966) cantata for mezzo-soprano, baritone, 2 choruses & chamber ensemble, based on Medieval English mystery plays
Wildcat Songs (1966) for soprano & piccolo, in English, based on Native American shaman's song
Spring Music (1967) for soprano, trumpet & oboe, on poem of Ronald Johnson
The Storyteller (1967) cantata for bass-baritone and orchestra, on Native American story
Richard III: Speeches for Male Actor, Trumpet and Drum (1968) incidental music for Shakespeare’s “Richard III”
Incidental Music for Solo Singer in Strindberg’s “The Father” (1968) incidental music for theater
Neruda Songs (1981) for soprano & cello, in English, on poems of Pablo Neruda
Levertov Songs (1986) for mezzo-soprano & viola, on poems by Denise Levertov
Aurora (1987) for violin & oboe
Ave (1989) music-drama in one act for unaccompanied mezzo-soprano & baritone
Rani tero (2002) for alto, four viols & tambura, on traditional poem in Hindi, in raga Puria Dhaneshri
From the Ocean of Beauty - Saundarya Lahari (2006) for flute, viola & harp
Hindustani Songs (2013) three songs for soprano & piano, on traditional Indian melodies
Namasté (2013) for mezzo-soprano & piano, on traditional Indian poem
Larynx (2018) for piccolo, piano & three percussionists
The Wind in the Pines (2018) for soprano, alto recorder, alto flute, Renaissance bray harp, oud & percussion(1), based on the Noh play Matsukaze; commissioned by Chamber Music America
Electronic / Fixed Audio Media
Electronic Cues for Sam Shepard’s Radio Plays “Icarus” and “4-H Club" (1966) directed by Sam Shepard & Omar Shapli, with featured actor Joseph Chaikin, for Riverside Radio (WRVR)
Electronic Cues for Robert Ward’s opera “The Crucible” (1966) composed assisting Vladimir Ussachevsky, with Shields’ electronically-manipulated singing voice, for performances at the Lake George Opera Festival
Walking on the Surface of the Sun (1967) electronic music
My Feathers are Growing Longer (1967) electronic music for modern dance
Electronic Cues to Marvin Levy’s opera “Mourning Becomes Electra” (1967) composed assisting Vladimir Ussachevsky, for the Metropolitan Opera premiere at Lincoln Center of Marvin Levy’s opera “Mourning Becomes Electra”, using Shields’ electronically-manipulated singing voice; conducted by Zubin Mehta
Line of Apogee (1967) electronic film score composed with Vladimir Ussachevsky & Pril Smiley for the psychedelic film “Line of Apogee” by Lloyd Williams
Incredible Voyage (1967) the first feature-length electronic music score for television; composed with Vladimir Ussachevsky, Otto Luening & Pril Smiley for CBS-TV documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite
The Witches’ Scenes from Macbeth (1968) electronic incidental music for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (Conn.), directed by John Houseman
Study for Voice and Tape (1969) Shields' recorded voice sings; on poem by Shields
The Transformation of Ani (1970) Shields' recorded voice chants and sings from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
We (1970) electronic score for radio play of Yevgeny Zamiatin’s 1920’s futurist novel, for the Canadian Broadcasting System, composed with Vladimir Ussachevsky
Farewell to a Hill (1975) bells, the cries of mallard ducks and electronic sounds; the first quadraphonic recording of electronic music (released by Atlantic Records)
Incidental Music for “Woyzeck” for Four Actor-Singers (1988) theatrical incidental music for Georg Büchner’s play “Woyzeck"
The Red Woman (An Bean Rua) (1993) for female actor & fixed audio media; English & recorded Irish poem by Shields
The Lament of the Fairies (Port Na bPucai) (1993) fixed audio with recorded voice singing in Irish; from the West Coast of Ireland
Snow (1993) for male actor & fixed audio media; on the poem “Snow,” by Greg Muirhead; the live narrator speaks of a homeless man frozen to death in the snow
''Hier Spukt Es, Fragile Breakfast, and Sparkling Brains: Three Animations created on Macromedia Director and KPT Bryce" (1995-1996) poems and graphics by Alice Shields
Vegetable Karma (1999) in Todi raga, with sounds sampled from hiphop
Dust (2001) in Madhuwanti raga & Todi raga, with traditional Bharata Natyam jethi-s (rhythmic cycles
Shenandoah (2002) for modern dance, based on oral histories of recent immigrants to the Shenandoah Valley
The Mud Oratorio (2003) for modern dance, on two Nature Conservancy swamps
White Heron Dance (2017) for Noh Theater dancer, based on the Japanese Sa-gi Mai ritual: a human being experiences a moment of union with the sounds of nature
Farewell to a Hill, Atlantic Records (Finnadar), the first quadraphonic recording of electronic music - 1975
Wildcat Songs, Opus One Records #13 Stephanie Kurash, soprano; Paul Dunkel, piccolo - 1976
Neruda Songs, Opus One Records #83 Johanna Arnold, soprano; Andre Emilianoff, cello - 1983
Coyote, Composers Recordings Inc. CRI#495 From the electronic opera SHAMAN, with Shields' voice - 1984
Voices, Tellus #22 Created on the SUN computer, using sampled Gregorian chant - 1988
Rhapsody for Piano and Tape, Opus One Records #94 Yolanda Liepa, piano - ?
Line of Apogee, New World Records #80389, composed assisting Vladimir Ussachevsky - 1991
El's Aria, Opus One records #90, aria for soprano, flute and fixed audio media from the opera SHAMAN - ?
Apocalypse - An Electronic Opera New World Records #NWCR647, with Michael Willson, baritone; Alice Shields, mezzo-soprano & Jim Matus, electric guitar - 1993
Study for Voice and Tape, Dance Piece No.3, New World Records #80521, sung by Shields - 1997
''Komachi at Sekidera", Koch International Classics #3-7503-2111 - ?
''The Transformation of Ani", New World Records #80644 (digital re-issue from 1970)- 2006
Organ Screaming & Dawn Wind, New World Records #NWCR670, from the opera Apocalypse, sung by Shields - 2007
Shenandoah - Three Electronic Works Albany Records #TROY699 - 2004
The Transformation of Ani, New World Records #NWCRL268 - 2010
Kyrelle, Albany Records #TROY1305, for violin & fixed audio media, with Airi Yoshioka, violin
White Heron Dance, ACA Recordings #USA-ACA193428351646; based on the Japanese Sa-gi Mai ritual: a human being experiences a moment of union with the sounds of nature - 2018
Cycle of Apples (2019), a collaboration between Shields and Maha Al-Saati. The film includes the opera pieces [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmZc2BZlB0E Agnus Dei] (1992), [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWG2YrKHdCY Criseyde's Dream] (2008), [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0HPgZb-Bmc Quartet for Piano and Percussion] (2016), [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xG29jngSyL4 The River of Memory for trombone & electronics] (2016).