Notes 62.4 (2006) 978-979
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During her lifetime, Nancy Van de Vate has been a composer, teacher, performer, spouse, mother, women's rights advocate, author, and co-founder of a record company. Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, on 30 December 1930, Van de Vate has accomplished much in her seventy-four years. She has composed over one hundred thirty works, currently focusing on opera and musical theater. Among her many honors are fellowships, and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, the Austrian Foreign Ministry, the City of Vienna, and the American Association of University Women. She was a resident fellow at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony and Ossabaw Island in the United States, the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland, Brahmshaus in Germany, and the Künstlerhaus in Switzerland. Her piece, Chernobyl, was nominated for the 1989 Koussevitzky International Recording Award as best new work by a living composer and for the Pulitzer Prize in 1998, and her orchestral music has received Pulitzer and Grawemeyer nominations. In addition, she has contributed articles to Musical America, The International Musician, The Instrumentalist, Symphony News, as well as other professional periodicals. Van de Vate has led a productive life, presenting lectures and master classes in Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, the United States, and China. Having experienced gender discrimination throughout her career, she fought tirelessly for women's rights. For example, she started the Knoxville Chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1971 and founded The League of Women Composers in 1975. In 1994, she received dual Austrian and American citizenship, a privilege rarely approved by the Austrian government, because of her accomplishments as a composer.
Starting her own recording company (Vienna Modern Masters) with her second husband, Clyde Smith, allowed her the opportunity to produce her own recordings. In fact, it has been stated that Van De Vate is one of the most recorded living composers of orchestral music. Similarly, to publish her scores, Van de Vate and Smith founded a company in 1989, the BMI publisher, Vienna Masterworks, and in 1997 an ASCAP publisher, Vienna Modern Composers. Several of her pieces were issued by Arsis Press and Sisra Publications in the early 1980s, but the majority of her works were self-published.
The idea for Journeys Through the Life and Music of Nancy Van de Vate began in the early 1990s when Van de Vate and Smith decided to publish the story of her career. They felt it was important to document her "tumultuous" life (as described in the publisher's press release). After Smith died of cancer in 1999, Van de Vate was urged to contact Laurdella Foulkes-Levy, assistant professor of music at the University of Mississippi (where Van de Vate received her MMus in 1958). Foulkes-Levy then asked her husband, Burt J. Levy, music composition instructor at the University of Mississippi and a composer, to write the musical survey and analysis of Van de Vate's compositions. One might expect a riveting account of so many accomplishments. Unfortunately, the authors' writing is tedious and excessive detail makes reading this book painful. The authors dredge up [End Page 978] countless details, including mention of anyone who played any sort of role in Van de Vate's life, such as the attendants at her first wedding (p. 15). The descriptive writing in the music analysis sections is tedious; many of the problems of too much detail occur in this section as well. One example: "Rhythmic patterns consist primarily of quarter notes, eighth notes, and half notes, with a prevailing time signature of , occasional measures of , and a single measure at a climactic point in the middle section." It goes on to tell about the key signature (p. 184). Nevertheless, throughout this abundance of facts, there are flashes of important ideas...