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Casting Musical Spells: Time, Passion, and Inevitability in the Music of Shulamit Ran

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In this interview, Chicago-based Israeli American composer Shulamit Ran outlines some of the recurring principles guiding her approach to composing. Thoughts on instruments as “souls” whose special voice she seeks to penetrate are discussed (in Amichai Songs); the selection process of texts (in Credo Ani-Ma’amin and Moon Songs); various formal layouts that have been significant in her music (in East Wind, her string quartet music, and the orchestral Legends). The question of style versus language, the composer’s strong desire to create music that is organically conceived, as well as seamless and urgent, along with reflections on the notion of “return” as “renewal”, are some further major themes. Shulamit’s early life experience and how it may have impacted on her own outlook on the issue of women as composers, and the sense of empowerment that she seeks to convey, is explored as well. Yet another strand of thought comes to the fore in a discussion of the importance of memory as revealed in Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory (2014), her third string quartet, a work that offers an homage to artists who created during the Holocaust by using the example of German-Jewish painter Felix Nussbaum who perished in Auschwitz in 1944.

In interview with Natalie Williams, 13 Oct 2019 (Chicago, Illinois, at Ran’s private residence)

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  1. 1.

    Theodore Presser, “Amichai Songs,” accessed 10 March 2020,

  2. 2.

    Kenneth Herman, “Fame Comes a Piece at a Time,” Los Angeles Times, 12 November 1991,

  3. 3.

    Recent list sources of women composers include the Donne, Women in Musica database (Italy) and the Institute for Composer Diversity (USA)

  4. 4.

    Jordan Wilson, “Oscars: ‘Joker’s’ Hildur Gudnadóttir Becomes First Woman to Win Best Original Score,” Hollywood Times, 9 February 2020.

  5. 5.

    Shulamit Ran, “Glitter, Doom, Shards, Memory – String Quartet no. 3,” Pacifica Quartet, Cedille Records, CDR 90000 196, 2020, compact disc. This recording won a Grammy Award in 2021 for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

  6. 6.

    Shulamit Ran, “Bach Shards,” Program Notes, supplied by the composer, 2019.

  7. 7.

    Shulamit Ran, “Legends,” Program Notes, supplied by the composer, 2019.


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Ran, S. (2024). Casting Musical Spells: Time, Passion, and Inevitability in the Music of Shulamit Ran. In: Kouvaras, L., Williams, N., Grenfell, M. (eds) The Composer, Herself. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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