Anne LeBaron

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Anne LeBaron
4. Anne LeBaron 3 photo credit Adel Oberto copy 2.jpg
LeBaron in 2018. Photo by Adel Oberto.
Alice Anne LeBaron

(1953-05-30) May 30, 1953 (age 71)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Alma mater
  • Composer
  • harpist
  • academic
  • writer
Notable work
  • LSD: Huxley’s Last Trip
  • Crescent City
  • Sucktion

Alice Anne LeBaron (born May 30, 1953) is an American composer, harpist, academic, and writer.


Frequently combining tonal and atonal techniques with an experimental approach, LeBaron's compositions utilize elements of blues, jazz, pop, rock, and folk music. She explores environmental, cultural, philosophical and cultural themes, incorporating theater, mixed media, literature, and humor. She employs a wide array of electronic enhancements and extended techniques for the harp, including preparing the harp and bowing the strings.

Among other venues, LeBaron's work has been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Kennedy Center, by orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra. She is the recipient of an Alpert Award in the Arts, a Toulmin grant from Opera America, a Guggenheim fellowship, and a Fulbright Full Scholarship. She has been commissioned by the Fromm Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Library of Congress, among other organizations.

LeBaron was a professor at California Institute of the Arts, where she held the Roy E. Disney Family Chair f rom 2013 until 2015. In 2024, she retired from teaching and was appointed professor emerita. [1]

Early life and education

LeBaron was born in Baton Rouge and raised in Memphis and Tuscaloosa. Her father, Gordon, was an advertising executive and bluegrass musician; in addition to singing, he played guitar, banjo, dobro and mandolin. She grew up listening to live bluegrass music at home, and gospel and choral music at the Southern Baptist Church she attended with her family. [2]

As a child, LeBaron taught herself to play piano and read music. In her teens she took lessons with a Juilliard-trained pianist and wrote songs on an acoustic guitar, setting her poetry to music. [2] Her grandmother taught her to play chess, and at 12 LeBaron won a University of Alabama chess competition. [3] She later said that chess taught her stamina and concentration, "but above all that you can always find a better move if you look long enough." [4]

LeBaron attended the University of Alabama, intending to study piano. She shifted her emphasis to harp after coming across the instrument in an empty music room. As an undergraduate, she studied classical harp technique with teachers including Alice Chalifoux at the Salzedo Harp Colony. [5] She was a member of Raudelunas, a surrealist art collective. [6]

LeBaron received a BA in music at the University of Alabama and a master's degree at Stony Brook University, She was awarded a doctorate in musical arts from Columbia University, where she was a student of Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky. Her doctoral thesis, Telluris Theoria Sacra, was partially inspired by James Gleick's book on chaos theory. [7] She also studied Korean traditional music at the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts in Seoul. [7]


LeBaron served as composer-in-residence in Washington, DC, sponsored by Meet the Composer from 1993 until 1996. She was an assistant professor of music at the University of Pittsburgh from 1996 to 2001. She was appointed Professor of Music at the California Institute of the Arts in 2001, where she has held the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition from 2013 until 2015. In 2024, she retired from teaching and was appointed professor emerita.


LeBaron's composition in instrumental, electronic, and performance realms embraces a wide range of media and styles. Frequently combining tonal and atonal techniques, she has utilized elements of blues, jazz, pop, rock, and folk music in such scores as the opera The E & O Line (1993), American Icons (1996) for orchestra, and Traces of Mississippi (2000) for chorus, orchestra, poet narrators, and rap artists. She has also used American literary sources with Devil in the Belfry (1993) for violin and piano, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, and Is Money Money (2000), a setting of Gertrude Stein texts for soprano and chamber ensemble.

Among her multicultural compositions are Lamentation/Invocation (1984) for baritone and three instruments, using Korean-derived gestures and long sustained tones for the voice; Noh Reflections (1985) for string trio, which draws upon the music of Japanese Noh theater; Breathtails (2012) for baritone, string quartet, and Japanese shakuhachi; and her large-scale celebration of Kazakhstan, The Silent Steppe Cantata (2011) for tenor Timur Bekbosunov, women's chorus, and an orchestra of traditional Kazakh instruments, premiered at Congress Hall in Astana.

Writing about LeBaron's 1989 Telluris Theoria Sacra (for flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, viola, cello, percussion, and piano), musicologist Susan McClary notes that the work "...points to LeBaron's more pervasive interest in music's ability to mold temporality, immersing the listener in a sound world in which time bends, stands still, dances, or conforms to the mechanical measure of the clock".

Theater has played an important role in LeBaron's music, with such scores as Concerto for Active Frogs (1974) for voices, three instruments, and tape,  and the harp solos I Am an American ... My Government Will Reward You (1988) and Hsing (2002). She has also composed a series of monodramas for female voice and chamber musicians: Pope Joan (2000), Transfiguration (2003), Sucktion (2008), and Some Things Should Not Move (2013). LeBaron's operas The E & O Line, Croak (The Last Frog) (1996), and Wet (2005) were all collaborative works that led her to develop the genre she terms "hyperopera": "an opera resulting from intensive collaboration across all the disciplines essential for producing opera in the 21st century – in a word, a 'meta-collaborative' undertaking".

With her hyperopera Crescent City (2012, libretto by Douglas Kearney), LeBaron went a step beyond the nineteenth-century concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (the united/total/universal artwork that synthesized architecture, scenic painting, singing, instrumental music, poetry, drama, and dance), championed by Richard Wagner. A more lateral, inclusive, and intensive collaboration of artists occurs with hyperopera, breaking down the usual hierarchical structures of traditional opera, which define and limit the roles of individuals on creative and production teams. The genre of hyperopera involves the collaborations of a diverse group of artists that can portray a variety of meanings or realities. In the postmodern tradition of redefining opera, also seen in the work of Robert Ashley, Meredith Monk, and Robert Wilson, LeBaron replaced the Wagnerian orchestra with smaller and more specialized forces of instruments and electronic sound for Crescent City, with musicians who move readily among stylistic genres, just as the vocalists do. The opera's theatrical action is refracted through a prism of video work, lighting effects, and performance freedoms and simultaneities. For its world premiere production in Los Angeles in 2012, Crescent City also engaged six visual artists to participate in the collaborative process by designing and building set pieces as various locales in the opera. Prior to the full production of Crescent City, LeBaron composed Phantasmagoriettas from Crescent City, performed by the LOOS Electro Acoustic Media Orchestra and the soloists from Los Angeles during the Dag in de Branding Festival in the Hague in 2007.


As an improviser LeBaron employs a wide array of extended techniques for the harp, including preparing the harp (similar to John Cage's prepared piano) and bowing the strings, as well as a variety of electronic enhancements. Her development of a new performance vocabulary for the instrument began in the early 1970s, when she played in the Alabama improvising ensemble Trans Museq along with Davey Williams and LaDonna Smith. Her career as an improviser has included performance collaborations with such creative composer/musicians as Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Evan Parker, George E. Lewis, Derek Bailey, Leroy Jenkins, Lionel Hampton, and Shelley Hirsch. LeBaron's double-CD 1, 2, 4, 3 (Innova 236, 2010) features collaborations with thirteen different musicians in solo, duo, quartet and trio configurations.

LeBaron performs in Los Angeles and elsewhere with the Present Quartet, composed of Ellen Burr; flutes, Charles Sharp, reeds, and Jeff Schwarz, bass. [8]

Selected awards, grants, and fellowships

1981-1982Fulbright Full ScholarshipU.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs through an annual appropriation by the U.S. Congress. [9]
1981NEA FellowshipNational Endowment for the Arts [10]
1991John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation FellowshipGuggenheim Memorial Foundation [11]
1996Alpert Award in the ArtsHerb Alpert Foundation [12]
1997Fromm Foundation CommissionHarvard University [13]
2000, 2005Bellagio Composer ResidencyRockefeller Foundation [9]
2007, 2011MAP Fund Award (Multi-Arts Production Fund)Rockefeller Foundation[ citation needed ]
2008ArtsLink Award for The Silent Steppe CantataArtsLink, grant to support the creation of Silent Steppe Cantata in Kazakhstan [14]
2009LA Dept. of Cultural Affairs Cultural Exchange International GrantLos Angeles Department of Culture Affairs; funding of SIlent Steppe Cantata in Kazakhstan [15]
2014Opera America Toulmin Foundation Discovery GrantOpera America [16]
2017US Artists International GrantGrant to support appearance as featured international artist, Totally Huge New Music Festival, Perth, Australia[ citation needed ]
2018Bogliasco Study Center for the Humanities and the Arts fellowshipBogliasco Foundation [17]
2023Davise Fund CommissionUCLA Library [1]

Major productions

1993The E. & O LineUniversity of the District of ColumbiaLibrettist: Thulani Davis [18]
1995-1996Blue Calls Set You FreeCarter Barron Amphitheater and Wooly Mammoth Theater, Washington DC:Librettist: Thulani Davis [19]
2000Pope JoanDance Alloy and the Pittsburgh New Music EnsemblePoet: Enid Shomer [20]
2008SucktionREDCAT, Los AngelesAlso produced in Malmö, Sweden; York, England; Theater am Wien, Vienna; Pasadena, Open Gate Theater

Librettist: Douglas Kearney

2012Crescent CityThe Industry, Los AngelesLibrettist: Douglas Kearney [22]
2015-2024LSD: Huxley's Last TripWallis Annenberg Center, the Schindler House, and REDCAT in Los AngelesScored for an ensemble including instruments built by Harry Partch

Librettists: Gerd Stern, Ed Rosenfeld, Anne LeBaron


Major Works





Selected bibliography

Selected discography

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Additional sources