I had to stop it. The Gaelic Symphony. It sounded too loud, too powerful. Harsh, verging on noise. I couldn’t make out one layer of sound from another. The instruments fought each other. My body tensed. What a disappointment. This was supposed to have been a champagne moment for me. For Amy Beach and me. Our musical meeting, handshake and nod across time. I had no script prepared for my sudden need to avert my eyes from her.

Would it be sacrilege if I denounced her music? Would I risk the ire of feminists who hold her as the consummate role model who gave all descendent women the opening to dare to compose? Did Amy Beach really set the stage for women composers, as some biographers contended, or is that a scholar-created myth? I had not heard of her until I began researching women musicians and composers for an essay I was writing a year earlier, so she had not previously inspired my music certainly. I had no memory of hearing her music on the local Los Angeles classical station that I listen to almost daily during my drive to and from my teaching job, and when I am writing or making art in my studio. I had made a note to question other women musicians in my acquaintance - who knew Amy Beach?

Earlier, I had turned to noted Beach biographers Adrienne Block and Walter Jenkins for their expertise about Beach and her music, yet both of them seemed to hide behind the mantle of biographer, documentarian, not critic. Was this common? I did not know. Do biographers typically avoid critiquing their subjects’ work, or was this a case of cover-up, The Emperor’s New Clothes? Was I not alone in my unimpressed reaction to Beach’s symphony?

For months I had searched articles and essays about Beach, but all simply quoted Block and Jenkins, shedding no new light on the music compositions of Amy Beach. All considered Block and Jenkins to be the Amy Beach authorities. While Block and Jenkins included some music critic reviews (by far mostly favorable) of Beach’s music and performances, written during her lifetime, those were newspaper critics, not music theorists or musicologists. How could I trust their sententious, written-to-sell-papers utterances? continues on page 3