Contemporary Composers

Marina McLerran  

Editor, McLerran Journal  

Assistant Band Director, Center ISD, TX



In music, there is a general aversion to change. Modern educators still teach musical notation using medieval methods, the youngest instrument (the saxophone) is nearly one hundred and seventy years old, and several of the staple pieces performed by most ensembles are from the 18th century. Despite this, new composers continue to spring up around the world and are making a constant effort to improve and enrich the arts. In honor of the new year, here is a brief introduction to a few contemporary composers who are keeping instrumental music alive.

Dr. Analia Llugdar (Argentina)

Argentina is a vibrant country with a total population of over forty-two million people (World Atlas, 2012). The country’s breathtaking landscapes consist of over three thousand miles of coastline, rain forest in the northeast, the swampy Chaco plains, fertile grasslands (Pampas), the plateau of Patagonia, and Cerro Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America (World Atlas). The capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, is known for having “some of the most exciting nightlife on the planet,” extensive art and music opportunities, and seventeen stadiums for the country’s favorite pastime, soccer (World Atlas). 

Dr. Analia Llugdar (b.1972) is an Argentinian/Canadian composer living in Montreal (Canadian Music Centre). Her education includes a degree in piano performance from Cordoba National University (Argentina, 1999) and both a Master’s degree and Doctorate in composition from the Université de Montréal. Over the course of her career, she has received several high musical honors including 1st Prize at the Université de Montréal Orchestra Composition Competition, the Jeunesses Musicales du Canada Award, the Grand Prix of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Contemporary Music Québec-Flandres Prize, and the Jules Léger Prize. Several of her works have been performed at festivals including the Conference of Contemporary Music (Brussel), the International Society of Contemporary Music Concerts (Flandres), the Voix Nouvelles (France), and the Presences China Concerts (Shanghai, 2009). Noteable works by Llugdar include Le chêne et le roseau (2006), Cathédrale-Lumière (2013), and El canto del viento (2017).

            Follow Analia Lludgar at


Kaija Anneli Saariaho (Finland)

Finland is a relatively small country located off of the eastern border of Russia. Taking up approximately 130,000 square miles, it is about half the size of the state of Texas with a total population of just over five million (World Atlas, 2013). Finland is famous for its art galleries, museums, and many winter-themed attractions (World Atlas). Seventy percent of the country is covered in thick forest in addition to nearly 190,000 lakes (World Atlas).

Kaija Saariaho (b.1952) is a Finnish composer best known for her innovations in “computer-assisted composition” (Swed). Her education includes a degree in composition from the Sibelius Academy (1980), a Master’s in composition from the Musikhochschule in Freiburg (Germany, 1983), and extensive studies at the IRCAM research institute in Paris, France. In her lifetime, she has been awarded several honors including the Kranichsteiner Prize (1986), the Prix Italia (1988), the Ars Electronica (1988), the German Kaske Prize (2001), and the Polar Music Prize (2013). Notable works by Saariaho include Verblendungen (1982), The Earth (1991), and L’amour de loin (2000). In recent years, Saariaho has composed primarily for orchestra with stand-out works like Orion (2002), Circle Map (2012), and True Fire (2015).

            Follow Kaija Anneli Saariaho at


Dr. Ann Cleare (Ireland) 

Ireland is a small European country with a total population of about 4,700,000 (World Atlas, 2013). Roughly half the size of the state of Alabama, the entire country covers approximately 27,000 square miles characterized by scenic mountain ranges and coastal islands (World Atlas). The Irish are famous for their ancient castles, thriving art and music scene, and stunning cathedrals (World Atlas). 

Dr. Ann Cleare (b.1983) is an Irish composer famous for “creating innovative forms of music both in its presentation, and within the music itself” (Cleare). She holds degrees from the University College Cork, IRCAM, and Harvard University in the United States. In addition to composing, Dr. Cleare is also an Associate Lecturer in Composition at the University of York in England, an artistic collaborator with Dublin Sound Lab, and a Projects Officer for Sounding the Feminists. Among the organizations to commission works by Dr. Cleare are The National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, The International Contemporary Ensemble, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Some of her most notable works include I Should Live in Wires For Leaving You Behind, On Magnetic Fields, and Rinn. Currently, Dr. Cleare is working on several multimedia projects including an international tour of “a new sculptural trumpet piece” for Callum G’Froerer, a video opera transcription of her opera Rinn, and the construction of “an outdoor musical playground” with sculptor Brian Byrne (Cleare).

            Follow Ann Cleare at


Marga Richter (United States) 

The United States of America is one of the largest countries in the world with a population of nearly 317,000,000 (2013, World Atlas). Spanning more than 3,000,000 square miles, the country includes scenic locations like the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and over 12,000 miles of coastline (World Atlas). The United States is comprised of fifty individual states and has no official language.

Marga Richter (b.1926) is an American composer with two degrees in composition from The Julliard School in New York where she studied with esteemed composers like Vincent Persichetti. Her body of work includes more than one hundred and fifty pieces across nearly every genre. Richter’s music has been performed by more than fifty professional orchestras including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, and the Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra. In addition to recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Federation of Music Clubs, and the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund, Richter is also included in several books about famous composers like Women of Influence in Contemporary Music- Nine American Composers (Slayton, 2011) and Major Figures in American Music Oral History Series (Yale University). Richter’s notable works include Abyss (1964), Quantum Quirks of a Quick Quaint Quark (1991), and the opera, Riders to the Sea (1996). About her career, Richter states “there was never a time when I did not think of myself as a musician […] performing music or creating it was a means of expression for me.”

            Follow Marga Richter at




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