Abbie Conant and William Osborne

Abbie Conant in a scene from Miriam

I recently served on the thesis defense committee of Dr. Jessica Butler, whose document is entitled The Creative Identity of Women: An Analysis of Feminist Themes in Select Chamber Music Theater Works by Composer William Osborne for Trombonist Abbie Conant. This document focusses on three works that Osborne wrote especially for Abbie Conant: Winnie, Miriam: The Chair, and Street Scene for the Last Mad Soprano.

Conant was the victim of egregious sexual discrimination by the Munich Philharmonic and endured years of harassment and litigation, ultimately winning her case. Her husband, William Osborne wrote this series of “Chamber Music Theater” compositions for her, and her playing, singing and acting is quite impressive. These visceral works are an artistic reaction to the sexism Conant faced, but highlight the widespread misogyny that is sadly part of our musical heritage. These works make you think, challenge you, inspire you, and strive to make a significant impact on the audience. You can view videos of Conant’s performances on Osborne’s YouTube channel or visit their website.

What strikes me is not just the unique character and power of the performances, but the fact that Conant memorizes 30 minutes of singing, acting, and trombone playing – all done with unbelievable ease.

For more about the story of Conant vs. the orchestra, read Osborne’s article: “You Sound Like a Ladies Orchestra” or the L.A. Times article Trombonist’s Battle Gives ‘Miriam’ a Voice.

They are currently preparing for an upcoming premiere of their new work Alethia in September at University of Victoria hosted by tuba Professor Eugene Dowling.

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