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Beverly Grigsby, DMA

composer & educator

beverly grigsby at 90.jpg

Dr. Beverly Grigsby on her 90th Birthday, CSUN Music Department. There was a NACUSA LA concert in her honor, in January, 2018.

The music of Beverly Grigsby has been heard throughout Europe and the Americas. She developed her gift for composition while still in early childhood and during the 1940s became a student of the renowned composer Ernst Krenek. She holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts with honors in Composition and Theory from the University of Southern California and BA and MA degrees in Composition from California State University, Northridge.

Involved with electronically produced music since 1959, she undertook further studies in computer music synthesis at Stanford University's Center of Artificial Intelligence (CCRMA) and at M.I.T. in 1975 and 1976. In 1984, Dr. Grigsby was credited with the first computerized score for an opera, The Mask of Eleanor. The opera was premiered that same year at Le Ranelagh Theatre in Paris where Jean-Philippe Rameau produced his operas in the 18th century.

The opera was produced with the assistance of the French Ministry of Culture and as part of the Fourth International Congress on Women in Music. It has been performed in Atlanta (1986); Lexington, Kentucky (1987); Northridge, California (1987); Minneapolis, (1989); Boston (1990); São Paulo and Santos, Brazil (1991); Long Beach, California (1996); Morro d'Oro and Martinsicuro, Italy (1999) and over public radio in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Rome.

For her innovative compositions in orchestral, chamber, and vocal music, Grigsby has received numerous commissions, major awards, and grants including The National Endowment for the Arts. The Arts International (Rockefeller) Grant, CSUN Distinguished Professor Award, the CSU Chancellor's Maxi Grant, the IAWM Outstanding Music Contribution Award, and yearly ASCAP awards. She was made a Carnegie Mellon Fellow in Technology (1987) and Getty Museum Research Scholar (1997-98) with special interests in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. She has received honors from numerous universities including the University of Southern California, Arizona State University, the University of Kentucky, University of Mexico, D.F., and the Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil.

Dr. Grigsby has composed for commercial and documentary films involving such major directors as Francis Ford Coppola and well-known writers as Ray Bradbury. She is Professor Emerita at California State University, Northridge, where she taught theory, composition, and musicology from 1963 until 1993 and served as Director of the Computer Music Studio which she established in 1976. She has been scholar in residence at several universities and conservatories in the U.S., Europe, Mexico, and Brazil. Since her retirement from California State Northridge, Grigsby has continued to research, lecture, travel, and produce her music in Europe and the U.S. She was the master composer for the New Music Festival at Ball State University, 1993; the Ernest Bloch Music Festival, 1994; California State University Summer Arts, 1996; and in 1997, Professor of Composition and Counterpoint at California Institute of the Arts. In 1999, she chaired the 11th International Congress of the International Alliance for Women in Music, London, England; in 1999 and 2000 she presided as Presidenta of the International Composition Competition for the Associazione Musicale Haydn of Arezzo, Italy and in 2000 and 2001 as Honorary President of the Vivaverdi Festival, Matera, Italy. She is currently working on her opera, “Testimonies” on the second trial of Joan of Arc [Jeanne d’Arc] (c.1412-1431).  

A two-disc set of her music is available through Cambria Master Recordings at 310-831-1322.

The following works are available

through Jaygayle Music (ASCAP):


The Mask of Eleanor for Coloratura and computer music on tape (1984) 50 minutes
Moses (not complete)
Testimonies: The Retrial of Joan of Arc (incomplete)


Fragments from Augustine the Saint for Tenor and Chamber Orchestra (1975) 36 minutes
The Vision of Saint Joan for Coloratura* (1987) 18 minutes




Songs on Shakespeare Texts for Soprano and Piano (1949) 15 minutes
Awakening for Mezzo-Soprano and tape (1963)
Love Songs for Tenor and Guitar (1974) 18 Minutes


Two Faces of Janus for String Quartet (1963) 15 minutes
Variations on L'homme armé (2005) 10 minutes
Valse Langueur (2005) 6 minutes
Valse Songeur (2005) 4 minutes
Five Studies on Two Untransposed Hexachords for piano (1971) 10 minutes
Dithyrambos Violin and Cello (1975) 10 minutes
Movements for Guitar (1982) 12 minutes
Trio for Violin, B-flat Clarinet, Piano (1994) 18 minutes
Saxsong for Alto Saxophone (1996) 10 minutes


Shakti I for Flute (1983) 7 minutes
Shakti II for Soprano and Projections (1985) 10 minutes
Shakti III for Clarinet and Tabla (1989) 10 minutes


A Little Background Music (1976) 7 minutes
Occam's Razor (1985) 5 minutes
Spheres (1998) 8 minutes
*Orchestral and sound effects created on the FAIRLIGHT Computer Music Instrument I, II, or III


1964: AYAMONN THE TERRIBLE (music score), a Francis Ford Coppola Production
1985: SIGHT AND SOUND (music score), Video production on Computer Music and Computer Graphics for CSU Chancellor
1988: THE VISITOR (score), Ray Bradbury, Alexander Entertainment Group
1988: CMI (CERTIFIED MARBLE INDUSTRY) (score) Video Production for Industry
1990: A IS FOR ANDROMEDA (score) Ray Bradbury, Alexander Entertainment Group
1991-1992: Various scores for animated film, Alexander Entertainment Group


"A cantata for soprano and electronics, Beverly Grigsby's VISION OF SAINT JOAN uses the interior dialogue of the French saint to create a compelling melodrama. Vocally, Grigsby has stuffed into 171/2 minutes more High C's than Brunnhilde sings in all of 'Gotterdammerung.' Deborah Kavasch easily handled the duties of protagonist, and the electronics cleverly approximated orchestral timbres." - Daniel Cariaga, Los Angeles Times

"Grigsby's VISION OF SAINT JOAN, a work for soprano and synthesized accompaniment proved almost terminally lyrical, soaring to ever higher and sweeter raptures." John Henken, Los Angeles Times

"Beverly Grigsby's Preludes for voice and electronic sounds [THE AWAKENING] held considerable interest... mezzo-soprano Nina Hinson was smashing in Grigsby's theatrical setting of Eliot poems complete with strobe light." - Walter Arlen, Los Angeles Times

"Beverly Grigsby's SHAKTI II...I think both in composition and performance (by Deborah Kavasch) blew the balcony off. I certainly got the gestural aspect of the piece - right between the eyes; this was probably the most thrilling piece of the entire program...the truly fabulous SHAKTI II." - Paul Attinello, Journal Seamus

"...Probably the furthest advanced technically was A LITTLE BACKGROUND MUSIC by Beverly Grigsby, an electronic piece done on Stanford's fancy new computer system. One appreciated its descriptive subtitles (Canons, Bells, Gongs, and Clusters) and the sureness with which they were delineated. Woodwind-like colors made attractive the work's elaborate contrapuntal textures. - William Weber, Los Angeles Times

"...The most interesting work on Friday night's program called for just this instrumentation - Beverly Grigsby's A LITLE BACK GROUND MUSIC (1976). Originally to be performed with piano and orchestra, this three-section piece consisted of bell and gong-like sounds, together with computer-generated tones. Grigsby, a strong advocate of computer compositional techniques, showed inventive use of new sonorities in her work." - Larry Schwartz, News-Chronicle

"This [concert] documented Beverly Grigsby as a composer of wide-ranging interest and a decidedly lyrical bent. Even so unpromisingly titled a post-Webernian relic as her FIVE STUDIES ON TWO UNTRANSPOSED HEXACHORDS from 1971 shifted pitch-spotting to the background in favor of expressive and kinetic interests." - John Henken, Los Angeles Times

"The studied abstraction of Beverly Pinsky Grigsby's [FIVE STUDIES ON TWO UNTRANSPOSED HEXACHORDS] performed by Nancy Fierro, began with a severe and self-imposed limitation that allowed her only six notes to work with in the first and third sections and a different six notes as material for the second and fourth sections. The work is an inventive and almost playful challenge to the restrictions, full of surprisingly full-bodied expressions and spiced with some fascinating rhythms." - Albany Times Union

"[Grigsby's use of] sly counterpoint in a rhythmically acute Neoclassical style was the heart of the three movement TRIO from 1994, played with affection and brio by violinist Nancy Roth, clarinetist Berkeley Price and pianist Paul Hurst." - John Henken, Los Angeles Times

"THE MASK OF ELEANOR is an impressive work [that] lives up to composer Grigsby's expressed intention to write an opera which could 'fit in a suitcase and go on the road' and does so well." - Steve Lyon, Journal SEAMUS

"The heroine of this 50-minute opera is Eleanor of Aquitaine...Grigsby's ambitions here are enormous. Eleanor's spirit appears before us and recalls her entire life for our judgment. ..Grigsby's music is an evocation of modal Medieval chant and song and dance with a few shifting modulations, chromatic harmonies and disjunct, high-laying vocal lines to give it a modern cast. The music is always pleasant and at times lovely...this score is a formidable one." - Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, Special To The Globe

"The opera is set in medieval France. The music and special effects... create a mysterious and authentic medieval mood. The music combines the sounds of early instruments...people and places flash continuously throughout the 50 minute opera, producing spectral and mysterious images that enhance the medieval mood...the ghostlike characters and scenery pull the audience right back to the 12th century." - Mary Laura Boyle, Special To The Globe

"...When Deborah Kavasch saw THE MASK OF ELEANOR during its premiere in Paris, she was impressed enough by 'the first computer opera' to want to meet the composer. Since then Kavasch has performed the opera at its premieres in Los Angeles and Boston and this summer she will make the first recording of the ground-breaking work. MASK has proven to be surprisingly popular. It has averaged a performance a year since its premiere in 1984. If opera conjures up an image of Brunnhilde in breastplates, and computer music suggests something that sounds like electronic indigestion, then you're going to have to change your thinking to deal with THE MASK OF ELEANOR." - Mark Stanic, Turlock Journal

"...They performed ... a Beverly Grigsby trio which was also very good. Halfway through the 'waltz' movement of the piece, I started crying and didn't know why... but at the moment I started crying, none of it mattered - all that mattered was the music, it was unbelievably beautiful..." - Radio Weblog

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