Miriam Gideon

1906 - 1996

Miriam Gideon's compositions are freely atonal, in a style sometimes referred to as "atonal expressionism," but still lyrical and full of dramatic tension. Gideon's songs also display a fascination with language. She often sets a poem in its original language and in translation in the same song.


Born in Colorado, Gideon's family moved to Chicago and then New York City, where she was based as a composer during the rest of her life. She taught at several institutions there, including Manhattan School of Music and the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Gideon's Jewish faith was very important to her art, and she often set Hebrew texts or wrote music for for the Jewish community. She was the first woman to receive a commission for a complete synagogue service: Sacred Service (For Sabbath Morning) in 1970.

Gideon sought to resist the labels of "woman" and "Jewish" composer. In an interview on Sept. 27, 1981 with the Baltimore Sun, Gideon said “For me to talk about the fact that women have been discriminated against is unnecessary. They are and have been. But really, I didn’t even know I was a woman composer until the [feminist] movement in the 1960s.”

--Christie Finn

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