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March 14: Composer Tina Davidson Publishes Memoir - Let Your Heart Be Broken

Composer Tina Davidson Publishes Memoir Let Your Heart Be Broken

Publication Date: March 14, 2023 Boyle & Dalton

“Rarely does a composer tie together life events and inner creative propulsion in a narrative that speaks directly to their audience. Ms. Davidson’s music is lyrical and vulnerable, as is her voice in words. Her book will allow listeners and musicians alike to build their own connections to Ms. Davidson’s work in all of its forms.” – Hilary Hahn, Violinist

"Whether she is writing about the hauntings of childhood or the day-to-day practical work of a leading American composer, Tina Davidson writes with precision and poetry, bringing us into her remarkable life.” – Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning music writer

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Listen to a Playlist of Music included in Davidson’s Memoir:

New York, NY – Composer and author Tina Davidson’s memoir, Let Your Heart Be Broken, will be published by Boyle & Dalton on March 14, 2023. Davidson, a highly regarded American composer, creates music that stands out for its emotional depth and lyrical dignity. Lauded for her authentic voice, The New York Times has praised her “vivid ear for harmony and colors.” Her memoir traces her extraordinary life in equally lyrical language, juxtaposing memories, journal entries, notes on compositions in progress, and insights into the life of an artist – and a mother – at work.

Tina Davidson was three-and-a-half when she was adopted from her foster home in Sweden by a visiting American professor. Soon she is the oldest of five children, living with her mother and stepfather in Turkey, Germany, and Israel. She studies music and becomes a prolific pianist and composer. But something about her birth remains unnamed and hidden. When she returns to Sweden, she contacts the Swedish adoption agency. “Come,” says the voice on the phone, “I have information for you.” Along her life journey, Davidson meets Ernest Hemingway and Carl Sandburg, survives an attack by nomads in Turkey, and learns her birth father is a world-famous scientist. She writes, “To create this memoir, I relied heavily on my memory, family stories of my childhood, and pulled from my journals, editing for clarity. These I piece together side by side like patchwork – my growing up next to my artistic process, my evolving understanding of my life and origins next to the music I create. Both are an act of placing and grounding. Writing, however, is more vulnerable, truer to life’s story telling. Composing is in a world of its own – both emotion and energy; I camouflage myself, wrap myself in a language that has no direct translation. Writing reveals me naked.” Throughout, there is the thread of music, an ebb and a crescendo of a journey out of the past and into the present, through darkness and into the light. Compositions highlighted in Davidson’s astounding memoir include her pieces It Is My Heart Singing for string quartet and piano (1996); Fire on the Mountain for vibraphone, marimba, and piano (1993); I Hear the Mermaids Singing for violin, cello, and piano (1990); Bleached Thread, Sister Thread for string quartet (1991); Cassandra Sings, written for the Kronos Quartet in 1989; and many more. Listen to a playlist of Davidson’s music, from the book: Davidson’s journal entries reflect on her process and give readers rare insight into her internal experience of composing, exemplified in these, written about her pieces Bleached Thread, Sister Thread and It Is My Heart Singing: June 28 The new work I am hearing is different. I feel its weight and am reluctant to take up the responsibility. Bleached Thread, Sister Thread, commissioned for the Mendelssohn Quartet, takes the title from one of Eva’s poems. These are old issues – sister bonds, attachments, and delicate fine stuff – a sense of joy, release, and gratitude. September 16 The shape of Bleached Thread keeps changing. In this piece, I am guided more by the material than the form. There is a dark black energy in my stomach. Despite the clear, calm weather, the days are unsure. November 28 I hear snatches of the new piece, It Is My Heart Singing. The opening is widening circles of the sound, whirling, an ecstasy of the galaxies. The word dervish means doorway, an open space through which something can happen. “I just reached that part of myself that’s invisible,” says Rumi. February 24 The work on It Is My Heart Singing is going well, particularly the first four minutes. As I edge into the rhythmic section, I realize I need to expand my vision of rhythm. Rethinking the whole concept, I reinvent myself. Where does the energy start, this ripple of life?

Read more excerpts from Davidson’s memoir on her blog:

About Tina Davidson: Opera News describes Tina Davidson’s music as, “transfigured beauty,” and the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that she writes “real music, with structure, mood, novelty and harmonic sophistication – with haunting melodies that grow out of complex, repetitive rhythms.” Over her forty-five year career, Davidson has been commissioned by well-known ensembles such as National Symphony Orchestra, OperaDelaware, Roanoke Symphony, VocalEssence, Kronos Quartet, Cassatt Quartet, and public television (WHYY-TV). Her music has been widely performed by many orchestras and ensembles, including The Philadelphia Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Relâche Ensemble, and Orchestra 2001. Davidson was commissioned by Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn as part of her In 27 Pieces project. The work, Blue Curve of the Earth, was released on Deutsche Grammophon in 2013, and again in 2018 on Hahn’s new album, Retrospective. Long-term residencies play a major role in Davidson’s career. As composer-in-residence with the Fleisher Art Memorial (1998-2001), she was commissioned to write for the Cassatt Quartet, Voces Novae et Antiquae, and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. She also created the city-wide Young Composers program to teach inner city children how to write music through instrument building, improvisation, and graphic notation. She was composer-in-residence as part of the innovative Meet The Composer “New Residencies” with OperaDelaware, the Newark Symphony and the YWCA in Delaware (1994-97). During this residency, she wrote the critically acclaimed full-length opera, Billy and Zelda, as well as created community partner programs for homeless women, and with students at a local elementary school. The recipient of numerous prestigious grants and fellowships, Davidson was the first classical composer to receive a $50,000 Pew Fellowship. She has been awarded four Artist’s Fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, CAP grants from the American Music Center and numerous Meet the Composer grants. Her work, Transparent Victims, was selected by the American Public Radio as part of the International Rostrum of Composers, held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Tina Davidson’s music can be heard on Deutsche Grammophon, Albany Records, CRI, Mikrokosmik, Callisto, and Opus One recording labels. Her second solo album, It is My Heart Singing, was released on Albany Records and features three works for strings performed by the Cassatt Quartet. I Hear the Mermaids Singing was released on CRI’s Emergency Music label and includes six of her chamber works. Tina Davidson was born in Stockholm, Sweden and grew up in Oneonta, NY and Pittsburgh, PA. She received her BA in piano and composition from Bennington College in 1976 where she studied with Henry Brant, Louis Calabro, Vivian Fine and Lionel Nowak. She founded the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Composers Forum and served as its director from 1999-2001. She was president of the New Music Alliance, a national organization, which has been responsible for the New Music America Festivals. She organized a nation-wide festival entitled “New Music Across America,” which ran in 18 cities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In 1992 she wrote a widely-circulated article on women in music for Ms Magazine. She lives in central Pennsylvania.

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