Elaine Barkin

Elaine Barkin née Radoff (b. 15 December 1932) is an American composer, writer, and educator.

Early life

Elaine Radoff was born in The Bronx, New York City, lived in the Amalgamated Houses, attended Bronx High School of Science, Third Street Music School Settlement, and Queens College (BA in 1954), where she studied composition and theory with Karol Rathaus, Sol Berkowitz, Leo Kraft, and Saul Novack. At Brandeis University (MFA in 1956, PhD in 1971), her mentors in composition and theory were Irving Fine, Harold Shapero, Arthur Berger, and Seymour Shifrin. Summer 1955, she worked with Boris Blacher at Tanglewood and then at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, 1956–57 on a Fulbright fellowship.[1][2]

In 1963, Barkin was asked by Benjamin Boretz, founding editor of the composers' journal Perspectives of New Music, to join in as an editorial assistant. It was, for her, akin to a pre- and post-doc experience, a university without walls, a way back into music-intellectual life. In 1972 she served as co-editor and when John Rahn became editor in 1984, she remained on for a year as advisory editor.


Barkin taught music appreciation, music theory, and composition at Queens College (1964–69), the University of Michigan (1970–74), Princeton University (Spring 1974, Council of the Humanities Fellowship), and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), 1974–97. She also taught at Sarah Lawrence College (1969); National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan (May 1989); Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand (Spring 1994); and the Institute for Shipboard Education's Semester at Sea (Fall 1996). Barkin's compositional output includes works for: solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and orchestra; 4-track tape collages; solo voice and chorus; Balinese and Javanese gamelan; dancers and multi-media theater, including a chamber opera; graphic scores and scenarios for improvisation; symphonic wind ensemble; electronic-midi media. (See below for list of works.)

In the 1980s Barkin's interests turned to collaborative endeavors, real-time interactive music-making, out of which emerged UCLA's Experimental Workshop. She joined UCLA's Javanese and Balinese Gamelan ensembles and made 5 trips to Bali and Java to study new music for gamelan under the auspices of a University of California Pacific Rim Research Grant with colleagues Linda Burman-Hall, Sue Carole DeVale, and David Cope. In 1989 Barkin, Benjamin Boretz and James K. Randall co-founded the OPEN SPACE Music publications series. (See http://the-open-space.org) During these decades she composed and wrote works concerning gender issues, explored music educational practices wherein students were encouraged to become more actively involved in their own agendas, and sought ways to write and talk about music that were experiential, literary, or poetic in an effort to get in and out of the head of the listener, and perhaps the composer, during the listening process. Many texts – whether for print medium, live performance or tape collage – blur distinctions between words and music or merge theoretical commentary with the creative process in poetic-graphic form. A lifelong interest in arts & crafts led to the making of hub cap mask-collages, using paint, shells, and various recyclables. Starting in 2004, the Sibelius music notation software enabled her to use the computer as a performance medium, its flexibility and precision a liberating experience.

Barkin has published books and professional articles in journals including Perspectives of New Music.[3][4]

Personal life

In 1957 she married George J. Barkin. They have three sons: Victor (b. 1958), Jesse (b. 1961), and Gabriel (b. 1963).

Works list

Principal Compositions:

Publishers: Mobart Music; Association for the Promotion of New Music < http://apnmmusic.org/elainebarkin >; American Gamelan Institute; Yelton-Rhodes Music < www.yrrmusic.com >

RECORDINGS: Cassettes, CDs, and VIDEOS:

Books and Articles:

Barkin has published reviews, analyses, speculative texts, interviews, commentaries, and graphics in: Perspectives of New Music, Musical Quarterly, Music Review, Contemporary Music Newsletter, Journal of Music Theory, Balungan, Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, American Music, Grove Dictionary of American Music and GROVE Online, Sonus, Intercultural Music, News of Music, G.E.M.S. online journal, the Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music, and The Open Space Magazine.


  1. Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian (1994). The Norton/Grove dictionary of women composers (Digitized online by GoogleBooks). Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  2. Pendle, Karin (1999). American Women Composers: Volume 16.
  3. "Biographical details". Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  4. Ammer, Christine (2001). Unsung: a history of women in American music.

Further reading

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