Mekeel, Joyce (1931—)

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Mekeel, Joyce (1931—)

American composer, harpsichordist, pianist, anthropologist and professor. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, on July 6, 1931; attended the Yale School of Music, 1957–60.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1931, Joyce Mekeel studied at the Longy School of Music (1952–55) and with Nadia Boulanger at the National Conservatory in France (1955–57). She attended the Yale School of Music (1957–60), where she studied harpsichord with Gustav Leonhardt and theory with David Kraehenbuehl. She then pursued further study at Princeton. Mekeel was awarded a fellowship to the MacDowell Colony, an Ingram-Merrill grant in composition (1964), and a Radcliffe Institute grant (1969–70). She taught at the New England Conservatory (1964–70), while also composing for the Ina Hahn Dance Company.

When Mekeel was appointed assistant professor of theory and composition at Boston University in 1970, she became involved with the university's electronic studio, which she directed. She continued to concertize as a harpsichordist as well as to compose for McCarter Theatre productions in Princeton. In 1971, Mekeel spent the summer in West Africa studying ethnomusicology. In 1975, she was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) composer assistance grant.

Mekeel's approach to music is eclectic and reflects her diverse interests. Often drama is used as a catalyst. For example, Corridors of Dreams (1972), Serena (1975), and Alarums and Excursions (1978) use multilingual texts. Some of her compositions employ as many as eight languages, and the execution of the text is an integral part of the composition. In Mekeel's instrumental works, her combination of instruments and voice is unique, and the sound of words is an important part of her timbral resources. She avoids reliance on institutional musical organizations like the orchestra, preferring to choose instruments and groupings of musicians which allow her to innovate.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia