A champion of new music, Marion Bauer wrote many songs and piano solos in her early career and expanded her catalog to large-scale pieces later in her life. Bauer's writings about music, such as her work Twentieth Century Music, are important in providing information about music in a way accessible to a large public.
Photo: Marion Bauer, 1922, courtesy of Susan Pickett
Born in Walla Walla, Washington, Marion Eugénie Bauer studied in Portland, Oregon and then in Paris and Berlin. The legendary pedagogue Nadia Boulanger was one of her teachers, and Bauer was her first American student. Bauer's early output includes many songs and piano pieces. She often frequented the MacDowell Colony, where she met other important women composers including Amy Marcy Beach, Ruth Crawford Seeger, and Miriam Gideon. Gideon became a student of Bauer, along with Milton Babbitt.
Bauer was a dedicated pedagogue and taught for many years first at New York University and then the Juilliard School. Her criticism and writings about music remain important. She held many leadership positions in organizations promoting American music and composers, such as the American Music Guild, the Society of American Women Composers, and the Society for the Publications of American Music.
Her compositional style remains tonally based, despite her support of 12-tone music in contemporary works. Her pieces are almost always very lyrical and melodic, though sometimes rhythmically driven or rife with blurred dissonance, her incorporation of French impressionistic compositional techniques. Her music was well-known during her lifetime and performed often, and her work Sun Splendor was premiered by the New York Philharmonic in 1947.