Ursula Mamlok, courtesy of the Dwight and Ursula Mamlok Foundation.


“I went one summer to a music institute at Black Mountain College, and there assembled all the European refugees. A big festival of Schönberg’s 75th birthday was celebrated, 1944, and they played all Schönberg’s early music. I still didn’t get familiar with what was going on in the first half of the century that I lived in. I was very isolated from that. I noticed after going to Black Mountain College that the kind of music I was writing was not getting me anywhere. It was sort of à la Prokofiev and Hindemith, while I was searching for other ways to compose.”
Ursula Mamlok, "Recollections of Stefan Wolpe by former students and friends," edited by Austin Clarkson.

Ursula Mamlok (Student, Summer Music Institute 1944) (b.1923-d.2016)

Contemporary composer Ursula Mamlok attended Black Mountain College during the Summer Music Institute of 1944. She fled Germany in her teens, coming to the United States where she studied composition with Roger Sessions, Stefan Wolpe, and Ralph Shapey. During that time she found herself drawn to Schönberg’s 12-tone-method, which hugely influenced her career as a composer.

Mamlok taught composition and music theory at New York University, Temple University, and Manhattan School of Music before returning to Berlin at the age of 83. During the last decade of her life, she embraced a renaissance, with her compositions widely performed and celebrated in Germany and abroad.

Alba Potes, a student and friend of the composer wrote, “Mamlok created a unique, sophisticated voice while absorbing many influences. She used twelve-tone rows together with Wolpe’s methods of pitch organization. She included thirds and triads, and disguised consonant intervals preceding or following dissonances. She played with the rows as if she were playing chess, anticipating the move of the players–her notes full of elegance and expressivity.”⁠

Selections of Ursula Mamlok’s compositions were performed in conjunction with this exhibition by Damselfly Trio, with the support of the Dwight and Ursula Mamlok Foundation.