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Carol Barnett

Composer / Minneapolis
Member since May 2018
Carol Barnett’s music for solo voice, piano, chorus, diverse chamber ensembles, orchestra, and wind ensemble has been called audacious and engaging. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, pupil of Dominick Argento and Paul Fetler and a charter member of the American Composers Forum, she was composer-in-residence with the Dale Warland Singers from 1992 to 2001 and was an adjunct faculty member at Augsburg College from 2000 to 2015. More information is available at <>

My Style

My music has its roots in the Western classical tradition, supplemented by explorations of the Jewish liturgical tradition and the folk music of Greece, Italy, Russia, Southeastern Europe, and the Middle East. I often use preexisting material—folk melodies, literary influences and texts. I believe that music is a language based on nostalgia—remembered sounds which evoke other places, times and emotions. I am most interested in communicating with my listeners by using musical language familiar to them, then adding something new—more complex harmonies, elements from a different musical tradition, or departures from the expected formal structure. I work rather slowly, striving for a balance of well-grounded formal structure with effortless flow from one event to the next. Since I am a performer as well as a composer, I understand the occasional need to write within the parameters of limited rehearsal time and modest technical accomplishment without “writing down” to the performers. While writing accessibly, I try to find something unusual to say, something unique, magic, that bypasses intellect and goes straight to the heart.

Active Projects

Pastor que con tus silbos amorosos (Lope de Vega)

SATB a cappella
3 · Medium
3 minutes
15 spots left
release date
Jan. 1st 2020
$200 / ensemble

Featured Compositions

Listen to works by Carol Barnett

now playing


As composer in residence, I listened to the Dale Warland Singers rehearsing Poulenc's Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël. I loved the first three; the fourth, not so much. This is my own interpretation of the "Hodie" text.
now playing

Near Odessa

SSAA, piano
Near Odessa was written for Bella Voce, a women's choir based in Reno, Nevada, and conducted by Jennifer Tibben. The poem is from a recent volume by Minneapolis writer Patricia Kirkpatrick, written during a time when she was making frequent car trips through the western Minnesota landscape to the tiny town of Odessa. The images of golden fields, clattering harvest machinery, the far-off cry of geese, the hum of tires on the highway and the waves on the river, all are fodder for sound pictures.
now playing

Dance of Zálongo

SA/SATB, percussion, piano
This Greek folk song recalls an heroic action by the women of the village of Souli, who danced to the edge of the nearby Zálongo canyon and one by one leapt to their death rather than be captured by the enemy.
now playing

My People Are Rising

SA, violin, doumbek
I first heard this text in a 2016 BBC podcast; it is part of a longer work by Mohja Kahf entitled “My People Are Rising: An unfinished poem begun in Spring 2011 for an unfinished Revolution begun in March 2011.” It spoke so viscerally of the tragic events in Syria that it was impossible for me to imagine setting it with Western harmonies. And so began an exploration of Arabic music, with its quarter-tone scales, its lack of vertical chordal structures, its abundantly ornamented heterophony. Since quarter-tones are not a part of our Western choral training, I opted to temper the scales a bit, resulting in a fair number of augmented seconds, and added a violin to the melodic mix for pitch support. The voices and violin are accompanied by a doumbek player, who is highly encouraged to improvise; the written notation is only there as a guide.

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