Barbara Benary

  • Compositions

  • Karna: a Shadow Puppet Opera

  • Wayang Esther

  • Gamelan Son of Lion

  • Composer, Performer, and Ethnomusicologist

    Sound Samples


    Barbara Benary received a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where her areas of specialization were musics of India and Indonesia. She subsequently taught ethnmusicology at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She has performed in the ensembles of Philip Glass, Jon Gibson, Alvin Lucier, Philip Corner and Daniel Goode. She has received a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship (1972) and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts (1982, 1993), Meet The Composer, and the Jerome Foundation.

    Benary is a co-founder of Gamelan Son of Lion, a new music collective and repertory ensemble in New York City (1976- ). She has composed over thirty pieces for gamelan ensemble which have been performed by Gamelan Son of Lion and by other groups in the United States and internationally. Her composition work has been in two areas: ensemble chamber music and theater music. Her styles are various but include process and minimalism, and the integration of world music forms, structures and instruments with traditional western materials.

    Sun on Snow, a record of her chamber music, was released in 2006 by New World Records . A second CD of her early gamelan works called Dragon Toes was release in 2007 by Gamelan Son of Lion (GSOL Records). Other of her gamelan pieces are included in the gamelan's anthology Sonogram (Innova #718, 2005) and other earlier group CDs.

    Benary has written theater and dance scores for a number of companies including New York Shakespeare Festival, LaMaMa E.T.C., Lenox Arts Theatre, Odyssey Theatre, Laura Pawel Dance Co. and Bali-Java Dance Theatre. Her theatre piece Karna: A Shadow Puppet Opera (1994) combines gamelan and vocal oratorio with Javanese wayang kulit puppetry. Wayang Esther: A Javanese Purimspiel (2001) continues her work in the format combining puppet theatre, oratorio and gamelan-based accompaniment.

    Ms. Benary is a member of BMI. Her scores are distributed by Frog Peak Music and American Gamelan Institute. Any scores or recordings not listed with these distributors may be ordered directly from the composer:

    Barbara Benary
    307 Call Hollow Road
    Stony Point, NY 10980

    In fair weather Barbara pursues the hobby
    of Civil War reenacting as a fiddler.
    She is also an enthusiast of Cape Breton style fiddling
    and the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle.

    Last modified Thursday, 20 November 2014.