Beyond the Notes: The Composer

Brooklyn-based composer and multimedia artist-producer Nell Shaw Cohen (b. 1988), a native of San Francisco, CA and Sag Harbor, NY, writes lyrically expressive, visually evocative music for chamber ensembles, orchestra, solo voice, choir, wind ensemble, and rock band. The JACK Quartet, WordSong, and members of The Chelsea Symphony and A Far Cry, among others, have performed her music in museums, concert halls, theaters, and salons. Cohen was 2013-14 Composer-in-Residence for the New York University Symphony, which commissioned and premiered her tone poem Point Reyes from Chimney Rock at the Skirball Center.

Cohen’s multimedia concerts combining visual art with video and music have been featured at the Parrish Art Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, and New England Conservatory, where she premiered 19 works on the Tuesday Night New Music series during 2008-12.

Cohen has also filmed in locations from the New Mexico badlands to the Marin Headlands; interviewed scholars on subjects from synesthesia to Charles Ives; and received two Entrepreneurial Grants from NEC and a Challenge Grant from NYU for her multidisciplinary digital media projects.

As a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Arts Scholar, Cohen studied with Herschel Garfein at New York University, where she completed a Master of Music ('14). Cohen also studied with Michael Gandolfi and John Mallia at New England Conservatory, where she earned her Bachelor of Music with Honors ('12) and was awarded the Presser Scholar Award and Chadwick Medal.

For a more extensive biography, resume, and examples of more music by Cohen, visit Contact her at nell [at]

Video: A Film Score for Paintings

In this excerpt from Cohen's interview on The Course of Empire, the composer describes how she hopes her music and the paintings will combine to produce a unified sensory experience for listeners. To view more of Cohen's interview, visit The Course of Empire > The Music: Inspired by Art.

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