Penka Kouneva

It’s a tremendous honor for me to participate as a composer in Women Warriors: The Voices of Change, a first-of-its-kind event conceived by Maestra Amy Andersson, Creative Director and Conductor. This is the most important concert I have been a part of to date because of its relevance to the current historical times. By tackling social and humanistic issues that are not usually addressed on a classical concert stage, Women Warriors also gives orchestral music an urgent social and cultural resonance.

Chapter Three The AIDS Crisis
As an adolescent growing up in the 80s in Sofia, Bulgaria, I was very scared of the AIDS pandemic. I remember thinking about the trauma each infected person had experienced…I tried to imagine how it would feel to live with a death sentence hovering over ones head. Later I got to meet and make friends with people who were HIV-positive. Their incredible resilience, willpower and commitment to heal touched me deeply. My music has urgency and drama, but also compassion and hope expressed in the soaring emotional melodies.

Chapter Five Earth
This segment shows Israeli and Palestinian women peacefully coming together and searching for common language amidst the most violent, continuous and divisive war of our modern times. My piece expresses love, care and humility at the power of the human spirit to rise above conflict, hatred and profound differences. I strived for the music to have timeless and universal sound.

Chapter Seven Standing Rock
The feelings I had when watching the web and TV coverage of Standing Rock were of utmost rage, anger and disgust. Water is the most precious resource on our planet. Human life would be impossible for more than three days without water. Yet millions of people around the world have no access to clean drinking water and so many preventable deaths around the globe happen because of contaminated water. My music is inspired by the minimalism of Steve Reich. It features pounding chords and drums capturing my rage at the unjust violence against the peaceful protestors at Standing Rock.

Chapter Eight Starry Way
This chapter is about the women around the globe who have overcome profound traumas in their lives and are lead by example as role models in their communities. This track has international flavor as it features women like Malala, Laxmi Agarwal and African women-leaders. Yet my impulse as a composer is to always write timeless music that transcends space and time. Therefore my music has overtones of curiosity and humanity.

Chapter Eleven Me Too
This is a painful subject because such an overwhelming majority of women bear scars from some form of sexual violence against them. The track is extremely intense with seething anger and rage throughout, and a big breakthrough towards the end symbolizing that finally this issue has been brought out into the open. Women are the creators and nurturers of life itself; sadly throughout history and still to this day they experience tremendous amount of sexual violence. It is a great honor to compose music that underscores their battle.

Chapter Twelve Airplane
This chapter highlights the women who have propelled humanity forward with their courage, vision, integrity and selfless care for their fellow humans. It honors mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers of all races and cultures, as well as a number of distinguished women. My composition (co-composed with Fred E. Smith) begins with soulful solo cello and then goes into a jubilant orchestral celebration inspired by Beethoven’s Ode To Joy. It is one of the most positive, uplifting and joyful compositions I have ever written.

Learn more about Penka Kouneva here:

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