Kolb's music is mostly characterized for her colourful textures, usually interwoven with impressionist touches and a freely atonal language that at the same time turns out to be profoundly harmonic. Many of her works drink from the source of ideas and images which sprout from the world of literature and the visual arts.
Born in Connecticut in 1939, Barbara Kolb finished her musical studies cum laude at the Hartt College of Music at Hatford University. Having an eminently classical background, this composer combines her academic knowledge with an exploration of the sonic possibilities offered by the new technologies always within the context of academic music with mastery. Among her recordings mention must be made of her work "Rebuttal", a work she composed for a clarinet duo performed by clarinetists George Hirner and Gary McGee, which was released in 1964 under the label Opus One, this being a small recording company specializing in the release of minority musics and especially devoted to women composers.
Barbara's compositions have awarded her numerous prizes throughout her career, and her worth as a composer has brought her the chance to receive several scholarships and grants, as for instance in three occasions by the prestigious Tanglewood institution, besides the four she was given by MacDowell, plus another two by Guggenheim. Kolb was also the first woman to receive the American Prix in Rome (1969-71), a prize that awarded her prolific work in musical composition. The artist, who could continue with her musical studies in Vienna thanks to a Fulbright scholarship, has been commissioned different works to develop her career as a composer throughout the seventies, among them one by the Koussevitzky Foundation, besides others by the Council for the Arts of the State of New York, The National Association of Music Teachers, The Washington Association for the Performing Arts, and the Fromm Foundation, between the years 1970 and 1980. Other grants that this composer has received throughout her career include those given by the Institute for the Arts and Letters in 1973, and the "National Endowment for the Arts" in the years 1972, 1974, 1979, 1981, 1984, 1989 (this grant would allow her to finance the release of some of her most well known compositions), and 1992.
Among the different performances of her work given by several symphonic orchestras having an international recognition, mention must be made of those by the New York Philarmonic Orchestra, conducted by Pierre Boulez in 1975, and the Synmphonic Orchestra of Boston, conducted by Seiji Ozawa, this latter one having performed both at Boston and at Japan, during a Japanese tour they went on in 1978.
Between the years 1979 and 1982, Kolb became the Artistic Director for the Contemporary Music Department at the institution "Third Street Music School Settlement", where she presented the series of concerts "Music New to New York".
During the period between the years 1983 and 1984, Barbara Kolb would spend nine months at the IRCAM, where she was commissioned to write what was to become her work "Millefoglie", composed for a chamber ensemble and tape.
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