Nell Shaw Cohen

Based in Brooklyn, NY
Founder & Director, Landscape Music Composers Network

“My passion for nature, landscape, and place has infused my work, from tone poems for symphony orchestra to multimedia pieces for chamber ensemble with video. My Landscape Music encompasses reflections upon my personal experiences and memories of places, as well as reinterpretations of landscapes depicted by visual artists and writers.”


New York City-based composer, librettist, and multimedia artist Nell Shaw Cohen (b. 1988) evokes visual art, natural landscapes, and the lives of mavericks and artists in her lyrically expressive works ranging from orchestral tone poems to mobile apps.

Cohen has been commissioned by Houston Grand Opera to write a chamber opera (premiere 2021) with librettist Megan Cohen for HGOco’s Song of Houston initiative. Her chamber opera Mabel’s Call (2017) received readings in New York City and New Mexico and in 2018, the University of New Mexico will workshop the full score with Cohen in residence. Her monodrama The Coming of Spring (2014) was given a workshop staging in NYC. Cohen is an alumna of the Composers & the Voice fellowship with American Opera Projects and the Composer-Librettist Studio at New Dramatists.

Cohen’s residencies have included Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, NYU Symphony, and a Page 73 Yale Summer Residency with playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen. American Opera Projects, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, The JACK Quartet, WordSong, and members of The Chelsea Symphony and A Far Cry, among many others, have performed Cohen’s music. She’s presented concerts with the Parrish Art Museum, Harwood Museum, and Peabody Essex Museum, and received commissions from Montage Music Society, Boston GuitarFest, and WordSong, et al. As Founder & Director of Landscape Music, Cohen advocates for music inspired by landscape, nature, and place.

Cohen has also designed and developed unique media projects, including interactive installation for web and iPad app Explore John Muir’s Yosemite. The Boston Globe described her project Beyond the Notes: Music Inspired by Art as “far more extensive than the usual site devoted to an event or artwork…[with] loads of information connecting the music and art.” Cohen has received several grants for her digital projects and earned an Advanced Certificate from NYU in educational media.

Raised in San Francisco, CA and Sag Harbor, NY, Cohen studied at New York University (M.M.) and New England Conservatory (B.M.) with Herschel Garfein, Michael Gandolfi, John Mallia, Julia Wolfe, Missy Mazzoli, et al. As as student, her honors included the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Arts Award, NEC’s Chadwick Medal, and the Presser Scholar Award.


Work Samples

Point Reyes from Chimney Rock (2014) for orchestra, commissioned and recorded live by the New York University Symphony, 2014. Learn more about this piece.

Point Reyes from Chimney Rock takes its title and inspiration from a woodblock print by contemporary artist Tom Killion. This work reflects on a coastal landscape in Point Reyes National Seashore in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was born and raised.”

Refuge (2016) for flute, violin, cello, and percussion. Live recording by Cadillac Moon Ensemble, 2016. Learn more about this piece.

“A narrative suite following the conservation stories of three wild animals and their habitats. Composed in commemoration of the centennial of the National Park Service, the World Premiere of Refuge was given by Cadillac Moon Ensemble on a concert presenting music by members of the Landscape Music Composers Network at the Parrish Art Museum.”

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