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.”


Brooklyn-based composer, librettist, and multimedia artist 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, and voice. Cohen is a 2015-17 Composers & the Voice Fellow with American Opera Projects and the recipient of a 2016 Artist Residency Grant from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. Her chamber opera Mabel’s Call has been featured at the Harwood Museum of Art and on AOP’s Six Scenes opera showcase. As founder and director of Landscape Music, an online publication and affiliated Composers Network, Cohen advocates for music inspired by nature, landscape, and place.

The JACK Quartet, WordSong, and members of The Chelsea Symphony and A Far Cry, among many others, have performed Cohen’s music in museums, concert halls, theaters, festivals, and salons. Cohen was 2013-14 Composer-in-Residence with the New York University Symphony, which commissioned and premiered her tone poem Point Reyes from Chimney Rock at the Skirball Center. Her chamber monodrama The Coming of Spring received a workshop staging in NYC in 2014. Her multimedia concerts combining visual art with video and music have been featured at the Parrish Art Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, and New England Conservatory.

Cohen has also designed and developed unique media projects, including interactive installation for web and iPad app Explore John Muir’s Yosemite, and produced more than 60 videos on multidisciplinary arts topics. 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 from NEC and NYU for her digital projects and earned an Advanced Certificate from NYU in educational media.

As a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Arts Scholar, Cohen completed a Master of Music (GPA 4.0) at NYU, where she studied with Herschel Garfein, Missy Mazzoli, and Julia Wolfe. Cohen received her Bachelor of Music with Honors (GPA 3.99) from New England Conservatory, where she studied with Michael Gandolfi and John Mallia was awarded the Presser Scholar Award and Chadwick Medal.

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.”

California Zephyr (2014) for video with piccolo, clarinet, 2 percussion, piano, violin, viola, cello, and bass. Live recording by the NYU Contemporary Music Ensemble, 2014.

“California Zephyr summarizes my three-day journey on Amtrak’s historic train line through music and video. With a camera pointed at the window along the way, I attempted to capture the scenery’s transitions from farmland to mountains to desert.”

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