Kay Gardner

Kay Gardner (1941-2002)

A musical prodigy, Gardner was a musician, composer, author and musical producer. Born in Freeport New York, she publicly played her first composition, a piano piece, when she was 4 years old. Gardner began performing on the flute when she was eight and in her early 20s, she performed in coffeehouses throughout California. She later performed as flute soloist with chamber groups and orchestras.

A founder and early pioneer of women’s recording industry, Gardner established her own independent record label, Even Keel Records. Later she produced numerous acoustic recordings on the Ladyslipper label using chant, droning mantra, and toning, as well as harmonics for facilitating spiritual access; rhythm as pulse and melody as the emotional heart and soul of music.

Gardner believed music could be healthful or harmful, largely due the nature of its rhythm. She avoided the driving 4/4 beat of rock and modern dance music, believing that it clashed with the heart’s natural rhythm and, as a result, had a destructive, weakening effect on the human body. Gardner’s exploration of women-related studies in ancient Greece and India along with immersing herself in the traditional music of the Amazon region, Bali and Mexico significantly influenced her work in sound healing. Gardner helped launch the field of sound healing with the release of Mooncycles, in 1975. One of the tracks of that disc is available for listening below. It features Gardner singing of a “woman of the moon” accompanied by string quartet in her composition “Changing”.

In 1977, Gardner composed Rainforest, her first orchestral work which is also available for listening. Two of her most ambitious creations were A Rainbow Path and the oratorio Ouroboros. Gardner developed and composed Rainbow Path between 1976 and 1984 designing it for meditation on the eight chakras or energy centers of the body.  Ouroboros is large work featuring a 40-piece orchestra and 100-voice chorus which celebrates the growth stages of women throughout the life cycle.

Kay Gardner, a writer of merit, made numerous contributions to professional journals. Perhaps her most successful writings were included in her book, Sounding the Inner Landscape, where she outlined the principles of her approach to using music as an healing agent. Gardner also presented at a number of prestigious institutions like Cambridge University, Yale School of Anesthesiology, Michigan State School of Human Medicine, the C.G. Jung Center in Houston, and The Philosophical Research Society of Los Angeles.

Ouroboros: Seasons of Life - Women’s Passages - An Oratorio

“The ouroboros, the image of a snake swallowing it tail, symbolizes cyclical occurrences such as the seasons and the life cycle so it seemed to me to be a perfect title for the oratorio.” Kay Gardner

In 1989, Gardner was commissioned to compose an oratorio celebrating the stages (seasons) of a woman’s life from birth to death/rebirth. She crafted the eight movements in harmony with the seasons as represented by the ancient Celtic calendar. Each movement would begin with a narrative solo sung by a female of the age appropriate to the growth of the female season being portrayed, followed by an orchestral interlude and ending with a choral chant. The texts for the solos and chants were written by two poets; Charlie Hutchins who created the solo parts and Ila Suzanne who wrote the chant texts. This recording features an all-female cast of creators and performers.

1. Beginning 1:56
2. Birth/Winter Solstice 7:32
3. Childhood/Imbolc 6:26
4. Puberty/Ostara 8:35
5. Maidenhood/Beltane 5:16
6. Motherhood/Lissa 7:13
7. Menopause/Lammas 9:37
8. Elderhood/Mabon 7:37
9. Death-Rebirth/Samhain 6:51


Please allow a few moments for each of the songs to begin playing. This time may vary depending on your internet connection.

National Women's Music Festival Orchestra
Nan Washburn, conductor

National Women's Music Festival Corus
Catherine Roma, director

Soloists:

  • Amanda Gann, Child
  • Amanda Barrett, Puberty
  • Lissa Goldberg, Maidenhood
  • Seraiah Carol, Motherhood
  • Barbara Ester, Menopause
  • Amanda Neal, Elderhood

Ladyslipper Records LR115CD

Other selections:

Rainforest

Bournemouth Sinfonietta; Carolann Martin, conductor
Journeys: Orchestral Works by American Women Composers
Leonardo LE 327
6:31

Changing

Kay Gardner, vocal with string quartet
Mooncycles
Urana Records 885767353039
4:40

Where the Heart is

Kay Gardner, flute, with chorus
Drone Zone
Relaxation Company CD3188
4:50

Please allow a few moments for each of the songs to begin playing. This time may vary depending on your internet connection.