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Pentland, Barbara Lally (1912–2000) By Danielson, Janet

DOI: 10.4324/9781135000356-REM38-1
Published: 09/05/2016
Retrieved: 23 July 2024, from


Barbara Pentland was arguably the most rigorously modernist Canadian composer of her generation. During the late 1940s she adopted serial techniques and by the mid-1950s had forged her mature style: spare, elegantly constructed, abstract, yet with a rich timbral palette and surprising lyricism. She made adept use of new techniques throughout her career. She taught at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto (1942–1949); then at the University of British Columbia (1949–1963). She received a Diplôme d’honneur from the Canadian Conference for the Arts (1977); honorary doctorates from the University of Manitoba (1976) and Simon Fraser University (1985); the Order of Canada (1989); and the Order of British Columbia (1993). Situated within the confluence of early women’s rights struggles and Canada’s search for identity at the official end of colonial rule in 1931, Pentland’s musical modernism lent authenticity and authority to her artistic voice: her music sounded neither British nor stereotypically feminine. As one reviewer observed, Pentland’s music had ‘‘that cool remoteness which conjures wide-open spaces and is probably as close to a national sound as anything Canadian composers have achieved.’’

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Danielson, Janet. Pentland, Barbara Lally (1912–2000). Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Taylor and Francis,

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