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McLean [née Taylor], Priscilla (Anne)locked

  • Barbara A. Petersen
  •  and Lesley A. Wright

(b Fitchburg, MA, May 27, 1942). American composer and performer of electro-acoustic music. She graduated from the State College at Fitchburg (BEd 1963) and the University of Massachusetts, Lowell (BME 1965). At Indiana University, Bloomington (MM 1969), she was greatly influenced by the music of Xenakis, who was teaching there. She has taught at Indiana University, Kokomo (1971–3), St Mary's College, Notre Dame (1973–6), and the universities of Hawaii (1985) and Malaysia (1996). From 1976 to 1980 she produced the American Society of Composers ‘Radiofest’ series. In 1974 she and her husband, Barton McLean, began to perform together as the McLean Mix, and in 1983 to present concerts of their own music full-time. She sings with extended vocal techniques and plays the piano, synthesizer, percussion and Amerindian wooden flutes, as well as newly created instruments.

McLean's works range from abstract orchestral and chamber music to dramatic electro-acoustic works. Since 1978 most of her music has focussed on the concept of the wilderness and has incorporated sounds from animals and nature along with synthesized music. Her compositions, unquestionably dramatic, contain electronic passages that are well integrated and musical. The sonic tension, large-scale coherence of her music and its unique sound world have been widely admired.


(selective list)

Orch and band

Holiday for Youth, concert band, 1964–5

Variations and Mozaics on a Theme of Stravinsky, orch, 1967–9, rev. 1975

A Magic Dwells, orch, tape, 1982–4

Voices of the Wild [Movt 1: (Printemps) Rites], live elec soloist, orch, 1986–8 [movt 2 by B. McLean]

Everything Awakening Alert and Joyful, nar, orch, 1991–2

Rainforest Reflections, synth soloists, orch, 1993

in collaboration with B. McLean


Interplanes, 2 pf, 1970

Spectra I, perc ens, synth, 1971

Spectra II, perc ens, prepared pf, 1972

Ah-Syn!, autohp, synth, 1974, rev. 1976

Beneath the Horizon I, 4 tuba, tape [whale sounds], 1977–8

Beneath the Horizon II, tuba, tape [whale sounds], 1978, rev. as Beneath the Horizon III, 1979

Elan! A Dance to all Rising Things from the Earth, fl, vn, vc, perc, pf, 1982–4

Where the Wild Geese Go, cl, tape, 1993–4


Inner Universe, 8 tone poems, amp pf, tape, slide projections, 1979–82

Beneath the Horizon, quadraphonic/stereo tape, slide projections, 1982

Dance of Shiva, stereo computer music, slide projections, 1989–90

Rainforest†, audience-interactive installation

2 synth, perc, found insts, 2 microphones, tape, digital processors, slide projections, 1988

Rainforest Images I and II†, tape, video, 1993

Amazon†, 1v with digital processing, ocarinas, synths, wooden fls, perc, amp zither, 2 pf, live elecs, slide projections, 1995

In the Beginning, 1v with processing, 2 pf, tape, video (A.J. Jannone), 1995–6

Desert Spring†, audience-interactive installation

voice processing, desert objects, thundersheet, amp and programmed buffalo skull, amp bicycle wheel, synth, tape, slide projections, 1996

Jambori Rimba†, audience-interactive installation

voice processing, 2 synth, ceramic bowls, perc, amp bicycle wheel, native tribal tapes, slide projections, video (H. Saidon), improvised dance, 1996–7, rev. for concert, 1v and stereo processing, tape, ww, bowed bicycle wheel, gongs, video, 1988

Earth Song†, 1v, fl, kbd, live elecs, tape, synths, slide projections, 1997

The Ultimate Symphonins 2000†, interactive installation, 1999


Night Images, tape, 1973

Dance of Dawn, 4-track tape, 1974

Invisible Chariots, 4-track tape, 1975–7

Desert Voices, MIDI-vn, live elecs, tape, 1997–8


Men and Angels Share, SATB, pf, 1959

4 Songs in Season: Chant of Autumn, Lullaby of Winter, Song to the Spring, Summer Soliloquy, SATB, pf, 1963, rev. 1967

3 Songs (R.M. Rilke), S, vn, 1965, rev. 1974

There Must be a Time, SAB, fl, 1970

Messages, 4 solo vv, double chorus, chbr ens, elecs, 1972–4

Fantasies for Adults and Other Children (e.e. cummings), S, amp pf, 1978–80

Invocation, S, chorus, audience singing, created perc and ww, tape, 1984–6

O Beautiful Suburbia!, S + autohp, audience singing, bongo drums + bicycle wheel, tape, 1985

On Wings of Song, S, amp bicycle wheel, tape, 1985

Wilderness, S, fl, cl, 2 sax, bn, accdn, 2 perc, pf, 1986, rev. S, flexatone, tape, 1988–89

In Celebration (of the Historic Alaskan Wilderness Act and of All Consciousness of Our Bond with Nature), chorus, perc, tape, 1987–8

6 (Sage) Songs about Life (… and Thyme …), S, pf, 1990

In the Beginning, S, processors, tape, 1994–96

also works for chorus and children's chorus, pf

MSS in US-NYamc, recorded interviews in US-NHoh

Principal publisher

MLC Publications

Principal recording companies


  • P. McLean: ‘Fire and Ice: a Query’, PNM, 16/1 (1977), 205–11; repr. in On the Wires of our Nerves, ed. R. Heifetz (Lewisburg, PA, 1989), 148–56
  • D. Ernst: ‘The Electronic Music of Barton and Priscilla McLean’, Polyphony, 4/3 (1978–9), 40–42
  • J. LePage: Women Composers, Conductors and Musicians of the Twentieth Century, 3 (Metuchen, NJ, 1980–88)
  • P. McLean: ‘Thoughts as a (Woman) Composer’, PNM, 20/1 (1982), 308–10
  • J. Aiken: ‘Barton and Priscilla McLean’, The Art of Electronic Music, ed. T. Darter (New York, 1984), 231–5
New Haven (CT), Yale University, Oral History Archive
New York, American Music Center Library
Perspectives of New Music