Meet Kassia of Constantinople: a poet, composer, abbess…and the earliest woman composer whose music still exists.

In this series, we’re discovering the lives of the best composers in Western music history and why their work matters to us today.

This is Kassia’s story.

Who

Kassia, sometimes called Kassiani.

What

An abbess, poet, and notable composer from the Byzantine era.

She was a famed hymnographer, and she also wrote some secular works.

When

810-865.

Kassia lived during the early Medieval Period of music history.

She was a contemporary of Notker Balbulus, Tuotilo, Theodore the Studite, Hucbald, Joseph the Hymnographer, and Stephen of Liege.

Where

Constantinople, mostly. That is the city where Kassia was born and raised.

She later joined a local convent, where she spent the rest of her life.

Why It Matters

Kassia stands out in music history for several reasons.

First, as we noted above, she is the earliest female composer whose music survives to this day.

She was also the only poet-composer of her day to write music about the redemption and salvation of fallen women.

One of the earliest melodic sequences was used (and possibly invented) by her.

Other Interesting Facts

Kassia was known for both her beauty and her brains.

She caught the attention of Emperor Theophilus, who proposed to her.

However, Kassia was less than thrilled with his remarks about the worth and status of women, so she declined.

She spent the rest of her life in an abbey in her native city of Constantinople.

And that is the story of Kassia of Constantinople. What do you think?

Other Composers Featured In This Series:

Antonio Vivaldi, J.S. Bach, G.F. Handel, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Clara Schumann, Erik Satie, Scott Joplin, Lili Boulanger, Dmitri Shostakovich, Olivier Messiaen

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