British composer, whose earlier diatonic compositions were later superseded by her serial music.
After a three-year course at Edinburgh University and lessons with Hans Gál, Musgrave studied (1950–54) with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. In 1953 she received her first commission, The Suite o' Bairnsangs for the Scottish Festival at Braemar; the following year the BBC (Scotland) commissioned Cantata for a Summer's Day. The ballet A Tale for Thieves and the chamber opera The Abbot of Drimock also date from this period. These early works are generally diatonic in style, but by 1960 Musgrave was using serial techniques, as in the trio for flute, oboe, and piano (1960). Musgrave's opera The Decision (1964–65), with a libretto about a mining disaster, was staged at Sadler's Wells in 1967. In 1966 her first experiments in nonsynchronized but fully notated instrumental parts appeared in the second and third chamber concertos (1966; 1967). These techniques were used vocally in the opera The Voice of Ariadne, commissioned for the 1974 Aldeburgh Festival. Her viola concerto, a BBC commission, was given its first performance in 1973 by her husband Peter Mark and the Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Musgrave. Later works include the opera Mary, Queen of Scots (1976–77), Black Tambourine (for women's chorus and piano; 1985), The Seasons (for orchestra, 1988), and Rainbow (1990).