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Old 03-08-2016, 12:10 PM   #1
Peter
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Lightbulb Women composers

A list of the the 'top 10' apparently! Some names are familiar to me here but others not.

http://www.classical-music.com/artic...ou-should-know
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Old 03-08-2016, 01:38 PM   #2
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I suppose the emphasis on the word 'should'.... it is like everything else in this context: women have an uphill struggle, even today and even in our Western world, which pretends to be egalitarian. Yes, I am sure we are ahead of many other places in the world, but history still very heavily is weighted against the role of women in society.

How many conductors do we know? How many orchestras still struggle with the concept of accepting women into their midst? The mere fact of just mentioning this issue shows how far we are from a really fair asssessment of women and men as equals in music. There are inroads, but women 'who make it' are still considered a bit weird or (at least partially) 'admired' for reasons not necessarily reand wlated to their musical abilities...

And then there is the historical reality of course, one cannot undo: women were not supposed to compose or be creative. Which made it extremely difficult for them to get anywhere near a glass ceiling.... and which no doubt explains why most of us would find it difficult to put together any list of five women composers, without digging into all sorts of archives and expert lists.

One cannot undo the past. But one could strive to improve things for the future. Excluding half the world's population's talent on the basis of gender really is absurd. The fact that one needs a women's day is a sad reflection on the state of humanity. Can you imagine ever having an international man's day? Unfortunately, the way the world is going, there is a long way to go....
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Old 03-08-2016, 01:59 PM   #3
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I suppose the emphasis on the word 'should'.... it is like everything else in this context: women have an uphill struggle, even today and even in our Western world, which pretends to be egalitarian. Yes, I am sure we are ahead of many other places in the world, but history still very heavily is weighted against the role of women in society.

How many conductors do we know? How many orchestras still struggle with the concept of accepting women into their midst? The mere fact of just mentioning this issue shows how far we are from a really fair asssessment of women and men as equals in music. There are inroads, but women 'who make it' are still considered a bit weird or (at least partially) 'admired' for reasons not necessarily reand wlated to their musical abilities...

And then there is the historical reality of course, one cannot undo: women were not supposed to compose or be creative. Which made it extremely difficult for them to get anywhere near a glass ceiling.... and which no doubt explains why most of us would find it difficult to put together any list of five women composers, without digging into all sorts of archives and expert lists.

One cannot undo the past. But one could strive to improve things for the future. Excluding half the world's population's talent on the basis of gender really is absurd. The fact that one needs a women's day is a sad reflection on the state of humanity. Can you imagine ever having an international man's day? Unfortunately, the way the world is going, there is a long way to go....
Without wishing in any way to diminish the social injustices to women historically speaking, I wonder though just how much that has had a part to play in the lack of 'great' women composers? Certainly regarding composers pre 19th century it could well have been an issue as they would not have found Court or Church employment in such a role, but in the 19th and 20th centuries was it so? With the rise of the conservatoires, there was no shortage of female students.

Since the 19th century there have been fine women instrumentalists and singers of the first order, many who were able to make successful careers for themselves, such as Clara Schumann and Pauline Viardot. Also think of the many outstanding female pupils of Liszt such as Amy Fay and Sophie Menter to mention just a few. But why a lack of composers? It can't be simply that they wouldn't be taken seriously - just look at Schubert or Bruckner to see that was not a criticism solely related to gender.
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Old 03-08-2016, 05:14 PM   #4
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Dear Peter,

I don't claim that gender is the only reason, but it does play a role here as much as in many other areas of public life in which women are looked upon diffently than men. While you mention a few names in your reply, they are not as much household names as men such as Arthur Rubinstein, Carl Czerny or Franz Liszt himself.... and one could go on endlessly.

I am pretty convinced there is a correlation between the fact that there are relatively few women composers and their position in society. And that changes in this area are slow to come, just as much as they are elsewhere. Other than with electoral systems, where one can introduce quota, here, it has to evolve naturally, there is little manipulating to be done, other than trying to stimulate more openness by a still largely male-dominated society. Discussions such as the one we are having here just show that it is not self-evident.
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Old 03-08-2016, 06:46 PM   #5
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Dear Peter,

I don't claim that gender is the only reason, but it does play a role here as much as in many other areas of public life in which women are looked upon diffently than men. While you mention a few names in your reply, they are not as much household names as men such as Arthur Rubinstein, Carl Czerny or Franz Liszt himself.... and one could go on endlessly.

I am pretty convinced there is a correlation between the fact that there are relatively few women composers and their position in society. And that changes in this area are slow to come, just as much as they are elsewhere. Other than with electoral systems, where one can introduce quota, here, it has to evolve naturally, there is little manipulating to be done, other than trying to stimulate more openness by a still largely male-dominated society. Discussions such as the one we are having here just show that it is not self-evident.
There are also many great male pianists of the 19th century that are no longer household names. That it was perfectly possible for women to compose in the 19th century is self-evident in names such as Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann, but in both cases the quality of their work was far eclipsed by that of the brother in the former and the husband in the latter case. This link shows there have been numerous women composers, so why none in the front rank? I'm genuinely puzzled by this one! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o..._by_birth_year

Let me be clear that I'm not defending the social injustices perpetuated on women throughout the centuries, merely questioning it's role in subjugating the creative spirit which I personally believe manages to find a way of expressing itself if it is strong enough regardless of circumstances or gender.
Just look at the enormous difficulties the great male composers have had to endure, yet their genius overcame these. Take Schubert who held no official position other than teacher, had only one public performance of his works in his short lifetime, yet continued to pour out an incredible quantity of great works on a daily basis, despite poverty, depression and declining health with little hope of his works being performed.

I think it is too simplistic to say there are no great compositions by women simply because of the social injustices they endured. This didn't stop female writers in the 19th century, even though they sometimes used male pseudonyms, George Eliot or George Sand for example who everyone knew to be female anyway!
I can accept it didn't help, but it doesn't explain why we don't have a single great masterpiece by any female composer to rank alongside the greatest works by male composers. With singers and instrumentalists the situation is quite different with gender clearly playing no part in ability or thankfully these days in opportunities, except perhaps when it comes to conductors!
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Old 03-10-2016, 09:16 AM   #6
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There's Hildegard von Bingen, of course.
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Old 03-14-2016, 01:51 PM   #7
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I still don't buy that it is not a factor that plays. There probably are still a lot of other elements that play and in many other areas: language is one, for example. I come from Flanders, where Dutch is the spoken language. How many great Flemish writers do you know? The likelihood is very small that you know any. Does that mean there are no great Flemish writers? It does not prove it one way or another. But the world is full of unknown geniuses that have not 'made it' and there very often are chance factors why some do come to the fore and others not.
As said in a previous message in this thread, I do not claim it is the only reason, but it is a factor like there are many. I don't think our opinions are that far apart on this. Today, cultural dominance is very much impacted on by marketing, by issues that have little to do with the art itself. Unfortunately, popularity is not necessarily a good measure for quality. In Flanders, to get back to my example, a poet will find it very hard to even get anything published at all, because the market is so small, no publisher will venture to go along. What are the chances of someone like that who happens to be very good to be recognised internationally one day? None, or practically none.
I'm afraid that genius does not guarantee success. And being a woman, historically, does put you in a more uphill struggling category.
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Old 03-19-2016, 03:03 PM   #8
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How many great Flemish writers do you know?
None! But I do know one Flemish composer, Andre Gretry, and quite a few of his compositions.

In 2003, I went from Australia to holiday in South Africa. While there I read that Gretry's "Zemire et Azor" was being performed in Lubeck, Germany. I cancelled the Capetown leg of my holiday and flew to Berlin, then by train to Lubeck where I saw Gretry's opera.

The works of women composers are readily available for free on YouTube and so I do the obvious thing, I listen to them, lots of them - Lili Boulanger, Germaine Tailleferre, Cecile Chaminade are my favorites.
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Old 03-24-2016, 10:18 AM   #9
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Why women can't be conductors:

http://www.classicfm.com/discover/mu...R5qUWVFEyXu.97
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Old 03-24-2016, 10:29 AM   #10
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There are also many great male pianists of the 19th century that are no longer household names. That it was perfectly possible for women to compose in the 19th century is self-evident in names such as Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann, but in both cases the quality of their work was far eclipsed by that of the brother in the former and the husband in the latter case. This link shows there have been numerous women composers, so why none in the front rank? I'm genuinely puzzled by this one! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o..._by_birth_year
Do you realise that Nannerl Mozart was actually as talented as Wolfgang and composing as a child also? That is until her father found out and put a stop to it! Fanny M was also told not to publicise her work and only have it played privately- what effect would that have on one's confidence and creative flow? Clara herself believed that women should not compose- when one has no confidence and told that to so something is not "proper" then that has a huge effect on capability, creativity and confidence. To always have to act within what is socially acceptable- this has always been tougher for women than men. the musical training open to men was not open to women- genius is not just inborn talent- it has to be nurtured, respected and encouraged! We know that this was denied to women.



Quote:
Let me be clear that I'm not defending the social injustices perpetuated on women throughout the centuries, merely questioning it's role in subjugating the creative spirit which I personally believe manages to find a way of expressing itself if it is strong enough regardless of circumstances or gender.

It does not if there is no access to musical training, no instruments, one is pregnant every year, not as well educated, one is forbidden to engage in musical composition.



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Just look at the enormous difficulties the great male composers have had to endure, yet their genius overcame these.

But they were not forbidden to compose, told it was socially unacceptable, pregnant every year, denied musical training...


Quote:
Take Schubert who held no official position other than teacher, had only one public performance of his works in his short lifetime, yet continued to pour out an incredible quantity of great works on a daily basis, despite poverty, depression and declining health with little hope of his works being performed.
But he was still a man! He had friends who encouraged him, had access to musical training.


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I think it is too simplistic to say there are no great compositions by women simply because of the social injustices they endured. This didn't stop female writers in the 19th century, even though they sometimes used male pseudonyms, George Eliot or George Sand for example who everyone knew to be female anyway!

Writing fiction is not the same as music- one only needed paper ink and a quill and it could be done in secret, not as easy to create music in secret..



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I can accept it didn't help, but it doesn't explain why we don't have a single great masterpiece by any female composer to rank alongside the greatest works by male composers. With singers and instrumentalists the situation is quite different with gender clearly playing no part in ability or thankfully these days in opportunities, except perhaps when it comes to conductors!

It completely explains it to me. Perhaps one has to be a woman to truly understand- even today women are seen as lesser beings.
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Old 03-24-2016, 10:31 AM   #11
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Excluding half the world's population's talent on the basis of gender really is absurd.
Thank you for recognising that Albert- I appreciate that a lot. I have tried over the years to assist many men to see this- but I expect they had to go home to their dinner on the table cooked by little wifey.
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Old 03-24-2016, 10:41 AM   #12
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Do you realise that Nannerl Mozart was actually as talented as Wolfgang and composing as a child also? That is until her father found out and put a stop to it! Fanny M was also told not to publicise her work and only have it played privately- what effect would that have on one's confidence and creative flow? Clara herself believed that women should not compose- when one has no confidence and told that to so something is not "proper" then that has a huge effect on capability, creativity and confidence. To always have to act within what is socially acceptable- this has always been tougher for women than men. the musical training open to men was not open to women- genius is not just inborn talent- it has to be nurtured, respected and encouraged! We know that this was denied to women.


It does not if there is no access to musical training, no instruments, one is pregnant every year, not as well educated, one is forbidden to engage in musical composition



Perhaps you haven't looked at this list of women composers which rather contradicts the idea that women didn't have the training or were forbidden to engage in composition. Women were no less likely to have access to instruments than men and in any case an instrument isn't always necessary for composition.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o..._by_birth_year

Outstanding among them was Lili Boulanger who became the first women to win the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1913, but died tragically young.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lili_Boulanger

Another interesting composer because of her connections with Haydn and Mozart was Marianna Martines whose name and music were known throughout Europe, and she was admitted to the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna in 1773.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianna_Martines
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Old 03-26-2016, 08:24 PM   #13
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We now have a list of female composers in this discussion, some of whom are called extraordinary. I always find it difficult to make the distinction between very good and extraordinary. It would be interesting (of course this is impossible, so just a hypothesis) to see if we would have someone who knew nothing about classical music and would listen to let's say 10 pieces of extraordinary male composers and 10 of female composers, if it would then turn out if s/he were to order them, a clear majority of the top 10 of the 20 would be male compositions.
As said, purely hypothetical, but I would very much doubt that would be the case.
The list of women composers in discussion includes names most classic fans (including myself) never even heard of, let alone heard a piece of.
This domain has been occupied by men, and the people determining what to perform, what was worthy or not were/are also men. Our whole culture is biased that way. And you may name as many female writers or painters as you want, you'll always find more men, certainly if you go further back in history. This is changing, but very slowly. And yes, there are famous female artists, writers, etc.... I am not arguing that is not the case. But it was and still is an uphill struggle for women, as in so many other facets of (public) life. I just had a look at the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature... 112 were awarded. 14 of those went to women and if one looks at the distribution of those, since 1990, 8 were women. I doubt this is accidental.
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Old 03-27-2016, 06:43 AM   #14
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We now have a list of female composers in this discussion, some of whom are called extraordinary. I always find it difficult to make the distinction between very good and extraordinary. It would be interesting (of course this is impossible, so just a hypothesis) to see if we would have someone who knew nothing about classical music and would listen to let's say 10 pieces of extraordinary male composers and 10 of female composers, if it would then turn out if s/he were to order them, a clear majority of the top 10 of the 20 would be male compositions.
As said, purely hypothetical, but I would very much doubt that would be the case.

But then someone who knew nothing about classical music would hardly be the best person to judge. The better experiment would be for someone who was musically astute to be presented with a mixture of obscure works from the past by male and female and to evaluate them with no prior knowledge of gender. I have no doubt that there are many fine works by some of those women in that list that deserve a great deal more recognition but I doubt if a Great C major symphony or a B minor Mass is waiting to be unearthed.

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The list of women composers in discussion includes names most classic fans (including myself) never even heard of, let alone heard a piece of.

It has to be recognised that there are also an awful lot of male composers whose names and works have sunk into oblivion but when they are dug up out of curiosity, generally we can see why.

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This domain has been occupied by men, and the people determining what to perform, what was worthy or not were/are also men.

Yes and no - what generally determined the success of a career from the 19th century on was the public reception which included men and women, though there are plenty of examples of the initial reactions turning out wrong, Beethoven's 'Leonora', Wagner's 'Tannhauser' in Paris and Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring' come to mind. Posterity did the rest - a committee of men didn't decide that Beethoven was a great composer or that the 9th is one of the greatest works in musical history.
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Our whole culture is biased that way. And you may name as many female writers or painters as you want, you'll always find more men, certainly if you go further back in history. This is changing, but very slowly.
Yes opportunities were denied women, but they were also denied men as well on the basis of class or other factors. Liszt was (fortunately as it turned out) denied the opportunity of studying at the Paris Conservatoire despite his outstanding abilitiies because he wasn't French.

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And yes, there are famous female artists, writers, etc.... I am not arguing that is not the case. But it was and still is an uphill struggle for women, as in so many other facets of (public) life. I just had a look at the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature... 112 were awarded. 14 of those went to women and if one looks at the distribution of those, since 1990, 8 were women. I doubt this is accidental.
Yes and let's hope that women aren't put off by that - the Nobel prize is tainted in many ways being politically motivated, a successful career is possible without it!
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Old 03-29-2016, 06:04 AM   #15
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the musical training open to men was not open to women- genius is not just inborn talent- it has to be nurtured, respected and encouraged! We know that this was denied to women.
When Cherubini was appointed director of the Paris Conservatoire in 1822, there were 41 women and 32 men enrolled in the piano department.
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Old 03-29-2016, 06:12 PM   #16
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When Cherubini was appointed director of the Paris Conservatoire in 1822, there were 41 women and 32 men enrolled in the piano department.

As pianists only, and they would never been "allowed"to play their own compositions in public. Even Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn were denied that.
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Old 03-29-2016, 06:45 PM   #17
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As pianists only, and they would never been "allowed"to play their own compositions in public. Even Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn were denied that.
Clara Schumann wrote her piano concerto when she was fourteen and performed it at age sixteen at the Leipzig Gewandhaus with Mendelssohn conducting.

It's true that women weren't admitted to composition classes in the conservatoire until I think the 1870s but then the conservatoires were a relatively recent introduction and if you think of it only Berlioz comes to mind as a great composer who ever came out of one in the first half of the 19th century - both Verdi and Liszt failed to get into one.

One of the most notable women symphonic composers of the 19th century was Louise Ferranc whose third symphony Op.36 was performed at the Société des concerts du Conservatoire in 1849. This work certainly deserves to be better known and there are recordings available as well as her Nonet Op.38. It was after the successful performance of this work with Joachim that she succeeded in putting right the injustice of her pay being below that of her male colleagues.
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Old 03-08-2017, 06:05 PM   #18
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Five forgotten female composers works to be recorded and broadcast by BBC radio 3
http://www.classical-music.com/artic...given-new-life

Also, a work by Fanny Mendelssohn once thought to be by her brother -
http://www.classical-music.com/news/...work-performed
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