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  Women composers  red5 at 13:54 on 17 July 2006

I just read an interesting article on the internet regarding the UK's BBC Prom's Season. Despite a number of commisions and performances of living composers not one of them is female! Further, even amongst deceased composers and the visiting conductors no women are featured. It seems to have started a big debate in the UK regarding positive discrimination. I think it's pretty poor that no women have been represented by such a well known, supposedly responsible, organisation as the BBC but I'm equally unconvinced by the merits of positive discrimination.

I'd like to think that the music industry is free of sexual discrimination but it's worrying when gaffes like this happen. What do other people think? Has anyone ever encountered discrimination?

  Re: Women composers  piargno at 13:04 on 19 July 2006

Do any of these names ring a bell -

Leo Edwards
Robert Nathanael Dett
Ed Bland
Chevalier de Saint George
Blind Tom
Margaret Bonds

Yep. There you go.

Sometimes I'd like to think that sexual discrimination is only a result of the surplus of men composers. But today, it is known that there are hundreds of great woment composers from Beach to Zwillich and everyone in between. But then again, not everyone can be played... unfortunately... Personaly, I would love to hear more serious Kuhlau and Clementi as well as more women. I'm in love with Ruth Crawford-Seeger too.

  Re: Women composers  red5 at 13:29 on 19 July 2006

Sorry, excuse my ignorance but I don't quite understand? I haven't heard of any of these people (perhaps that's the point), are you implying they were positivily discriminated against? If so how?

  Re: Women composers  piargno at 15:54 on 19 July 2006

They're black composers. And Margaret Bonds has it even worse as a black woman composer. Double wammy!

And perhaps they all weren't necessarily discriminated against, but it is rare to see a black composer programmed. Even Grant Still, who was wildly popular. And no one ever plays any of the classical compositions of Duke Ellington. Many don't even know that he has a symphony!

And Blind Tom was more of a performer than a composer. While he did compose some difficult piano pieces, he was blind, had no formal lessons, and performed Chopin, Liszt, and others. He was an exploited slave.

  Re: Women composers  red5 at 16:15 on 19 July 2006

But is the issue of race not tied in with the pre-dominance of white composers in 'Western' music just like you mentioned the surplus of male composers? In the UK (where I am based) there is great interest in composers like Erollyn Wallen, Nitan Sawhney (sp) etc. and the idea of multiculturalism has never been more prevelant both culturally and politically.

  Re: Women composers  piargno at 16:59 on 19 July 2006

Yes! You are definitely right! But at the same time, while black composers and women composers are rarely played, people are more likely to know women composers over black composers. It's not even a discrimination thing. It's just the way it all happened, unfortunately.

It's great to hear about the UK being more open to multiculturalism. I have yet to see that here in the states where I am. There are so many great composers, and yet orchestras still play the overplayed and audiences still want to hear the overplayed. Things will change, though.

Curious - what did the article say that the "merits of positivie discrimination" are? This bothers me a bit...

  Re: Women composers  red5 at 17:58 on 19 July 2006

Well, the basic points were that through positive discrimination we are more likely to be exposed to women composers - for example a 50/50 split of chosen pieces for political correctness sake rather than artistic worth. This concerns me too!

  Re: Women composers  piargno at 19:31 on 19 July 2006

Wow! That's weird they would call that "positive discrimination." It's such a non-PC term. The sad thing is that many people support this type of thinking: exploitation of a discriminated group for purposes other than, to use your great term, artistic worth. I hate "all female composer" concerts that are advertised as such. What's the point? Can't one just say, come to my concert?!? I'm playing good pieces?? Otherwise, you know certain people are there because it's all women, or some people will be guilted into going there by others who will say, "Don't you support female composers?" Granted, having an audience is great, but having an audience full of people who actually want to be there for the right reasons is so much better.

But I must admit, for some reason I don't have a problem with a concert of music from one specific area, like "Hungarian Music" or "Music from Rhode Island Composers." How about you? I think I can explain why, but will need more time before I articulate it here on the board.

  Re: Women composers  red5 at 20:16 on 20 July 2006

I'm not so keen on centralised concerts either really. I like the idea of a concert focusing on a group of composers who, say, all studied at the same institution or grew up in the same area before moving further afield. I know that's a bit vague but I think if you say just Japanese composers, just women, just British, just Christian, then it defeats the universal nature of musical language.

Incidently, in the UK there was a women's only art competition set up not long ago that caused more controversy than the Turner Prize does. The press latched on to it and highlighted that if women really are equal why do they need a competition just for them, it was deemed patronising. This is surely the point where a feminist jumps in to the debate...(!)

  Re: Women composers  piargno at 12:37 on 21 July 2006

I can explain myself now: I like concerts promoting music of a certain country because, for the most part, the performers also come from the same country, and it's a real demonstration of pride and nationalism through music. I like that. I also enjoy, as you said, concerts of a group of composers who share something in common (local composers, college/university/conservatory-specific composers, composers, etc...). But there is a thin line between composers who share something and haven't been marginalized or discriminated against, and those who have (for example, blind composers, deaf composers, Jewish composers [not necessarily Haulocaust composers because they are not all Jewish], etc...).

I'm lazy and don't feel like researching - what's the Turner Prize?

  Re: Women composers  red5 at 19:57 on 23 July 2006

Sorry, forgot your not based in the UK! The Turner prize is an annual contemporary art competition in this country that, without fail, gets 'is this really art' reviews in the press. It's put on didplay for about 3 months at Tate Britain in London before a panel of critics select the winner who wins the tidy sum of 25,000. Despite its notoriety its very prestigious!