— but where were the women composers?
August 8, 2017 7:37 AM   Subscribe

The top 35 female composers in classical music The Washington Post's Classical Music Critic writes: NPR’s recent list of the 150 greatest albums by women was inspiring — but where were the composers? In the wake of much discussion about the chronic underrepresentation of female composers on American concert programs, I came up with my own best-of list.

You may be surprised to know that there were numerous affluent and well-traveled Black female composers in the United States as far back as the 1920s.
10 Black Women Composers to Discover by Jordannah Elizabeth

Susanna Eastburn writing for The Guardian:
We need more women composers – and it's not about tokenism, it's about talent

An appalling recent statistic: only 1.8 percent of music programmed by major U.S. orchestras was written by women.
Don't Hire Me. Hire A Female Composer Instead says Mohammed Fairouz on NPR

PREVIOUSLY: The Metafilter Thread on NPR story

NPR: The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women
posted by pjsky (13 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
I almost posted this! It's an awesome list. For years I've been saying that no composer has had as much an influence on my own taste and use of harmony as the incredible Jennifer Higdon. She is probably my favorite living composer of big orchestral works.

And man, I return to Caroline Shaw and Roomful of Teeth pretty often. Just some of the most frisson inducing music of all time. Absolutely creative and beautiful and such an utterly unique voice. If you aren't listening to Roomful of Teeth, do yourself a favor and put it on!

And of course Julia Wolfe is a national treasure, but I am just a sucker for the punk rock approach to classical music.

Some big omissions (why no Annie Gosfield?), but overall a great list. Thanks for posting!
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:52 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Hurrah, Amy Beach is on the list! I just saw her only opera, Cabildo, last week. (Pictures here.) Apparently it was never performed in her lifetime, which is a real shame. I hope she'd have liked this production. I know I did. Sweet and funny, with clever staging and engaging performances by singers who looked like they were having a great time.

I'll try to track down videos for the other operas mentioned in this piece. I'm a sucker for opera as of two years ago, but haven't seen very many yet. (Ten, with two by women. Probably an unusually high percentage, sadly.)
posted by asperity at 8:13 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Geat list. I'd add Chaya Czernowin. The Quiet is amazing.
posted by Omon Ra at 8:23 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]




Amy Beach wrote a lot of nice (and fun to play) piano music, some of which is within my reach and some of which isn't.
posted by lagomorphius at 8:37 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


This list is very American-centric and populist leaning, and definitely should not have left off Tania Leon and Chaya Czernowin. That said, I appreciate that this list exists, and I agree with many of the choices on it.

(But placing Jennifer Higdon so high, and forgetting Tansy Davies, is some bullshit.)
posted by daisystomper at 8:44 AM on August 8


Also, as a female composer, I'm a little bemused by the sudden media enthusiasm for female composers and musicians, following Du Yun's Pulitzer prize win largely. It feels...suspiciously trendy? But also exciting to see some publicity for new music in general, and female composers in particular.
posted by daisystomper at 8:51 AM on August 8


My taste tends more to the Anna Maria Avram (RIP) side of things, but it is good to see this issue getting attention.
posted by idiopath at 10:55 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


You may not be able to access all of this outside the UK but BBC Radio 3 has been doing a good job of spreading the word on women composers lately
here
posted by melisande at 12:47 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of names on the list I've not heard of until now & will be interested to check out: many thanks, pjsky, for the post. Dora Pejačević, Rebecca Clarke, Vítězslava Kaprálová and Anna Meredith are some other names that could have been on there.
posted by misteraitch at 1:38 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


only 1.8 percent of music programmed by major U.S. orchestras was written by women.

That may actually represent the percentage of works that made it into The Repertoire by virtue.

I'd also be surprised if more the 1.8 percent was written by Bedřich Smetana. Cuts both ways.

OTOH, what percentage includes *singing parts*. Ah!
No mezzo-soprano, no Carmen. No Carmen? ... pretty much no Bizet.
posted by Twang at 6:25 PM on August 8


Motherfuckin Cat Lamb, yo.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:03 PM on August 8


I'd also be surprised if more the 1.8 percent was written by Bedřich Smetana. Cuts both ways.

That would be meaningful if there were only as many women composers as there are Bedřich Smetanas.

Or to put it another way: all the orchestral works by women composers, in all eras, regularly programmed by major symphonies = about the amount of programming of one slightly obscure male Czech composer of the late Romantic period.
posted by daisystomper at 5:26 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


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