Candy floss and merry-go-rounds
May 17, 2017 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes on the sexism she's experienced as a woman composer in the classical music world. The article began as a response to an NYT review of a piece of hers; it expands into observations on the way her music has been received generally, both as the product of a female composer and as possessing overt and unapologetic emotion.

An excerpt from the piece in question.
Excerpts from one of Snider's best-known works, Penelope.

(In happy and unusual contrast, the 2017 Pulitzer Prize winning piece was composed by a woman, Du Yun. In fact, all three 2017 finalists were women. This is atypical.)
posted by fast ein Maedchen (5 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, fuck the patriarchy. Just BURN IT DOWN
posted by yueliang at 1:20 PM on May 17, 2017

Anyways, this is really startling for me to read, because I love listening to classical music but have always wondered about just how deeply male-heavy it is. These narratives are so, so important to highlight how discrimination suppresses really important art that needs to be heard.
posted by yueliang at 1:21 PM on May 17, 2017

Thanks for posting this. I'm sad about the music that never gets made because composers drop out of the field.
posted by brainwane at 1:32 PM on May 17, 2017

right-fucking-on. i read the review first and thought it was awfully light on details, and then I read Snider's response and damn if she didn't nail it. well said. and plus, that excerpt from Unremembered is fantastic.
posted by gorbichov at 6:44 PM on May 17, 2017

I am a woman composer. I have been trying to think of what to write about this most of the afternoon.

1. Composition of "serious" new music these days is a tough business. Very few people outside the field really know or care much about what's being done. It tends to make everyone extremely defensive of their work and their aesthetic choices. Academic music has broadened quite a bit, but the gatekeepers in many places remain older men who still aren't quite reconciled to women as colleagues.

2. I do not especially like SKS's music. I think it's kind of boring. I think some of the qualities she calls "emotional directness" are just kind of cliche. But I absolutely understand how those qualities to her music were doubled down upon by critics as a feminine failing. When I stop to think about it, most of the significant women composers I know write music that's quite a bit crunchier and noisier and modernist than Snider's. Calling that style "masculine," as SKS's teachers did, implies a long-held belief that women who do succeed as composers are freaks inserting themselves into a man's space, and that their music is derivative of male composers. On either stylistic side, women can't win.

3. I've experienced some of the overt sexism myself, but less than other women have. I have been misgendered on paper, described as "unambitious" for being married and possibly wanting a family, talked over in a million discussion settings, and chided for being insufficiently respectful to older male teachers. I have, on the whole, had it easy. Other female composers I know have not.

4. Du Yun is a badass and everyone should check out her stuff.
posted by daisystomper at 10:29 PM on May 17, 2017 [6 favorites]

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