Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Monday Link Round Up: July 16, 2018

by sarah - July 16th, 2018

News and music to start your week!

The 2018 BBC Proms are off and running (ICYMI here are the statistics of women’s representation we put together).  Anna Meredith had a piece presented at First Night at the Proms and spoke to Fiona Maddocks about her work.  Read more at The Guardian.

In response to the #MeToo movement, professional music organizations in the UK are working to create a code of conduct to eradicate sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination.  A joint initiative between the Musicians Union and Incorporated Society of Musicians, you can read more at The Stage.

NBC Nightly News took on the topic of diversity in American Orchestras.  How great to have national attention on this pervasive problem!  Check out the NBC website for the article, and video clip, including interviews with many musicians.

National Sawdust (the innovative music venue in Brooklyn) explores the ways in which Twitter emboldens all trolls – in particular in attacks against women composers, performers, and scholars. The catalyst for the article was a confrontation by Shelley Washington and Gemma Peacocke with a troll who disparaged the role of women composers. John Hong speaks with both Washington and Peacocke.

composer Missy Mazzoli

On July 2 we shared the exciting news that Missy Mazzoli was named Composer In Residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A few days later, Mazzoli spoke to WRTI about the importance of mentoring young women composers.  Read the conversation here.

The Dream Unfinished, the amazing activist orchestra, is building up to the finale of their SANCTUARY season.  The July 27 concert  features music by Tania Leon, George Walker, Vijay Iyer, Kareem Roustom and Huang Ruo. Speakers from NYC’s immigrant rights community will share their stories.

 

 

BBC Proms 2018: By the Numbers

by sarah - July 12th, 2018

The 2018 BBC Proms kicks off today, Friday, July 13 and continues with extensive programming through September. The annual event features what is considered the best of the best in contemporary classical music programming with ensembles, soloists, and conductors from around the world. The schedule of events is enormous, with paid and free concerts, lectures, workshops, radio broadcasts – not a dull moment until after Labor Day.

Others have already shared their thoughts on the choices in programming for this year’s Proms, but we felt it important to add our thoughts, and figures, to the conversation as the Proms officially get underway.

There are a lot of ways that we can account for how works by women are represented at the Proms – and we can start with clear figures.  For example:

  •  Of the 127 composers represented this year (in all of the programming, both numbered Proms and “Proms at…” concerts, symphonic and chamber music) only 22 are women. (17% representation) Of those 18 women, only four are historic (Lili Boulanger, Hildegard von Bingen, Morfydd Llwyn Owen, and Dame Ethel Smyth.)
  • Of the roughly 103 hours of music (that’s 4 ¼ days straight), women’s work only accounts for 4 hours. (4% of the overall time)
  • Of the 296 individual works being performed (again, at both symphonic and chamber music events), there were 28 individual works by women. Only two had more than one work being performed (Lili Boulanger, who has an impressive six pieces throughout the schedule, and Caroline Shaw who has two). (9% of the total works)

    This Proms 2018 graphic features men and women in equal proportion — unfortunately very misleading

All told, this is tremendous progress over the figures from last year! Which, sadly, only continues to highlight just how underrepresented women are in so much classical music programming.  But this year the BBC Proms proclaims they are championing women in their discussion of “What’s new and extraordinary”!

The Proms, and the UK music scene in general, has been making great effort in working towards more equality in the representation of women in classical music – and we can, I’m sure, look forward to more good things to come. There are notable celebratory moments throughout this season in the work towards inclusivity and representation. For example, works by women are featured in both the “First Night of the Proms” and the “Last Night of the Proms.” Many of the women composers who are having works heard were commissioned by the BBC, and we are always delighted in organizations making an effort to be inclusive in supporting new music. In fact, of the 24 works by women being heard, five are World Premieres of a BBC Commission. (There are also two world premieres and two UK premieres being heard as well.)

For such a British affair it’s remarkable how much Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday is being celebrated, with music being featured in a total of nine events, including a full performance of West Side Story.  Scottish composer Thea Musgrave, who marked her 90th birthday just a few months ago – and was honored by the Queen herself – is also included in this year’s events. But with just a single work being performed, (Phoenix Rising in Prom 33, paired with Brahms in a concert titled “Brahms’s A German Requiem”) it’s hardly a comparison. It can also be noted that zero works by Judith Weir, Master of the Queen’s Music, are on this year’s program.

Prom 8 is the only event to include works by multiple historic women composers. Titled Youthful Beginnings, the program includes two works by Boulanger, Felix Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto, Nocturne by Morfydd Llwyn Owen, and Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 4. An innovative program to be sure – but the interest of the event is lost in the description:

Mendelssohn’s precocious First Piano Concerto joins Schumann’s forward-looking Fourth Symphony and music by Lili Boulanger and Morfydd Owen – both of whom died tragically young – in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s first Prom of the season.

So Mendelssohn is precocious, Schumann is forward-looking, but Boulanger and Owen just died young?  Certainly their music has admirably qualities other than the early death of the composer?  Or would sharing that Lili Boulanger’s “Youthful Beginnings” include being the first woman to win a Prix de Rome in music, and that Morfydd Owen completed over 250 highly regarded compositions in just 10 years –is that too much to share?

Prom 13 highlights contemporary women, titled Pioneers of Sound, and works by five works by electronic composers.  Certainly an innovative programming choice for Royal Albert Hall!  In addition to historic composers, the performance will also include a newly revised work by Daphne Oram (1925-2003) who was on the forefront of electronic composition.  For all of the losses in this year’s programming, there are also wins.

All of which is to say, it’s frustrating, but not surprising. Disappointing, but still better than what has happened in the years before. (See our look at the 2016 Proms, 2015 Proms, and 2014 Proms reports.) Progress is painfully slow, but it is happening. And, it can be noted, all of these figures far exceed the representation that women receive in any top American orchestra season (although the number of Proms concerts exceeds that of orchestras and features a wide range of ensembles, large and small, and also soloists).

Have a listen to some of the compositions and composers being heard this year:

Monday Link Round Up: August 28, 2017

by sarah - August 28th, 2017

News to start your week!

WQXR had a blog post this week highlighting historical figures who also wrote music.  Included in their list is Catherine the Great – though she was a librettist, not a composer.  What a shame to not include at least a few other female historical figures who composed, like: Anne Boleyn; Princess Amalie of Saxony; Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia; Duchess Maria Antonia, Princess of Bavaria; and Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

 

Fiona Maddocks of The Guardian interviewed Hannah Kendall before the world premiere of her composition, Spark Catchers, at the BBC Proms on August 30.  Kendall, a British composer, is already making a name for herself in the UK and beyond.  Learn more about her music, background, and the continued challenges women and people of color face in classical music here.

 

Wired profiles the work of electronic composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.  Learn more, and listen in to her work, here.

 

What did we miss?  What are you reading?  Let us know!

Proms 2017 – By the Numbers

by sarah - June 7th, 2017

It’s once again Proms Season!  And that means it’s time once again to look at representation.  There have already been conversations about certain lacking aspects – not only the lack of women composers, but the overall lack of representation of people (including conductors) of color.  (See more at On an Overgrown Path: http://www.overgrownpath.com/2017/05/is-one-of-these-next-mirga-grazinyte.html) But here is our look and break down of who is, and isn’t, being heard.  

 

There are 75 Proms, as well as several extra concerts, lectures, films, poetry readings, and other events.  We took a look at all of the music being performed as part of the numbered Proms (where the information was most readily available for composers, works being performed, and timings), as well as the un-numbered events (where information was available) and did some analysis of the works that will be heard this year.  Unfortunately,  not all of the concerts listed specific information – though, largely, the omitted performances are of what is largely considered popular music, not Western Art Music.  For an example, Prom 27 features the work of Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie, but no specific works are listed.

According to our counts, there are 243 individual works being performed in the 2017 season (some of which will be performed multiple times, but we didn’t include repeat performances in our counts), and the work of 118 different composers being performed – a total of 104 hours of music.

Of those 243 works, 11 works by women composers.

 

Of the 118 composers having works heard, 10 are women.

Of the 104 hours of music that will be heard this season, women’s music only accounts for a total of 2 hours.  In comparison, there are 4.5 hours of Mozart’s music being heard, and over 6 hours of works by Beethoven.  

Though the vast majority of composers being heard are of the typical Western Art Music variety (meaning: dead, white men), all of the women having works heard are contemporary.  Moreover, apart from some important names (like Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir and Pulitzer Prize winner Julia Wolfe) there are several up and coming composers included.  What a wonderful opportunity to introduce audiences to new names, and music, especially when finding a place in the performing world can be so difficult.  Most of the works are also receiving some kind of premiere – and several works were commissioned by, or in conjunction with, the BBC.

ComposerWorkPerformanceNotes
Julia WolfeBig Beautiful Dark and ScaryProm 44 - August 17London Premiere
Lotta WennakoskiFlounceProm 75 - September 9BBC Commission: World Premiere
Missy MazzoliSinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres)Prom 70 - September 5European Premiere of Orchestral Version
Grace WilliamsSea Sketches
High Wind
Calm Sea in Summer
Proms at [email protected] Dock - July 22
Cheryl Frances-HoadChorale Prelude 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott'Prom 47 - August 20BBC Commission: World Premiere
Kate WhitleyI am I sayProms at ... Bold Tendencies Multi-Storey Car Park, Peckham - August 26
Andrea TarrodiLiguriaProm 61 - August 30UK Premiere
Judith WeirIn the Land of UzProms at Southwark Cathedral - August 12BBC Commission: World Premiere
Rebecca SaundersMolly's Song 3Proms at Wilton's Music Hall - September 2
Hannah KendallThe Spark CatchersProm 62 - August 30BBC Commission: World Premiere

That said, the total lack of historic women composers is (as always) disappointing.  This is especially true when there are so many fantastic works published and available, in particular of British composers.  Though there are certainly efforts being made, as evident in featuring Chineke! in Prom 62, there it still feels as the smallest effort, especially after so many continued conversations about the importance of representation on concert stages and in concert programs.  

For now, have a listen below to the work of the women composers who will be heard this year at the BBC Proms:

 

Monday Link Round Up: September 5, 2016

by sarah - September 5th, 2016

Happy Labor Day!  Here is some news to enjoy over the holiday, and to start your week!

I just found out about the Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award.  The prize awards a grant of $10,000 and a year of professional mentorship to an emerging female composer or composer/lyricist.  The 2016 application deadline has just been extended until September 9 – so help spread the word!  More information here.

An editorial in The Guardian highlights the lack of women conductors leading ensembles at the BBC Proms – but this piece isn’t without criticism.

Bob Shingleton, at On An Overgrown Path, responds with a reminder as to the importance not only of including more women conductors, but also more conductors of color.  Read his thoughts here  – with a followup on some conductors to include here.

And Sarah Tenant-Flowers responded with a reminder that the lack of women conductors is a problem not only in the orchestral world, but in the choral world as well.

The role of women as conductors is a hot topic at the moment – with another article about women “Cracking a Glass Ceiling With the Maestro’s Baton” by Michael Cooper in The New York Times.  

As always – let us know what we missed!  What are you reading?  Leave a link in a comment below.