As I alluded to on Friday, there has been a lot of conversation as of late about the role of women in music – and the value of their work. After Jessy McCabe successfully instigated change to her school music curriculum to include women composers there were mixed responses from the wider classical music community. Though there were plenty of us celebrating the achievement, British newspaper The Spectator ran a ridiculous article asserting that there simply were no great women composers. The flurry of activity that has since resulted has ran the full spectrum of support to dissent, which is clearly demonstrated in the comment section. (Though I would never recommend reading comments.) However, little of the resulting effect of the article has been truly constructive. Until now.
NewMusicBox featured an article by Emily Hogstad (author of Song of the Lark) in which she further examines why the topic of female composers is so popular at the moment, and why it creates such an impassioned, and divided, response. Hogstad makes important points and connections – because, after all, it’s not just about acknowledging women’s work in music. It’s acknowledging all women’s work. Moreover, that there has been such a heightened interest over the first inflammatory article and the subsequent responses means the potential for very good things in future programming. As Hogstad puts it,
Attention, performers, ensembles, writers, administrators, artistic directors: there is intense interest here. Classical music especially loves to panic over its imminent irrelevancy and demise. So I would think that everyone who loves it would be racing to embrace new angles that people show interest in. This may mean deliberately spotlighting the contributions of any number of fabulously accomplished women from throughout music history.
These are meaningful questions, and meaningful change – and more exciting, innovative, and representative programs – can only happen if we all join in and make our voices heard. Encourage your favorite ensembles to include works by women in their upcoming concert season, and let them know that Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy would be happy to help make it happen through a Performance Grant! We are accepting applications through October 15.
And tune into WQXR’s Q2 tomorrow for their 24 on the 24th series featuring the works of women composers from the 20th and 21st centuries. The entire program will also be rebroadcast on Saturday (the 26th).