Gash Collective

Niall Byrne, in the Irish Times:

“People think that women don’t want or have no interest in music technology, even in terms of sound engineering, production or setting up their decks,” says Cork woman Ellen King.

King started Gash with some female friends (and makes music under the name ELLLL) and was inspired by similar collectives around the world, such as SIREN in London, Discwoman in New York and Apeiron Crew in Copenhagen, along with Female:Pressure, an international resource of talent and mailing list for multi-disciplinary women who share knowledge and advice.

Electronic music is a field that was largely pioneered by women, so it’s sad that something like this has to exist, but at least groups like Gash Collective are doing something to redress the issue.

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Candy Floss and Merry-Go-Rounds: Female Composers, Gendered Language, and Emotion

And speaking of the problems of composing while female, just about everyone is linking to this piece by Sarah Kirkland Snider on NewMusicBox, so I will too:

I receive a discouraging number of emails from young female composers thanking me for my “courage” and “bravery” in writing music that is emotionally direct. Courage! Bravery! They use these words because the implicit mistrust of emotion and affect in art is the aesthetic world we continue to live in, well beyond the turn of the 21st century. In a career where the deck is stacked against them before they write a single note, young female composers are eager to prove that they are every bit as serious and capable as men. Some feel pressure to compromise their natural artistic instincts to fit within a paradigm that can seem intractable and inhospitable. I know where these women are coming from.

I remember being in college (maybe earlier), learning about the history of sonata form, and being told about the two main themes: one “masculine”, one “feminine”. I always found it a strange, old-fashioned way of talking about music. And yet somehow it’s only in retrospect that I ever realised we barely spoke about female composers.

Kirkland Snider has a lot to say in this piece. Some things, like taking care when gendered language in talking about music, seem attainable today. But she’s frank about the fact that others pose more complex problems.

“Why Are Pioneering Female Composers so Neglected?”

Terrific post from a few weeks back by Emily Hogstad on her Song of the Lark blog. She runs down a number of (more) prominent historical female composers, and the unfortunate fates that prevented them from pursuing composition as a career. There’s something heartbreaking in this line:

It seems strange to me that so many of the best-known female composers ran into these cruel twists of fate that prohibited them from fulfilling their true potential, while so many of their sisters who went into performing didn’t.

Anne Beer on Fanny Hensel and Harmful Language

Anne Beer, writing about Fanny Hensel on Shadow of the Courtesan:

And so began a miserable encounter with the language we continue to use when talking about female composers, language that patronises, dismisses, misrepresents, ignores, and always and ever ends up comparing a composer to her male counterparts. The composer becomes, implicitly, a (failed) contestant in a race that they were never invited to join in the first place.

Female composers have had incredibly short shrift through the centuries—at worst during times when young women were encouraged to be musical but not to pursue careers as composers. Beer is doing great work to highlight them.

Things are better now, but not better enough.

“Unmistakeable baby bump”

Another day, another story of a female classical musician treated by a critic to bizarre sexist comments.

Lara St. John, on her blog:

In the second paragraph, however, the final sentence says that I entered the stage “…mit unverkennbarem Babybauch.” (“…with an unmistakable baby bump.”)

After reverse-snorting some coffee, I read it again. It was insinuated in the article that “to date” I was some sort of Lolita-Hexen-Geigerin (‘Lolita-Witch-Female-Violinist’), but now in my forties and pregnant, I would likely calm down some.

She’s not pregnant.

Barbara Hannigan: No Jacket Required

Barbara Hannigan, writing in the Guardian:

For Façade, I wore something appropriate to the theatricality of the piece – a strapless evening gown. A friend commented on the expressivity of my arms, and it struck me that this was part of my strength as a conductor. When I’d made my debut at the Châtelet, I’d worn a suit: many women conductors wear either gender-neutral outfits or something resembling a man’s suit. I thought trousers and jacket were the “costume” I had to put on. However, to cover my arms in a jacket might serve convention, but not the music – and I never wear suits in real life! Ever since, I’ve worn a sleeveless dress to conduct. It’s something I can move in that doesn’t distract me or the orchestra – and it fits the music on the programme. I don’t tie my hair back, either, because I never do unless I’m having a bad hair day. I’ve had nothing but positive feedback about this from orchestras and audiences. None find it a problem that I’m not soberly clad in a dark suit. Critics do invariably always remark on my attire, though, which isn’t something they regularly do with male conductors.

It’s insane that this kind of attitude is still the norm in the classical music world.

About twelve years ago, I saw a concert performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle by the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. For those concerts, the orchestra were allowed wear their own clothes. After the second or third opera, one critic mentioned in a throwaway comment that one of the percussionists “inadvisedly” was wearing a sleeveless top. The next night, she was wearing a sweater (not comfortable for a percussionist under stage lights, I’m sure), but four or five of the other girls in the orchestra were wearing sleeveless tops; both a sign of silent solidarity and a wonderful “fuck you” to the critic.