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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Recently on a thread about the best living composers I commented that we should value that composers like Gubaidulina, Saariaho and Chin are constantly mentioned as the best composers alive. I pointed out that if you ask who were the best composers for any other time period you wouldn't get any female composers (I'm aware that Hildegard von Bingen is an exception to this rule, though I didn't mention it in my OP). A debate ensued: who's at fault? Are we at fault for not reviving female composers of the past? Or are our ancestors at fault for opressing them, for not giving them the same opportunities and attention? We still live in a sexist society so it's a bit of both, but more of the latter than the former, since it is indeed a well known fact that women didn't get the same encouragement, weren't offered the same chances and opportunities, were considered of lesser importance, plenty of evidence in that regard. Sure, there are exceptions, there always are, but they are just that, exceptions, they do not disprove sexism. But that's me. What do you think?
 

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In the 19th century, attention generally focuses on Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn (Hensel), but I think the highest level was reached by Louise Farrenc (1804-1875). Wikipedia lists this interesting comment:

François-Joseph Fétis, a leading Francophone 19th-century music biographer and critic, wrote in the 2nd edition of his Biographie universelle des musiciens (1862) of Louise Farrenc as follows:

Unfortunately, the genre of large scale instrumental music to which Madame Farrenc, by nature and formation, felt herself called involves performance resources which a composer can acquire for herself or himself only with enormous effort. Another factor here is the public, as a rule not a very knowledgeable one, whose only standard for measuring the quality of a work is the name of its author. If the composer is unknown, the audience remains unreceptive, and the publishers, especially in France, close their ears anyway when someone offers them a halfway decent work; they believe in success only for trinkets. Such were the obstacles that Madame Farrenc met along the way and which caused her to despair.[10]

Her work was recognised by many savants and connoisseurs of the time as first rate, but subsequently fell into neglect.[11] A revival of interest commenced in the late 20th century.
 

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These days there are so many female composers it is hard to keep up (there may even be more women than men).

I would appear that women no longer have any societal, institutional, or other obstacles that may have previously kept from having careers as composers or conductors.
Or a lot less, anyway. I think there is still some resistance to female conductors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I would appear that women no longer have any societal, institutional, or other obstacles that may have previously kept from having careers as composers or conductors.
I don't agree with this. There are fewer obstacles, but they've been not completely removed, and there's still a long way to go.
 

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I was supposed to perform a concert of female composers in Summer 2020, but COVID squashed all gigs, and the gig is now all but forgotten.

We hadn't even finalized the pieces, but, of course, we were going to be choosing from Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Farrenc.

It was planned as a being sonatas or concertos.

Piano sonata
Sonata for violin
Sonata for cello
Piano trio

For awhile I kept working on some pieces, but the pandemic just sort of robbed me of my motivation.
 

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As it's been said earlier, you are wrong about the number of female composers being high in relation to the number of men in previous centuries. Rather, they were exceptions, or seen as engaged in modest pastime activities. And it's rare, that they were taken seriously and equal to men as composers.

It applies to the other arts as well, including painting and literature. The canon of the arts would also focus on men.

This is very basic knowledge.
 

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These days there are so many female composers it is hard to keep up (there may even be more women than men).

I would appear that women no longer have any societal, institutional, or other obstacles that may have previously kept from having careers as composers or conductors.
Yes, contemporary female composers are equally irrelevant to audiences ;)
 

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Composing is not a handicraft that can be done in isolation, it requires interaction with performers and audiences. Women were denied those opportunities. We can also talk about class issues - where are all the composers in the canon who came from peasant backgrounds? Before the 19th century, music was a family profession with opportunities for a career in composition only available to males. You saw some composers from bourgeois, non-musician backgrounds in the 19th century, but still no avenues for women. What would Beethoven’s output have looked like had he received no commissions or performances and just wrote for himself and perhaps posterity?
 

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I don't agree with this. There are fewer obstacles, but they've been not completely removed, and there's still a long way to go.
Yes, contemporary female composers are equally irrelevant to audiences ;)
You may disagree and wish to maintain that there are institutional obstacles to female composers, but I have seen so many female composers and examples of their music all over the Internet (YouTube, websites, social media), receiving commissions, having teaching positions at prominent universities, forming their own ensembles and concertizing, that I no longer see any under-representation.

If anything, among the under 40 generation I am seeing more female composers than men.
 

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My daughter knew many women composition students when she was in grad school. She said every woman student was keenly aware of the negative sexist attitudes of the faculty.
I don't know where or when your daughter was in school, I am only offering my experience based on my first hand interactions with composers since 2014. I have a blog with dozens of composer interviews. I haven't counted but they are at least 50:50, but I would not be surprised if there were more women than men.

I also prefer to acknowledge progress when there has been some as opposed to continuing to focus on past transgressions.
 

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As it's been said earlier, you are wrong about the number of female composers being high in relation to the number of men in previous centuries.
I didn't say "high in relation to the number of men". There were more male composers, but the difference is not as big as one would expect. The number of female composers was high compared to today's expectations and higher than in other areas at the time like politics.

joen_cph said:
Rather, they were exceptions, or seen as engaged in modest pastime activities. And it's rare, that they were taken seriously and equal to men as composers.
I don't know female compositions well enough to judge if they are overall different or weaker than male compositions. Maybe it is like in chess where the best female players have around 200 Elo less than the best male players. Maybe it is not like this.

I would expect that male compositions are more extravagant than female compositions. For me this would be an advantage for male compositions before the modern period. (Seems kinda unlikely to me that a woman would come up with symphonies like Bruckner) Since then it would be an advantage for female compositions. It is maybe not a happenstance that Alma Deutscher is female and writes beautiful music. I guess for a boy it would be more likely to come up with something atonal these days. The beauty of traditional classical music is maybe overall more attractive for girls, while boys rather want to be "cool" with some gangster rap. When I was a 14 year old boy I didn't told everyone that I like classical music.

But I don't really know contemporary composers well enough yet.

Most folks on the forum have nothing to say about where they live - maybe it's paranoia. Where do you come from?
I am from Germany.
 

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Imagine how many brilliant female composers there could've been, had they not been silenced by societal norms. Fanny Mendelssohn published only over the strong objections of brother Felix. Mahler famously laid down the law with wife Alma, saying there was only going to be one composer in the family.
 

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,,........
I would expect that male compositions are more extravagant than female compositions. For me this would be an advantage for male compositions before the modern period. (Seems kinda unlikely to me that a woman would come up with symphonies like Bruckner) Since then it would be an advantage for female compositions. It is maybe not a happenstance that Alma Deutscher is female and writes beautiful music. I guess for a boy it would be more likely to come up with something atonal these days. The beauty of traditional classical music is maybe overall more attractive for girls, while boys rather want to be "cool" with some gangster rap. When I was a 14 year old boy I didn't told everyone that I like classical music.

But I don't really know contemporary composers well enough yet.
This is way off base Aries. I reccommend you listen to the likes of Helen Grime, Unsuk Chin, Gubaidulina and Saariaho.
 

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Bacewicz
Thea Musgrave
Adriana Holszky
Joan Tower
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I didn't say "high in relation to the number of men". There were more male composers, but the difference is not as big as one would expect. The number of female composers was high compared to today's expectations and higher than in other areas at the time like politics.

I don't know female compositions well enough to judge if they are overall different or weaker than male compositions. Maybe it is like in chess where the best female players have around 200 Elo less than the best male players. Maybe it is not like this.

I would expect that male compositions are more extravagant than female compositions. For me this would be an advantage for male compositions before the modern period. (Seems kinda unlikely to me that a woman would come up with symphonies like Bruckner) Since then it would be an advantage for female compositions. It is maybe not a happenstance that Alma Deutscher is female and writes beautiful music. I guess for a boy it would be more likely to come up with something atonal these days. The beauty of traditional classical music is maybe overall more attractive for girls, while boys rather want to be "cool" with some gangster rap. When I was a 14 year old boy I didn't told everyone that I like classical music.

But I don't really know contemporary composers well enough yet.

I am from Germany.
I'm guessing you're a man, speaking to other mostly men I presume, denying that sexism exists. I'm a man too, and yes, I'm from Argentina. By mentioning where I'm from I guess you think: "ach so, dieser Typ lebt in Lateinamerika, natürlich ist da Alles schlecht, und die Männer behandeln die Frauen wirklich schlecht." Oder? :lol:

You know you're reproducing sexist attitudes and thinking with your posts. Females write "beautiful music", females can't come up with "Bruckner like symphonies" and so on and so on
 
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