Championing the Work of Women Composers

Kerry Andrew’s piece in The Guardian continues to attract blogosphere responses. Jenny Clarke’s post, The Stats on Women Composers, gives a brief account of two contemporary music concerts she recently attended in New York: one fifth of the composers represented in the Music of Now Marathon‘s program were women; in the second concert she mentions, only one out of the thirteen pieces was composed by a woman.

I have only been to two concerts of contemporary art music since I arrived in New York. The first was a free concert showcasing recent commissions by Chamber Music America with pieces by four men composers: Anthony Plog, Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, John Zorn, and Rudresh Mahanthappa. The event was part of Chamber Music America’s 2012 National Conference. I encourage you to follow the conference link and view the photos selected to represent the conference. CMA has chosen for its public image photos that show women as audience members, diners, and sometimes performers, but never as speakers addressing the conference. Granted, performers have agency, but to be honest the predominant view in the classical world is still that performers are channels for the composer’s music. So, in short, the picture of the conference that I’ve been able to put together is that that women were absent from CMA 2012 as authorial voices. This is surely not the complete picture: I only attended one concert, and I couldn’t find the conference program, but this is what I have been able to find out from my own experience and from the CMA website. I don’t for a moment believe that no women gave conference papers, so the questions are: were they not photographed? Or were the photos not selected for inclusion in the website? If not, why not? And were there any compositions by women in any of the conference concert programs? If not, why not?

The second concert was given by Thomas Buckner as part of his ‘Interpretations’ series at the Roulette. In this concert one third of the pieces (two out of six) were by women composers—Anne Guthrie and Annea Lockwood. The next concert in the series, on March 8, International Women’s Day, is 100% women composers, with pieces by Bun-Ching Lam, Monique Buzzarté, Frances White, Pauline Oliveros, Alice Shields and Sorrel Hays.

One other upcoming series I’d like to draw attention to is Women’s Work 2012, which will present three concerts of music composed by women—twenty-four composers in all. The link is to their Facebook page which includes clips of music by some of the featured composers. It appears the series is seeking sponsorship. The composers are:

  • Elizabeth Raum
  • Melinda Wagner
  • Gwyneth Walker
  • Amanda Harberg
  • Nancy Bloomer Deussen
  • Margarita Zelenaia
  • Judith Shatin
  • Luo Jing Jing
  • Katherine Hoover
  • Stefania de Kenessey
  • Jennifer Higdon
  • Vivian Fung
  • Mary Lynn Place Badarak
  • Mary M. Boyle
  • Adrienne Albert
  • Lydia Busler-Blais
  • Sharon Farber
  • Lera Auerbach
  • Rebecca Oswald
  • Winifred Hyson
  • Deon Nielsen Price
  • Chen Yi
  • Sharon J. Willis
  • Carol Worthey

There is plenty more music out there. Get programming!