Composers Forum is a daily web log that allows invited contemporary composers to share their thoughts and ideas on any topic that interests them--from the ethereal, like how new music gets created, music history, theory, performance, other composers, alive or dead, to the mundane, like getting works played and recorded and the joys of teaching. If you're a professional composer and would like to participate, send us an e-mail.
The comments under the announcement of David Diamond's death on the front page raise a question that has always intrigued me as a civilian in the world of the arts and that is: to what extent, if at all, does the character of the creator matter in the evaluation of his or her body of artistic work. Should it matter to listeners whether Diamond was a nice man or not or whether Wagner was an anti-semite? My personal view is that art doesn't know who made it and that politics or personality should not be a factor. On the whole, though, I prefer nice people.
posted by Jerry Bowles
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
As a first-time, virgin-newbie poster to this blog, I offer greetings to all. The following was written in response to the many good posts residing under the "Guy Talk" topic heading.
Jerry Bowles, David Toub and others wonder why there aren't more women composers. I echo Beth Anderson and reply that there are tons of us out there; from my vantage point it seems that nearly half the living composers who come to mind daily are women: Tower, Chen Yi, Thomas, Oliveros, Higdon, Zaimont, Zwilich, Leon... they and many others are far more prominent than the majority of living male composers.
My observation has been that fewer women choose to pursue professional composing careers as do men. Now, you can argue that this is because the field is inhospitable toward women, but that's too simple and increasingly incorrect. I see other reasons–some biological–at play here. I can tell you firsthand that in the commercial music world, the deadlines are so stressful that a number of women choose their families over pursuing a crazed profession; I know plenty of women who set aside their composing careers after they had a child. And a great many of the successful male composers I know who have kids also have a wife who runs the household so that they can work the insane hours necessary.
Aha! That's it! I need a wife!
In the interest of clarity, my next comment refers mainly to white, middle class American females with a modicum of education: reality is what we women visualize for ourselves. If we can blithely glide through life assuming that we will rise or sink based on our individual merits or failings, chances are reasonable that this will be the case. Conversely, some women possess a pessimistic emotional undertow that subtly frames their view of the world and becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. In stating this, I'm not denying the reality of any discrimination such women have faced in the past, but I'm suggesting that we each have the power to change our perceptions and therefore our sense of what reality is and can be.
I'm 43 years old, and extremely quick to proclaim that the generally happy musical life I've led is a direct result of the efforts of women who have come before me; I thank them profusely. My working life as a composer has been entirely different than theirs and than that of many women. I have never personally experienced any negative discrimination. In no way am I alleging that discrimination is still not an enormous problem. Of course it is. But I believe that the best way to combat it begins as much with a woman's internal honesty about her deeply held assumptions of the world and how she views herself in it, as it has to do with working to convert unquestionably outrageous external biases. Change occurs from within.
I am not particularly special, nor am I the most talented composer. But I was fortunate to grow up with parents who instilled in me a sense of self worth, which has translated to my attitude of abundance. And that in turn has translated to my ability to work in largely male-dominated parts of the music industry (not only as a composer but as a recording engineer, a booth recording supervisor for Star Trek, and a record producer) without ever thinking I was any different from my male counterparts.
The only discrimination I ever faced was when I was occasionally hired on projects because I was a woman. There are those foolish enough to believe that a broad might compose more sensitive music than a guy. See? Idiocy abounds in all directions!
If you're interested in hearing more of my thoughts about being a composer (not just a woman composer) you can download my article titled Compose, Communicate and Connect for the Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music, Spring 2005 issue, on my web site.
posted by Alex Shapiro
Monday, June 13, 2005
Quien Sabe, Kemo Sabe?
Some people have asked why the comment counter seems to start going down after a few days and finally gets back to 0 but all the comments are still there. The answer is: I don't know. If you do, send me a note.
posted by Jerry Bowles
Writing About Composing
All this talk about why some composers blog and others don’t reminds me of William Faulkner’s comment, “The stories you talk about are the ones you never write.” WF was referring to the problem creative artists have with discussing their works-in-progress: saying too much about a piece in its early stages can somehow stunt the growth process.
Is this true for the composers on this forum? Do you find it inhibiting to talk about a piece you are working on? I have only recently found myself able to share some of what I’m doing without jinxing the juices, but I’m still very cautious.
posted by Lawrence Dillon
Sunday, June 12, 2005
We're Still Here
Like Beth Anderson (Hi Beth!), life here is pretty busy. But some things need saying, so:
- I sigh (!) whenever someone says about our sheer numbers "I suspect" or "I think". The info is out there -- we're legions, in the thousands -- and has been pushed hard since the '80s in a number of publications (including my own 3-book Greenwood Press series, The Musical Woman - An International Perspective).
For example, there are two current posters that profile hundreds of women composers through the ages, one published by Leonarda Productions, the other by Hildegard Press. And, these are being bought by elementary schools (!).
- Statistics for exposure in prime venues remain grim. In one early'90s speech I tried to 'spin' the mildly encouraging upward trend at that time to indicate we were on the cusp of matching Germaine Tailleferre's c. 18% 'share' of Les Six, but there's been a distinct fall-off since the mid'90s.
posted by Judith Lang Zaimont