Errollyn Wallen

Following up on Alex Ross’ post about the New York Philharmonic’s 2011-’12 season, which mentioned the lack of representation of American composers on the Contact! series and women composers throughout the schedule, we asked Sequenza 21 readers to share their lists of American women composers that the Philharmonic should consider programming (more comments/lists welcome).

Angelica Negron

Here’s my own take. I’ve compiled three chamber orchestra programs for the Contact! concerts and one for the regular subscription series: all consisting entirely of living women composers. One features American music and the other programs have a more diverse array of nationalities. I hasten to add that this just scratched the surface: one could do many, many more of these!

Amy Williams

Program 1

Jennifer Higdon – Soliloquy

Sarah Kirkland Snider – newly commissioned work

Hannah Lash – A Matter of Truth

Amy Williams – Sala Luminosa

Helen Grime

Program 2

Angélica Negrón – Fulano

Errolyn Wallen – Concerto Grosso

Du Yun – Impeccable Quake

Helen Grime – Clarinet Concerto

Program 3

Alexandra Gardner – Tamarack

Unsuk Chin – Akrostichon-wortspiel

Tansy Davies – Residuum (After Dowland)

Vivian Fung – newly commissioned work

Lera Auerbach

Subscription Series Program

Augusta Read Thomas – Ceremonial

Lera Auerbach – Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra

Kaija Saariaho – Orion

11 thoughts on “Suggesting a Feminine Side to the NY Phil”
  1. I am late to the table, on this topic, but couldn’t agree more that the underrepresentation is a problem that needs addressing. I think that sample programs are a great jumping off point to start conversations and educate the masses about the works that are not included in standard repertoires – or music education curriculums.

    However, don’t forget the long history of women in music – what about hearing Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto or Louise Farrenc’s Symphonies, or a piece by Lili Boulanger? As we continue to work for a more diverse concert season we also must remember to include the composers who are not able to advocate for themselves!

  2. I completely agree… I also wrote some of my thoughts on this issue on my blog (just click on my name), and Alexandra Gardner’s article on NewMusicBox has some good points too.

    Kaija Saariaho is so talented.

  3. I was impressed by the piano work of Anna Clyne that I heard Kathleen Supove perform last Saturday night, and I look forward to hearing some of her works that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be performing during her CSO residency.

  4. “Shall we make a list of black composers too? Jewish ones? Or are those groups sufficiently represented? Don’t forget sexual orientation, are those number acceptable? Who else?”

    Why not? If we agree that there is still, in the 21st century, an overwhelming and oppressive blandness to contemporary concert programming, this sort of list making is a way to educate conductors, boards, marketing teams, and audiences.

  5. As I mentioned, this post is merely a taste of the great diversity of music that could be better represented in the orchestra’s programming.

    Take nothing away from Gilbert’s tenure thus far with the Philharmonic – he’s already done some extraordinary things.

    But we can certainly advocate for more diversity without denigrating his significant commitment to contemporary music.

  6. No Gloria Coates?

    Her string quartets are really worth a listen. Rebecca Saunders is interesting too (not American though).

    The excellent musicFabrik perform some Saunders (and Stockhausen) here…

    Recorded at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2010. Listen again on BBC Radio3 (4 days left 🙂

  7. Shall we make a list of black composers too? Jewish ones? Or are those groups sufficiently represented? Don’t forget sexual orientation, are those number acceptable? Who else?

  8. I know that I am fighting a losing battle here, but “women” is not an adjective. It is a plural noun. Just think about how stupid “men composers” sounds. People just don’t want to say “female composers” because “female” doesn’t sound as dignified as “women” does, for a whole host of socio-cultural reasons I won’t bore you with. So people say “composers” and “women composers,” which is grammatically the equivalent of “people” and “women people”.
    I would like to suggest substitutes: women who compose, female composers, composing women, and of course composerettes, composerennes, and composerelles.

    What would be ideal is if program titles were always prefaced with “Music by Men” “Music by Women” or “Music by Men and Women” just so people could know the most salient details about what sort of music they were going to hear.

  9. Agreed. I didn’t mean to give the impression that all-women concerts are the way to go. I’d prefer that these, and many other underrepresented composers, might be integrated more seamlessly into future seasons.

    My hope here was to demonstrate a small slice of the talent that’s being overlooked for the 2011-’12 season at the NY Philharmonic in hopes that they may cast a more diverse net next year!

  10. These programs are nice and all, but I’m hesitant to create “separate but equal” programs so that women and minorities can have their spotlight. Certainly all of these works are strong enough to stand alongside the old dead white guys, and I think its a disservice to try and program them only apart from the old fogeys. Still, bravo on some constructive suggestions.

  11. YES!!! Good point!

    Please consider the extensive set of compositions by Augusta Read Thomas, who recently became Professor of Music at the University of Chicago. Her music has been performed by conductors such as Boulez and Daniel Barenboim… and during the summers she teaches composition at Tanglewood …

    It’s about time for performing groups to go beyond Mahler and Copland when they program music that moves beyond the mastery of Johann Sebastain Bach…


Comments are closed.