Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Women as Composers and Performers

Throughout history women have been excluded from social activities, work opportunities, and just about everything else. When I first read the articles Mr. Huntington sent us, I was surprised that music was off-limits for women. Music to me is solely based on talent. Wouldn't the determining factor of success be skill level instead of gender? Many women are restricted from engaging in activities that relate to power, leadership, or control. Music can be an independent interest that has no relation to power.

In the second article written by Jessica Duchen I noticed a bit of satire when describing the Last Night of the Proms that took place two years ago. The speaker, Marin Alsop, was the first woman to conduct the concert. She was surrounded by pink balloons and a banner which exclaimed 'It's A Girl!'. The idea intended to make a statement to the audience. As if we should be so astonished by a female conductor that we must recognize it with balloons and frivolous decoration? Should they pat themselves on the back for being the first to recognize the talents and accomplishments of women?

One thing I noticed about men and women who had successful music careers was that they were given this opportunity through wealth. High status and affluence allowed men and few women to have leisure time. Without the obligation of a full time job and labor in the fields, people of upper classes focused more on recreation. However, a wealthy woman was still a woman, which lowered her chances of pursuing a music career. Even the women who did make it as composers--(women are capable?)-- could only attribute their success to their father or male patron. Women born into musical families were lucky enough. This begs the question: Did any independent women publish their work or become famous without such support? Not that we've heard.

The role of a woman as a performer in and outside of the home was surprising to me. They served the purpose of entertainment for guests and were taught to read and play instruments only as a polite accompaniment. It is evident that this role emerges in areas other than music. Women are not able to take charge or give orders to men. In the home the woman serves the man and holds no position of power or authority such as conductor or director.

The arguments behind 'sex shouldn't sell' are valid and persuasive. I agree, talent should sell both women and men. But what if we allow sex to sell? Maybe attractive women speak for all women in the field. Maybe men grow accustomed to seeing women on stage and they become more widely accepted as musicians and composers. Maybe women achieve success indirectly.

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