Tag Archives: Archiv Frau und Musik

More women composers needed! – More women composers needed?

It’s International Women’s Day today, and the radio station I listen to in the mornings asked whether we still need this day. Especially in a Western European country, highly developed, with equality being part of numerous laws and regulations, and with women having such a good life.
Do we need this day?
When I was a teenager, I’d have said, no, we don’t need that day. I grew up feeling I’d be a strong, independent, capable woman, and all doors would be open for me. People would recognize my talents and skills and I would be successful.
I wanted to become a conductor. I was aware of the fact that there weren’t many female conductors at that time, but I didn’t really think about it. Then I found out that music colleges wanted students to play not only piano, but also an orchestral solo instrument like the violin, the flute, the horn, whatever, to even accept you for the auditions in the conductor classes. So I didn’t study conducting after all. I learned how to lead choirs, but it took me 18 years after graduation to actually do that. Anyway, that’s another story.

If you follow my blog regularly, you will know that I’m trying to make the names and works of female composers known. I mainly concentrate on composers who have written for the organ, but for a general overview you may want to have a look here at the archive for women and music: http://www.archiv-frau-musik.de/Komponistinnena.htm

My own list of female composers of organ music at the moment has 100 names on it, and I’m still adding names and will probably end up with 200 or even more. It’s amazing, isn’t it, there are so many of them, and still quite a lot of people aren’t aware of the fact.

A few days ago, Susanna Eastburn wrote in The Guardian: “We need more women composers – and it’s not about tokenism, it’s about talent”. You can find the article here

I shared the article on twitter. There were only two comments at this time, and these two made me say, hey, read the article, but don’t read the comments. I had a peek at the comment section half an hour later, and comments had gotten worse by the minute. People saying that if women composers were any good at all they wouldn’t need our support but would be successful anyway were still the friendliest.

Why is it that the thought of women writing music and women wanting to have a seat at the table with other composers bring out so much aggression in some people? Have we still not moved on from the times of Fanny Mendelssohn, who was told by her father that her equally talented brother Felix could become a professional composer, but she couldn’t?

Yes, you need to be good for your works to be published and played. I have no reason to play music that’s poorly written or boring. But this has nothing to do with the composer’s gender. I already wrote about how difficult it can be to make your way in the creative industries in a blog post in 2015. Back to Susanna’s article. Pétur Jónsson from Medialux Music Productions had also shared it on twitter, and we had a brief conversation about the comments. He said that if we looked at the bright side, the negative comments just showed that there still is a problem.

I’ve dabbled at composing from my teenage years on. In 1993, I wrote the music for a fairytale play at a semi-professional theatre. Looking back, I can only say that it’s better that the music only exists on some tapes and written drafts, because it wasn’t very good. But I wanted more, and in 1994, I wrote the music for a stage version of Alice’s adventures in wonderland for the same theatre. The play had quite a lot of media attention since the author was a professor at the local university, and the stage design was one by a very talented student from an art college who had brought two other students with him who did the costumes. It was a brilliant production. I not only wrote the music, but also played Amanda, the dormouse, and have very fond memories of the whole thing.

What really wound me up, though, was that the critics in the local newspaper more or less ignored my composing efforts, and simply wrote that the music had been put together nicely by one of the actresses. I was furious and even called one of the critics and made him write an amendment and mention that I had not simply chosen the music, but written all the pieces and that he had been lucky to be part of a world premiere. 😉 I must have been very persuasive on the phone, and he actually wrote a few lines which were published a few days later. I have no idea whether he just didn’t know or care who had composed the music, or whether it was so good that he thought it must’ve been published elsewhere before, but at the time, I felt that my work, my talent wasn’t valued, and of course this hurt.

Only recently I started digging in my old drafts and music sheets again and found pieces and songs that I still like and might publish one day. What I would like to see, not only on International Women’s Day, is a discussion about music and composing that doesn’t automatically assume that the composer’s gender has anything to do with the quality of the music she or he writes. I’m sure that composers of any gender are capable of writing music that’s wonderful, exciting and inspiring. And every musician, artist, composer, performer needs support to be able to show their work to a wider audience. I hope that we will achieve this eventually.

I haven’t got a clear answer to the question of the headline. But I would like to encourage you, whatever gender you have, to let your music be heard, your art be seen, your texts be read. We grow and learn and there’s so much to share, so if you feel like sharing, please do it.
Comment section is open, and I’m interested in your thoughts.


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Komponistinnen-Welten. Zu Gast beim Archiv Frau und Musik

Gestern fand in Frankfurt der Thementag “Komponistinnen-Welten” statt. Ein Tag voll mit Impulsen, Informationen, Gesprächen und natürlich Musik.
Hier das Programm: http://www.archiv-frau-musik.de/cms/projekte/komponistinnen-welten

Es war ein bisserl unglücklich, dass diese spannende Veranstaltung zeitgleich zum Frankfurter Marathon stattfand, aber über den Tag gesehen waren doch einige Besucherinnen und Besucher da, und ich hoffe, das Archiv und der Internationale Arbeitskreis Frau und Musik e. V. waren insgesamt zufrieden mit der Resonanz (und hoffentlich auch mit den Spenden).

Ich habe viele gute Gespräche geführt und tolle Menschen kennen gelernt. Möglicherweise lässt sich das ein oder andere auch fortführen, aber ich sollte nicht vergessen, dass auch meine Tage nur 24 Stunden haben, dass ich einen Vollzeitbürojob habe und ab und zu mal Schlaf brauche 😉

Dennoch möchte ich die Gelegenheit nutzen, hier im Blog kurz auf die Arbeit des Arbeitskreises und des Archivs aufmerksam zu machen, denn es gibt weltweit derzeit kein anderes Archiv, das so umfangreich ist. Leider ist seine Existenz nicht dauerhaft gesichert und es werden weiterhin Unterstützerinnen und Unterstützer gesucht. Es tut sich einiges für Komponistinnen, Dirigentinnen, Musikerinnen, die Zeit bleibt nicht stehen, aber wenn man jemanden fragt, ob er/sie ohne eine Suchmaschine zu benutzen, die Namen von fünf Komponistinnen nennen könne, kommt oft nur ein großes Fragezeichen. Ein spannendes Projekt gibt es in London: http://www.five15.org/ für Komponistinnen von Chormusik.

Ich höre regelmäßig auch kritische Stimmen, die sagen, Frauenförderung sei ja sowas von 90er und out, und wenn Frauen das mit dem Komponieren “drauf hätten”, dann wären sie ganz von alleine erfolgreich. Diese Sichtweise verkennt meiner Meinung jedoch, dass auch Komponisten nicht “einfach so” erfolgreich sind und dass Frauen vor allem in der Vergangenheit, aber teilweise heute noch, mit vielen Problemen zu kämpfen hatten, die sich aus ihrer gesellschaftlichen Stellung ergaben und zunächst wenig mit ihrer tatsächlichen Begabung zu tun hatten. Das ist aber ein Thema, was ich an dieser Stelle nicht vertiefen möchte.

Ich hatte gestern jedenfalls einen wunderbaren Tag, auch wenn ich abends todmüde war, und möchte es nicht versäumen, auch ein bisserl Werbung für Heike Matthiesen zu machen, die nicht nur eine hervorragende Gitarristin ist, sondern auch eine ganz tolle Frau: https://heikematthiesen.wordpress.com/
Und wer lieber Klaviermusik mag, dem/der lege ich Margarita Feinstein ans Herz: http://www.margarita-feinstein.de/

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(Organ) Music by female composers

It’s time to finally write this blog post – I said to Morwenna (http://www.theladyorganist.com) in June that I would write something about (organ) music by female composers, and now it’s almost Christmas… I’ve been busy playing the occasional Sunday service and singing in my choir and doing stuff. Everyone who juggles a day job and a second life as a musician probably knows this only too well.

When you’re asked about female composers, you might think of Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn, or might not know anyone at all. If you’re interested in film music, you might know Rachel Portman or Anne Dudley. For most people, however, female composers remain in the dark and when you mention that they exist, you often get answers like, well, if they were any good (=if they were as good as the men), their music would be played more often. I don’t think it’s a simple question of quality, but I don’t want to get all philosophical about this.

What I want to do is share some resources and links with you, so that in case you’re planning to go out and find music written by women, you’ll get some help just like I had when I started my journey of finding out about the topic.

I’m deeply grateful to Morwenna and Kathryn (http://artsyhonker.net) who’ve supported my research and came up with some links and suggestions. Kathryn is a composer herself and if you’re looking for choral music, make sure to have a look at her work.

Morwenna directed me to John Spellers collection of organ music: http://spellerweb.net/poindex/organmusic/OrganMusicFront.html
In this collection, you can find music by Esther Elizabeth Fleet, Kate Boundy, Ann Mounsey Bartholomew, Elizabeth Stirling, Elisa Fuchs-Delaye, Helene Fleury, Juliette Folville, Augusta Holmes, Marie Prestat, Alice Saufrezix, Fanny Mendelssohn and some more. Morwenna also mentioned Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Elizabeth Turner and Jeanne Demessieux. And there’s Theophania Cecil: http://www.theladyorganist.com/repertoire-revivals-theophania-cecil/

For organists, there is a very interesting collection of various pieces in Schott’s ED9741 (“Frauen komponieren – 22 Orgelstücke”. 22 organ pieces by female composers), some of them quite doable, others really tricky. But you got to have goals 😀

Kathryn pointed me to Barbara Kennedy (http://barbarakennedy.co.uk/composing/) and Jenni Pinnock (http://www.jennipinnock.com/).

On imslp.org, there’s a list of women composers. Unfortunately you can only search by country of origin, not by type of work, but it’s an impressive list nonetheless: http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Women_composers

In Frankfurt, there’s the archive for women and music: http://www.archiv-frau-musik.de/cms/

Then there are two publishers worth mentioning if you want to buy sheet music by female composers: http://furore-verlag.de/shop/noten/orgel-solo/ and http://www.certosaverlag.de/

For those who’re into research, there’s the “MUGI” project in Hamburg: http://mugi.hfmt-hamburg.de/en/Lexikon
And if you speak German, check out http://www.susanne-wosnitzka.de/projekte-aktuelles/komponistinnen/

Now to something more practical. 🙂
Last Sunday, I played a piece by Margaretha Christina de Jong (http://margreethdejong.nl/) and two pieces I have written myself. One is a piece for alto recorder, variations on the song “Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme” (“Wake up, a voice is calling”) and the other is an organ piece called “Kleine Adventsfantasie” (little advent fantasia) where I used melody fragments of three well-known advent songs.

Thanks to Susanne (https://twitter.com/SusanneW) I now know the adaptiation of two Clara Schumann preludes for organ and Cor anglais, and I hope to be able to play these pieces in a recital one day. Finding someone near me who plays cor anglais (“English horn”) will certainly help, but I need to start practising the organ part first anyway.


Thanks, readers, for your interest, and please share your thoughts and comments!




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