On female composers

I’m a female composer. That makes me rarer than hens’ teeth, in a field dominated by men since Ye Dawne Of Tyme.

Yes, I’m sure you can name other female composers: Hildegard Von Bingen, right?

But truth is, there aren’t too many of us. Which is a shame, because there’s nothing I know of that says women can’t write great music.

There is evidence to suggest, for example, that Mozart’s sister was also a composer, but she was constrained by societal expectations, and no music she ever wrote survives.

For me, I can’t help imagining what great talent we may have lost through the years, with such a lack of women composers.

I’m not just thinking of the more famous examples that we know of, like Mozart’s sister, but all those thousands of nameless talented female musicians who, for various reasons, either never thought to put pen to paper and write down the ideas in their heads, or never had the opportunity to do so.

Even now, here in the 21st century, female composers are few. CPDL lists 27 women composers altogether. As for men, there are 90 male composers just listed in the “A” section!

I’d like to see that change. I’d love to see more women give composition a go, simply because they love music and want to share what is in them.

I’d like to see every woman with an interest in music and the financial capacity to do so purchase some composition software – many women pay more money for a new handbag! – and try writing the music that is in their hearts, to share with the world.

I’d also like to see more mentoring of female musicians, and more support of beginner composers who are female.

I’d like to see choirs putting on concerts with an all-female composer repertoire – no matter how impossible that may seem. And I’d like to see music teachers suggesting to their female students that composition is fun and rewarding.

Music is not a male experience – it is a human experience. It’s time we evened up the scorecard and advocated for women composers, don’t you think?

Who knows what we could be missing out on if we don’t.

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2 thoughts on “On female composers

  1. Also, Elena Kats-Chernin (sp?) and Anne Boyd, both Australian contemporary composers. We performed works of theirs at SNIV in … 2008? We all loved the Elena KC, but not especially the Boyd, as I recall.

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