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Out of tune

Fewer female composers mean women go unheard in world of classical music

March 6, 2017

The world of classical music has discovered that gender bias is alive and well in the realm of music and composition. Female composers are almost entirely absent from the traditional roster of popular names that include such revered figures as Mozart and Bach and their work barely registers a note in the canon of classics. While the question is not one of quality, it’s certainly one of quantity as modern female symphonists continue to struggle to have their voices heard.

In recent years, Sound and Music, the national charity for new music in the U.K., has seen a continuous decline in the number of female applicants to both its educational and professional music programs. A historically male-dominated field, gender disparity in classical tradition has been largely overlooked. In many ways, classical music and instrumentation has remained rooted in the past. Often filtered through the lenses of the 17th and 18th centuries, eras when women were generally underrepresented and their work undervalued, classical music has largely excluded women from the proverbial “boys club” of composers.

In an Op-Ed for The Guardian, Susanna Eastburn, the chief executive of Sound and Music in the U.K., makes reference to this outdated perspective as one of the possible underlying reasons behind the reticence of female students to apply and present their work as equal to that of their male counterparts. In conjunction with International Women’s Day, Sound and Music has made a pledge that by March of 2020, 50 percent of its composers will identify as female.

As classical music strains to hear new and diverse voices that can revitalize and sustain the genre, it’s more important than ever that women find their way to the concert hall.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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