Thursday, November 02, 2017

Concert in Valencia, Spain

I'm very excited to report that three pieces of mine: High Speed Rail, Three Reflections for Flute and Strings, and Dances from the Harlot's House, will be performed in Spain on November 19th by an orchestra connected with the Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Valencia conducted by Josep Ribes. All the pieces on the program were written by women. The conductor asked me to send a 3-minute video recording of me talking about women and music to a group of young musicians, and I thought I'd share some of the text here:
When I was a child during the 1960s I was part of a very music family in Boston. Every piece of music I encountered was written by a man. Sometime during the 1970s a friend of my family started playing concerts that featured the music of Mrs. H.H. Beach. Amy Beach, we now know, was a very important composer in Boston during the early 20th century. She began her musical life as a pianist, and started writing music at an early age. After she married, her upper-class husband would not allow her to “work” as a concert pianist, but he was fine with her continuing to compose. Many of her works were published, and one was even performed by the Boston Symphony, but as her music went out of print, she was forgotten as a composer.

During the early part of the 20th century it was acceptable for a woman to be a great teacher, a great pianist (particularly an accompanist), or a great singer, but only a handful of women were accepted into professional orchestras. This began to change in the 1950s, and finally in 2017 we see equal numbers of men and women in professional orchestras.

Professional orchestras in America rarely program music by women. It is not because of lack of repertoire, it is due to lack of knowledge. Because I am curious, and because I am always looking for new music to play, I learn about new women composers from the 19th century and the 20th century all the time.

We are making progress: college composition programs in the 21st century admit as many women as they do men. And more and more people realize that when it comes to music, it is the voice of the individual that matters, not her gender. I would imagine that if you were to play pieces of lesser-known music written by both men and by women to people without revealing the gender of the composer, most people would be unable to guess the gender.

The quality of a piece of music is not reflected by how well known it is, just like the quality of a performance is not reflected by how well known the performer is. Fortunately programs like this one make it clear that even if you haven’t heard of a composer, her music can be enjoyable to hear and to play.

I hope you musicians have enjoyed working on these pieces, and I hope that your audience enjoys listening to them.

No comments: