Re: what was that?

Subject: Re: what was that?
From: Dennis Bathory-Kitsz (
Date: Wed Aug 17 2005 - 12:49:06 EDT

Each generation forms different views, it seems. This was recently
re-posted to O-List. It was written by composer Alex Shapiro, and
appeared in the Journal of the International Alliance for Women in
Music, Spring 2005. It doesn't directly address the issues posed
here, but is worth hearing how those of Alex's generation might
have moved away from the issues from my generation.


I have never thought of myself in terms of being a female
composer, only a composer. Music is about soul and passion
and communication, and none of that is gender-specific.
Mine is the very first generation of women composers
to benefit from an unlimited potential, thanks to the enormous
efforts of women who preceded me and fought so hard against
discrimination. By the time I entered conservatory in 1980,
half of the composers in my small class were female, and the
composition faculty included Ursula Mamlok and Ludmilla
Ulehla. I came of age without any idea that it might be odd to
have chosen this profession, due as well to progressive parents
who raised me to believe that I could do anything I wanted,
as long as I was good enough. That sense of personal responsibility
for my success or failure has been significant.
From time to time I am contacted by undergraduate students
taking gender in music classes, and I am perplexed by the
nearly combative phrasing of the questions I am asked in these
interviews, as though the student believes that the world
automatically shuts women out. Reading these biased queries from
such young women, I wonder from where in society they acquire
all this animosity, since not only have I never been
discriminated against, but have found that being female has
occasionally been helpful. I am aware that because I am neither
in academia nor performance, I am sheltered from the ongoing
battles some women continue to face; my perspective comes
solely from being an independent working composer. But
since being able to make a living as a composer is one of the
goals we strive for, my limited perspective is worth sharing.
Opportunity exists for anyone who visualizes it. What
matters is what we have to say with our music, and how we
interact with people. A career in music is made up of talent
and also of social skills. Some women with a gender-chip on
their shoulder can be so offensive to others in their muted
anger that their negative perceptions become a self-fulfilling
prophesy. But if we walk through the world viewing ourselves
as equals, we are more likely to be treated as such.
I have enormous respect and appreciation for the IAWM,
on whose concerts I have frequently and gratefully been included.
But I am not convinced that all-women concerts do
anyone - composers or audiences - a favor. When presenters
limit the selections to a particular, smaller pool of entries,
there is a greater chance that the quality of the concert suffers,
ironically at the risk of doing female composers a
disservice. This observation does not refer to my colleagues
or to the IAWM, but to the larger concept of self-segregation
as it relates to our otherwise equal standing in society today.
Yes, it is very, very important to ensure that women's music
be programmed regularly. But I believe the most effective
way of achieving this is to educate women to be not only
excellent composers, but excellent business people as well,
capable of promoting their work professionally. I would love
to see the IAWM produce a series of workshops offering
members further tools for expanding their careers. My own
modest experience in the chamber music world has been that
the playing field is far more level than it appears.

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