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Subject: Re: A Bitter Pill For Feminists
From: London Tier <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:London Tier <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 7 Dec 2016 14:26:14 -0800
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I am Cathy - Londontier's girlfriend.

Not so fast!

1. The idea that the Met only puts on works of “major” composers seems hard
to support. Go look at the repertoire (Rossini? Gounod?) or the commission
list (Deems Taylor? Samuel Barber? John Corigliano?). Saariaho may not be a
known quantity like Verdi, but, then, neither is John Adams, who has had
multiple productions at the Met (which is fine by me, but I’m just saying,
Saariaho is definitely as celebrated, studied, and respected in her circles
as Adams is in his).

2. There is no reason to think the Met is more misogynistic than the
society it has been embedded in over the years. But that society has been
pretty misogynist. I can quote you chapter and verse from all types of
sources from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century that assume women
are mentally inferior, emotionally uncontrolled, and actually dangerous if
not restricted in their sphere of influence. Musicians are some of the
worst in this regard. (Why castrate boys to sing the upper parts in opera
and choirs? No girls allowed).

3. Given this reality, it is obvious why writers like George Sand, George
Eliot, etc. used pseudonyms. One can imagine a spirited middle-class or
upper-class woman deciding to write a novel. What does she need? Leisure,
some paper, and the literacy that was allowed these women in order that
they could read the Bible and teach it to their children. The models for
her novel are the printed books she reads. Once her novel was written, it
could be posted to a publisher under a male pseudonym and who knows?
Obviously none of this was possible for a female opera composer-wannabe.
She might be able to read music, but the distance between reading and
writing is greater with orchestral music. Operas in the common practice
period did not circulate widely in full score, or even full vocal score.
Even the most accomplished musical amateuress would only know arrangements
of individual arias that were printed up for public sale and home use.
Being able to write out an orchestral score would have been impossible
without special training; where would one get the expertise to handle the
clefs, transpositions, and orchestration? And, imagine the unusual chance
of a woman who could produce an opera in full score. For literature, there
were multiple publishers with diverse audiences, and lots of competition.
Usually there was one official opera house in a major city, controlled
either by the government or a group of rich, aristocratic men -- or both.
To get an opera produced was beyond the abilities of all but the most
well-connected male composers, and being well-connected in the
professional/official musical world and also female was socially
impossible. You couldn't use a pseudonym to finesse this: the opera needed
to be rehearsed, and at every stage there would be male musicians who would
thus have to work “for” a woman, something that still causes many powerful
figures in classical music to blanch today. (Note the recurring stories
about the rarity of female conductors.)

4. As for the “suppressed Mozart” thesis, that seems logically fallacious
to me. Falsifying it involves one in trying to do the impossible, which is
to prove a negative. To wit:  If, indeed, one *could* entirely suppress a
talent of the caliber of Mozart, then, logically, we would not know
anything about such a talent. Any evidence of suppressed talent proves it
was not entirely suppressed. So the contrary can never be proven. If
musicology has anything to add here, it is that many of the most famous
composers in our canon were not very successful at the time. J.S. Bach, for
instance, was a relative nonentity compared to Handel, Hasse, Graun,
Telemann, and many other now-obscure composers whose reputation eclipsed
his at the time. (Arguably, if his sons (CPE, JC, etc.) had not become very
successful court musicians, and preserved their father’s legacy until the
notion of “music history” and the German need to construct a usable canon
took over, we’d not know much about him.)

This is where I start with this recurring issue.

Cathy



On Tuesday, December 6, 2016, Genevieve Castle Room <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Bill Moore wrote:
>
>
> >"Perhaps there are so few female composers of stature because women have
> historically
> been oppressed?  Writing a book is a private affair.  Anyone can do it
> anonymously and with
> little or no investment from the male dominated hierarchy. Composers? Not
> so much."
>
>
> I don't think I accept the premise of that argument. Music composition can
> be just as private an affair as writing a novel. Clara Schumann and Fanny
> Mendelssohn were extraordinary pianists who wrote many compositions in
> various genres. They needed little help from the male music establishment
> to play and promote their compositions. They gave recitals and played their
> own music... despite strong opposition by male musicians and sponsors.
>
> Even if I accepted the premise that a great talent could have been
> suppressed in the past... what is stopping Kaija Saariaho, Jennifer Higdon,
> Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Cindy McTee and other contemporary female composers
> from achieving the kind of distinction reached by Beethoven, Mozart,
> Debussy, Wagner and others? There were few female pianists, violinists,
> cellists, etc in the 18th and 19th centuries but among the few who existed
> some DID achieve great distinction -- like Clara Schumann.
>
> So... if she succeeded as a pianist despite all of the oppression, why
> didn't she or some other woman succeed as a composer?
>
>
>
>
>
> On Friday, December 2, 2016, SUBSCRIBE OPERA-L Anonymous <
> [log in to unmask] <javascript:;>> wrote:
>
> > Perhaps there are so few female composers of stature because women have
> > historically
> > been oppressed?  Writing a book is a private affair.  Anyone can do it
> > anonymously and with
> > little or no investment from the male dominated hierarchy. Composers?
> Not
> > so much.
> >
> > Oh and by the way, you pathetic lonely pseudo-intellectual, get a life.
> > And I say that with
> > love and concern for you, a clearly damaged human being.
> >
> >
>
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