Breaking the Glass Ceiling
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
This essay has been a long time in the making. Being the daughter of the first generation women in my family to receive a university education, I am compelled to stand before you and appeal for greater awareness of the importance of diverse representation in the field of new music and sound art. In recent years a number of issues have been raised regarding the representation of women in new music. Despite this subject being a prime topic of conversation with faculties, festivals, commissioning bodies and concert programming, the number of women to appear on these steadfast platforms remains disturbingly low.
This discussion aims to point out some key issues that keep women out and why it is of vital importance to encourage the inclusion of women, aiming as best as possible for equal representation. The primary question is why are the numbers so low when the population is roughly 50/50. The obvious answer is because fewer women pursue this path. My argument is to point out that there are inherent systemic reasons why this is so and why it is not because of the lack of interest, ambition or desire.
The crux of my argument is that the creative voice is an earpiece for a society and the voices of creative women drawing attention to their experience should and must be heard and be valued with utmost respect and importance on an equal standing with men. The tragedy of my generation is that for the first time in history women have been educated with exactly the same education as men with equal opportunities and no vocational directive, yet, as we enter the workforce and public office, we are faced with prejudice from figures of authority and power who are unwilling to recognize the changes that have occurred in recent years where women are highly skilled, exceptionally competent and excel in their field and are worth rewarding, employing and celebrating.
I am saddened by the fact that in the closing month of 2016, the representation of women in composition and sound art is still a matter of contention that must be defended and pleaded for and the fight for equality is still a bloody battle. The operative word is “fight”. This is a subject that carries weight and historical baggage. Women’s rights are a matter of human rights.
In considering my approach to this keynote presentation, I have concluded there are two methods of approach. The first being a presentation of statistics and academic arguments, the second being to communicate an experiential point of view, outlining concerns and issues that are brought up by everyday interactions within the community of musicians, composers and public. Both approaches are necessary in order to grasp the depth and dimension of the subject. To an extent I have done my best to prepare both considering the limited amount of time available for me to do so.
Statistics are an important component of the argument and necessary to emphasize information about how many women are employed/ commissioned/ awarded prizes/ played on programs, how much they are paid in comparison to their male counterparts, for what are they being paid and for what forces are they being commissioned. Documentation of experiences provides information about what happens to individuals and groups of people that may affect the statistics. In this presentation I have compiled a bibliographical list of articles, statistics and surveys from recent discussions primarily from America, The United Kingdom and Australia where the subject of feminism and equal rights for women is highly evolved and of huge concern. I hope that my bibliography may encourage others to seek further information.
I am happy to say that because of the astute authors of these articles, who have successfully articulated some of the general concerns surrounding this subject, the discussion about the representation of women in classical music has lead to an awareness that has contributed to many positive developments, ensuring the presence of female teachers on faculties and panels, in discussions and publications and development and outreach programs and an attempt to address visibility in programming and festivals. Statistically speaking, representation of women is still dramatically low and the most important question to ask is “why”.
Experience is not a scientific study and it is important to listen to many experiences before making judgments or conclusions. As many women are afraid to talk about their experiences for fear of being judged, losing their job/ opportunities or contacts or gaining a bad reputation with people who are in positions to give them work, it is important to consider gathering anonymous accounts via private surveys is perhaps the only way to get an accurate and complete picture. It is important to spend time gathering information with patience and without judgment. The most caustic, toxic situation would be to brush over, ignore, ridicule or gaslight someone who is communicating their experience. It is important to hear what individuals are trying to say. Everyone has a right to communicate a situation where they are misunderstood, ignored, excluded, degraded or caught in a situation that has a negative influence on their life. Everyone has the right to make moves to improve the quality of their situation and this is beneficial not only for the individual but for the entire community.
One of the most common means to dismiss women in a community is via stereotyping and generalization. This is particularly rife in the music industry including classical music and new music. It is important to pinpoint, analyze, confront and dismiss stereotypes because they are not based in fact, attribute certain characteristics to groups of people without being tested and overlook the concerns, abilities and expertise of individuals within that group. This can be dangerous because it can lead to the acceptance of certain ill informed attitudes and institutional prejudice and bias that can become accepted and even unnoticed, causing hurt or disadvantage to certain individuals and groups.
I have some stories that I would like to share with a mind that they may provoke discussion. I do speak from personal experience and would like to note that my experience is not everybody’s experience and it is necessary to look at individuals, case-by-case studies and the nuance of context and situation. I encourage women to speak about their experiences because it is important to hear their point of view and I would like to promote the necessity for a safe place where women can go without fear of judgment to speak honestly about issues that concern their well-being, mental health and ensure there is a portal wherein they may seek professional advice including legal and social support.
This weekend I had the good fortune to meet and spend time with James Poke, the artistic director of the Icebreaker Ensemble, a seminal British based group, heavily aligned with Dutch composers Louis Andriessen, Diderik Wagenaar, American composers Philip Glass, Michael Gordon and David Lang and English composers including Brian Eno. This is the first time I met James and the reason that I made the effort to visit him in the UK this weekend was to discuss his experience with commissioning female composers. This was sparked by an email discussion I have had with him in recent months about his attempt to address the imbalance between male and female composers in the programming for the ensemble. Icebreaker created an all-star female touring program. A year ago, James approached me to write a new piece for Icebreaker to be included on this program along side Anna Meredith, Linda Buckley, Jobina Tinnemans and Elizabeth Kelly. As I know Anna, Linda, Jobina and Elizabeth, being my contemporaries and colleagues, I can tell you that they are all exceptional composers with a strong, individual and original voice. I was honoured to have been included on that program and immediately agreed.
The Icebreaker Ensemble is one of the most important new music ensembles in the world, closely related to my immediate circle of composer colleagues and with an aesthetic that matches my aesthetic. Previous to this introduction, I had not had any contact with the ensemble, and in our recent discussion he disclosed that he came across my work through the late Bob Gilmore.
This program, titled System Restart has been embraced by high profile venues across the UK who have expressed interest in these composers and who are keen to redress the desert of waspish masculine monoculture, by programming more female composers. It has been successful, with a tour to set sail in the early months of 2017.
My setback occurred when The Icebreaker’s application for funding for my commission was turned down, which meant that I have no available income to afford the hours necessary to work on this new piece. Being turned down for such a high profile and beneficial commission is in itself heartbreaking because the invitation to write for an ensemble of such high caliber and significance does not happen often and it does provide the possibility to develop as a composer, working at a higher level of professionalism.
The biggest blow however was to discover that out of the 40 applications made by festivals, ensembles and programmers to the funding body in question, there were only three applications made for female composers. Out of the 20 successful commissions, only one was for a female composer and this commission was for a small amount compared to the amount being awarded to the male composers.
When I told James about this he revealed that in his experience this was a trend that he had encountered where nearly all of the applications for commissioning male composers had been successfully awarded whereas nearly all of applications sought for female composers had been turned down, leaving female composers in the position where in order to write music they must do so for free, out of their own goodwill or not write music at all. The figures he gave me were that the ensemble had commissioned 17 male composers, 16 of which were successfully awarded funding for their commission and with the amount they asked for, the ensemble had commissioned 9 female composers, 7 of whom were turned down completely and the 2 who received support were given amounts substantially less than what the ensemble had asked.
This is a shocking statistic, especially considering the fact that the ensemble, in deliberately attempting to address the issue of including more women on their programs, are being discouraged to do so by the inhibiting nature of the selection process of funding bodies. This is a point of discussion. Given the interest and necessity for ensembles and festivals to include more women on programs where traditionally they have been overlooked and even discouraged, how is it possible to ensure this can be addressed when the selection of composers by ensembles and festivals followed by the selection process though funding bodies and peer reviewed panels, turns women down at an extraordinary rate compared to men.
The question of writing music for free is a topic of discussion that embraces both male and female composers. In some instances composers may have independent income but for the most part composers rely heavily on the income they make from commissions to get by. In some cases commissions are the only income a composer earns. A commission fee covers the costs of living, professional costs including instruments, equipment, office and administration costs, travel, recording and documentation of performances, studio hire as well as the hours afforded to research, sketch ideas, building up a new score from scratch, typesetting and production of the final score and parts ready to present to the performers. This is a huge amount of work, detailed and time consuming.
The fact that fewer women are successful in funding applications can contribute to one of the many reasons why festivals, programmers and ensembles may not seek to commission women because setting up a program, approaching venues and organizing a touring program is a time consuming and fragile process in its own right, one of which cannot accommodate uncertainty or hesitation. In some instances the program has already been advertised and tickets sold before it is known whether the commission fee has been successful. This leaves a very uncomfortable situation if the funding turns down a commission, forcing the composer to work for free which can have a detrimental effect on the quality of life for that composer, especially if they do not have an alternative source of income. If the link in the chain is broken, for example a composer may not be able to write the piece because there is no commission fee, then the easiest solution would be to seek surety and ask composers who are less of a risk.
Speaking of alternative sources of income, women face another setback in that the jobs they are qualified for, for example teaching in composition faculties, working in radio, sound engineering, programming, artistic direction, typesetting and publishing, face more or less similar issues as with composition commissions, in that it is harder for women to get jobs in these fields, being largely dominated by men.
There is an unspoken suggestion that the quality of female composers is somehow lower or not worthy of awarding a commission. Yet the question of quality of music written by women has been proven to be of the highest standard time and time again. My question is why, when there is a demand for the music of composers who happen to be women, are they being turned down. James revealed to me a list of women Icebreaker has tried to commission over the years that have been unsuccessful. This list includes people such as the American composer Julia Wolfe who has recently not only been awarded a Pulitzer Prize but also the most prestigious MacArthur Genius award.
I would like to ask the panel and audience about this in plain, direct language: What is the problem with endorsing female composers?
What discussions, protocols, systemic initiatives are in place, or are to be developed to help encourage and promote female composers at every stage of their career from the earliest years to their most senior years?
In the two tiered selection process, whereby a composer must first be chosen and put forward by an ensemble or festival and then undergo a competitive selection process via a panel of peers, how can we ensure that the question of balance and diversity can be addressed?
Monash University – Blindfold
Keynote presentation June 2018
I am thankful to be here, and to have been invited by Cat Hope to give a keynote today on the subject of gender diversity in music making. It is a subject that I am passionate about, stemming from my experience growing up and entering the profession as a composer of classical contemporary music.
I became fascinated by the ancient archetype of a blindfolded woman depicted in medieval iconography. The implications of a female form with a blindfold resonated with me. She represented in picture form something which I recognised, that of living the experience of a woman existing in a man’s world or being a female composer where the canon is overwhelmingly male. She stands strong and dignified and yet her ego has been removed, her inheritance has been robbed. She has been hoodwinked, and in her blindness she is also speechless. She remains silent but she retains her power though the sword she holds, which represents her intelligence and her ability to discern the truth through the balance scales above her head, the tipping point at which she will no longer have tolerance. She is Lady Justice. Her message is that “Balance” is the key.
I began composing at the age of six when I learned how to read music while starting piano lessons. I made up tunes at the piano and improvised at every spare moment. It was my escape and my imaginary world. As a very young person I was obsessed with making my own pieces secretly and listening to the music I found in my parents’ collection until the tape wore away. I recorded sounds with a microphone that I found in the drawer and wondered about how I could realise music so that I could hear it back. As a student I worked hard to decipher orchestral scores. I listening to the Rite of Spring feverishly. I could not yet understand how the complexity of the score could manifest as incredibly beautiful music that transported one’s imagination to the ancient ritual landscapes of a forgotten time. These pieces that I studied inspired me and a began putting together my own scores. I learned about the aesthetic of contemporary music and where I belonged in that scene, whilst searching for a way to navigate the music industry. I received my Bachelor of Music with honours at ANU, my Masters of Music at the Royal Conservatorium of The Hague in the Netherlands and my doctorate at the University of Sydney. I continue to work and live as a professional composer, based in Amsterdam.
I studied piano and cello as a child and participated in many youth orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout both primary and high school. At the age of 15 I majored in composition for my 3 unit elective music studies in preparation for my high school certificate. I went to a private girls school on the North Shore in Sydney where I was encouraged by my teachers, not only to pursue music professionally, but to focus on composition in particular. It was rare at that time to major in composition rather than performance. It suited me because I had the freedom to think on my own terms, to be creative, to be curious about the things that I was interested in and to determine my own mode of studying.
I chose to continue to study composition at university because I loved orchestration and the way in which music gave me so much energy. I was inspired by my older colleagues at the youth orchestra who were composers. I idolised them and couldn’t wait for the moment where I too could have my own band and travel around Australia performing and telling stories through music.
Despite this I was imbued with crippling self-doubt and shyness. I remember being advised by certain authorities at that time to study music education because there was no future for me as a performer or composer. This fuelled my determination to pursue my studies in both performance and composition. I chose to study at ANU rather than the Sydney because it was smaller and I felt as though I could be myself in a department without too many people. I was afraid that I would not be able make myself seen or heard in a large department or that I wouldn’t be skilled enough to write in a certain style of music rather than write my own music, where too much criticism would have made me crumble. Thinking back on it, I praise my former young self and say thank you because I think you were right and if I had stayed in Sydney, I probably would have disappeared into the background and possibly been encouraged to pursue a different path. Being an introvert, I needed the quiet tutorials with one or two other students and not loud gregarious manifestoes imposed upon me by very confident fellow composition students. What I most appreciated at that time was being left alone to do my own thing.
To this day I am in debt to my kind music teachers from those years, especially my high school music teachers. I am still in contact with them and they, perhaps more than my composition teachers, have been mentors throughout my career. I have a successful career as a composer. This is my full-time free-lance job. I live and work in Amsterdam, and am commissioned by ensembles, soloists and orchestras from at least three continents. My work goes on. I would not be here if it was not for the generosity of my teachers, who set me on the path to realise my dream and who drilled me and made me work hard from the earliest moments with patience and commitment. They taught me self-criticism, the necessity to have a solid work ethic and humility where nothing can be taken for granted and that I have only myself to rely on. They taught me perseverance. I have come to the realisation that their support has been the most valuable throughout my career and it is because of them that I emphasise the need for female students to have the privilege of having female teachers and mentors.
I have a fruitful and rewarding career as a composer. Many wonderful women and men have supported my work and a whirlwind of exciting, meaningful opportunities have been bestowed upon me. I love my job and I am blessed to be able to follow a path that is in harmony with the way in which I think and my outlook in life. I could not have followed this path without the thoughtful and dedicated people around me who have pointed me in the right direction. I am thankful that I am able to continue.
Despite this I have to emphasise that becoming a professional composer was not an easy road. I had to forge my own path and for many years survived on less than the basic income. I wrote many pieces, none of which were commissioned and I played cello in a new music ensemble set up by my composition colleagues. This too was not paid but I felt committed to support my colleagues, performing their music and working together with performers dedicated to making new music. I became accustomed to living without things that others take for granted. It was precarious and exhilarating at the same time. I still did not have my own band that travelled around Australia telling stories though music and it was five years out of my studies before I received my first commission. I had to beg and plead one of my composition teachers to send a letter of recommendation for me to an ensemble to commission me. I remember that teacher glaring at me and I had to pluck up a lot of courage to ask and convince him that I needed to write a piece for a larger ensemble and be commissioned for it, overcoming my inhibition and what I would now call imposter
syndrome. I became well aware that I could not wait for things to come to me. I had to take an active role in making things happen for myself.
In order to earn an income at that time I was working many menial jobs. I was a bar maid, a cleaner, a tiller and a cello teacher of young students simultaneously among other things. I watched as my male colleagues were handed out commissions and opportunities from their male teachers. It was then that I had a burning desire to keep going. I was not going to let my secret world of composition, my private space that I had been cultivating since a young child, slip away. I applied to do a doctorate. I applied to a number of artist residencies, festivals and summer schools. I was burning with the desire to write music, to exist in that timeless dimension of colour and energy.
I was accepted to the Bang on a Can summer school. So eager was I to write that I wrote a 15-minute major piece for two pianists and two keyboard percussionists where the assignment given was to write a 5-minute miniature. I gave it everything I had. The piece I wrote was intense, complicated, filled with metric modulation and cross rhythms. The performers were baffled but they gave it all their attention and I loved my time at the festival working with these people, having the space to work with people in a relaxed and positive way within the surroundings of the gallery at MassMoCA.
It was the first place where I felt I could work at a level I was capable. In the few weeks that I was a fellow there I participated in all the activities I could, I wrote new pieces for different players, I improvised with a cello, I performed my piece Eclipsed Vision, A Never Ending Song for Everyone with the audience and public at the gallery. I got the entire audience to form a simultaneous choir. It was exciting and stimulating. My piece received a standing ovation and for the first time I felt accepted and included. I let down my guard. In previous years I would have been reluctant to write a piece on site believing that I did not have the ability to do so, but at this time I forgot myself and just went for it.
A year later I received a mysterious phone message from composer Julia Wolfe to call her back as soon possible. I called Julia back. I was shaking and wondered what she could want. She told me that Bang on a Can wanted to commission me. Like a dream come true, my first break as a composer came from New York, from an ensemble that I loved. I realise now that if I had maintained my shyness, or if I had not written the piece I wanted to write despite the assignment requesting something else or had I not rashly signed up for performing that crazy piece for the audience, Julia Wolfe may not have phoned me. I put myself out on a limb and to my delight discovered that it worked. I believe that visibility is the key to success and by putting one’s self out there, the invitation to participate in projects come whether you are a man or a woman.
I am passionate about the subject of the representation of women as composers, makers of music and other sound related art forms. I am adamant in the promotion of women as teachers and mentors in composition faculties and music schools or departments in tertiary institutions. None of my teachers past high school were women, there were no women on faculty at any of the institutions I attended.
I would like to see a change in attitude towards women when considering the way in which they are portrayed in public and in publications. Upon revealing statistics outlining how few women are commissioned by major institutions such as orchestras and opera houses and how little of their music is programmed one feels a sense of cognitive dissonance between one’s experience as a female composer and the portrayal of women with regards to their vocation and charisma.
I find the subject of gender difficult to talk about, especially in public. From my experience there is a chasm of misunderstanding between male colleagues and their female counterparts and in my experience, being one of few female composers of my generation, I am exasperated by the way in which women are systematically excluded from support networks that lead to opportunities. I note here that all the opportunities that I have received are directly or indirectly related to an opportunity that I have applied for through a selective process. I have observed my male colleagues receive many opportunities without having to go through this process.
I am still baffled by the lack of women to be employed as teachers and when I am confronted with statistics about numbers of women being commissioned compared to men I worry that although we are talking about it, little change is being made. I have had a fruitful career as a composer until now. Due to this I want other women to be able to follow a similar path.
Defining gender and gender diversity is complicated, multi-faceted, tied to many cultural and social conditions that when facing this subject one cannot help but feel overwhelmed, so much so that it has a magic disappearing act the moment pen hits paper. The details needed to explain the situation of being both a female and a composer are contentious, and are for the most part restricted to private experience and observations and yet in order to collectively discuss the implications of gender and diversity in music making, these experiences that were held under lock and key for so many years, can only be analysed if taken out of their box and put on the communal table.
I would like to speak about the many complexities of this subject, most of which are subtle, a few of which are overt, all of which are personal and at times embarrassing, not only for me but for the situation (or to subtly qualify that, “the institution”). They are linked to emotion, to the very heart of existentialism and of course discussing emotion in public is difficult. As a female composer I have trouble talking about emotion in public because “emotion” is restricted to the so called “weakness” of women opposed to the more publicly accepted “rationale” so often associated with the “strength” of men. I have trouble discussing emotion because I don’t want to be associated with being weak – or – in affirming the weakness of my sex, because I am a woman and I do feel emotion… When I say the subject disappears when I put pen to paper, I am saying that I am in a habit of marginalising my experience, brushing it aside, trying to forget in order to get on with things and to rationalise the situation, telling myself that it did not matter, that I over reacted, that my emotion was not justified. By rationalising my reaction, I am also repressing my experience to the point where when trying to recall what happened, I question myself whether I was imagining things in the first place. I am not used to having a public platform to speak about this. I appreciate being here and I am terrified at the thought of being vulnerable. I am terrified at revealing my weakness, in proving that I too am a “weak” woman.
In one phrase outlining the association of women with weakness and men with strength the issue at hand is illuminated. Why is emotion weak? why is “femaleness” weak? why is emotion “female”? what is “female”? What is “weak”? Catching my emotion in response to that statement (I feel ashamed of having an emotional response, I feel ashamed of being ashamed), why am I afraid of being weak, why am I denying my gender in order to appear strong. Why is “rationality” seen as strong? why is rationality seen as male? why is maleness regarded as strong? what is strength?
Catching a thought or an emotion related to this subject is like standing in a room of swarming bugs and reaching out to catch them one at a time, slapping two hands together in futility as they zip past, buzzing in one’s ear, stinging one’s skin, stringing a story together that consists of the dead parts of memories, placing them next to each other bit by bit and creating fragmentary line of events, the thorns from which one has been scared and healed so many times that the distinction between research and personal experience is hard to extricate.
Even though this is a general discussion, the reason that I am here, the reason that I have been invited, that I have accepted, that I am passionate about this subject is because of my personal experience and not because of music. I do not think about gender when I write music and my music is not characteristically so called “female” because it happens to have been written by an individual who identifies as female because of her biological sex. A minor triad is not female nor is it weak, a major triad in not male nor is it strong, a diatonic scale is not female nor is it outdated, a dodecaphonic sequence is not male nor is it revolutionary, a note is not female nor is it obvious, a noise is not male nor is it risky, melody is not female nor is it pretty, rhythm is not male nor does it incite war. Music in and of itself is not gendered or if it is, this is an imposition from individuals rather than a science.
When considering the concept of “Gender” as opposed to biological sex, it is observable that so often these two things are mistaken for each other. Sex is related to anatomy, gender is related to the inter-relationship between polar opposites. The anatomy of a person is gendered in that it can be either male or female or both, male being the polar opposite of female. When it comes to the gender of a person, different from the gender of a person’s anatomy, there is a spectrum between feminine and masculine. The difference between feminine and masculine is a social construct wherein individuals from both sexes can be either masculine or feminine in the way they interact socially, the clothes they wear, the subjects in which they are interested, the life choices that they make. All people lie somewhere on this spectrum, or multiple places simultaneously depending on the activity in which they are participating, the point wherein they lie in life or the culture in which they are brought up. This is where the disappearing act begins, where defining factors of masculinity versus femininity vanish before one’s eyes. Clothes for example: the presumption that trousers are male, dresses and skirts are female, short hair is male, long hair is female, flat shoes are male, high shoes are female, no make-up is male, make-up is female is shallow and non-descript when one considers that this differs in diverse cultures and countries around the world largely determined by culture, religion, climate and practicality. These are social constructs defining the differences between two ways of being a human, a label applied to define one in equal opposite to another.
The trouble begins when the gender of one’s biological sex becomes confused with the social construct of masculine versus feminine. The association of maleness with leadership and protection opposed to femaleness being nurturing and caring is as shallow and non-descript as whether or not you wear trousers. The line between leadership and protection and nurturing and caring could exist on a spectrum where an individual can be both simultaneously and can change at any moment. The gender of one’s sex and where they stand between masculinity and femininity are two different things. It becomes fraught when gender becomes tied up with power and entitlement, where masculinity becomes synonymous with the repression or subjugation of all that is feminine, where the spectrum
is viewed vertically where masculinity is the maximum and femininity is the minimum. The spectrum is a not a vertical spectrum. It is not a maximum and minimum. It is a horizontal spectrum of the diversity of difference and the balance between the two opposite states of being.
Historically, a blindfold holds significant symbolic meaning. It can indicate invisibility, a victim, one who is ignorant, one who cannot help themselves, one who is removed from their ego. In every instance, iconography featuring the blindfold is worn by a female figure. It is a powerful portrayal of the collective perception of women, their personality removed from public presence and the presumptions pertaining to their role and significance within a society.
Focussing on gender diversity, this discussion outlines determining factors that continue to undermine women’s presence in the public sphere. The challenge to address taboo subjects which continue to flavour experience, is volatile and at times difficult to pinpoint. Unspoken beliefs surrounding sexuality, ability and potential are still shrouded in scepticism and mythology. It is the taboo that must be recognised, revealed, placed under the microscope and disentangled from reality.
Posing the stance that day to day interactions coloured by prevailing social expectations determines one’s sense of identity. Perception of achievement through the ongoing process of reflection and reinforcement defines decisions and choices in relation to a career in creative and technical paths such as composition and education including teaching and mentoring.
Reframing historical figures such as the composers Francesca Caccini (1587 – after 1641)
, not as the daughter of the composer Giulio Caccini but as a famous composer in her own right who wrote the opera La Liberazione di Ruggiero. This is considered to be the first full length opera written by a woman, or Alma Mahler (1879-1964) not as the woman who married many famous men including Gustav Mahler, Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel but as a talented musician who prided herself on her own compositions and original way of thinking. Alma was not the classic image of a victim. She was not the beaten down, battered and down trodden waif that we would expect a victim to look like, but a feisty, powerful socialite whose exuberance outlives her role as the wife of Mahler and mother of his children. She was known to be the most beautiful woman in Vienna, the smartest as well, managing to capture the hearts of the social elite of her time.
In light of current changing attitudes towards women, their output, reception and recognition as public figures is reconsidered. By outlining the discriminatory views and attitudes traditionally associated with creative women that ensure they remain hidden and excluded from the mainstream of historical discourse, recontextualization of their contribution from a contemporary perspective becomes significant.
With reverence to diversity, the variety and variability of experiences and concepts that creative practitioners have to offer is key to the evolution of a thriving scene. With particular respect to classical contemporary composition, the argument of this presentation emphasises why the creative voice of people traditionally underrepresented in the mainstream canon, is not only necessary but relevant and filled with vitality, rich with colour, ideas, expressions and sound-worlds from all angles of humanity. The balance and exchange of different ideas, experiences and wisdom creates the intricate tapestry of a tight knit, complex and interwoven global community.
This conference is in response to the overwhelming observation that in the field of composition and music making, concert programs, publications, faculty members, artistic
directors, radio presenters, represented composers with major publishing labels are largely dominated by men despite the recent focus of the inclusion of women.
It is for this reason that I champion the representation of diverse perspectives, from people with many backgrounds revealing to us the full spectrum of the human experience and the creative voice of people expressing their stories, thoughts and inventions through their work is a magnifying glass through which one can see into worlds different from our own. I am in favour of the quota ruling that ensures at least 40 percent of places in committees, juries, faculties, programmes, recipients of national grants and commissions are held by women because women need female teachers, mentors and role models. We need to hear each other. Women make music. Women think. Women are a part of the human experience.