What did it take to be a great classical composer? Genius was essential, of course. So too was a sustained education in composition. Usually, the great composer needed a professional position, whether court musician, conservatory professor, or Kapellmeisterand the authority, income and opportunities provided by that position.
A great composer required access to the places where music is performed and circulated, whether cathedral, court, printers or opera house. And most, if not all, had wives, mistresses and muses, to support, stimulate and inspire their great achievements. There is, of course, a simpler answer: be born male. The good news is that, although it might have been easier to achieve as a man, there are many painfully underappreciated female composers who were undoubtedly great.
These forgotten women achieved artistic greatness despite the fact that for centuries the idea of genius has remained a male preserve; despite working in cultures which systematically denied almost all women access to advanced education in composition; despite not being able, by virtue of their sex, take up a professional position, control their own money, publish their own music, enter certain public spaces; and despite having their art reduced to simplistic formulas about male and female music — graceful girls, vigorous intellectual boys.
What of Barbara Strozzi, who had more music in print in the 17th century than any other composer and was known and admired far beyond her native Venice?
And that only takes us up to Clara Schumann, certainly one of the great pianists of the 19th-century, silenced herself as a composer for many reasons, none of them good. The usual interpretation is that she was overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood Clara had eight children, seven of whom survived childhoodcoupled with the need to support her seriously ill husband, Robert, himself a famed composer.
The music she did write is good, sometimes great: what she was capable of we will never know. Like Boulanger, Maconchy faced an early death. She wanted to die in her English homeland.
William nursed his wife assiduously through some terrible times. In fact, she lived untilcontinuing to compose into old age. I think not. What is striking about these women, is that each worked so hard not only to have the chance to compose, but to get her music out into the traditionally male-dominated public world. Fanny Hensel, denied the professional, international opportunities seized by her brother, Felix Mendelssohn, created a special musical salon in Berlin.
Lili Boulanger, after watching and learning from the failure of her older sister, Nadia, to break through the Parisian glass ceiling on talent alone, smashed through it herself by presenting herself in public at least as a fragile child-woman.
History Archaeology. World History.This initiative has grown from a small spreadsheet project with a couple hundred names and hyperlinks to a vast and growing and FREE resource for the entire musical community through the work of a dedicated mostly-volunteer administrative team. As of this moment, only five of the twelve members of our admin team have full-time jobs and those who don't have either lost their jobs or look to be losing serious amounts of their annual income because of the pandemic ravaging our country.
I need your help to help them during this unprecedented time. I have always said that this project will be free to the public.Female screen composers overlooked at the Oscars, getting louder in the industry
I have also said that I will not take a salary for this work and Penny Brandt, our head of development, has joined me in this. But there are many who have made this resource a reality who are in need of help and many others that we have the potential to support.
Every little bit helps, and we are eager to support those who are struggling most in this time. Thank you…and to all my friends and colleagues—be safe, be healthy, and be well. You can search by composer name, living or deceased, specifically for women or non-binary composers, common large and small ensemble genres, racial, ethnic, or cultural demographics, and by location city, state, and country.
Forms to submit works for these and all of our databases can be found here! ANALYSIS Our Orchestra Season Analysis gathers and analyzes seasonal programming data from the professional concert world and provide simple, straight-forward analyses of current programming and curricular trends.
Our resource initiatives provides conductors, performers, educators, researchers, media programmers, and music distributors tools with which they can make data-informed and model-based decisions on how best to diversify their programming and connect with their audiences and students.
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Support ICD. Databases CDD. ICD Works. Database Basics. Report A Broken Link. Composer Database Submission Form. Orchestra Database Submission Form. Wind Band Database Submission Form. Art Song Submission Form. Chamber Music Submission Form. Choral Submission Form. Resources Analysis. Best Practices. Home Search. What an outstanding resource! Everyone should be aware of this database! This resource immediately makes the future narrative for classical music more inclusive.In the past years, dozens of prominent black composers from America and other parts of the African diaspora have fought to be recognised by the western classical tradition.
The earliest example is Chevalier de Saint-Georges Born in Guadeloupe, the son of a wealthy plantation owner and a female slave, Saint-George was brought to France at a young age. He was a prolific composer with several operas, 15 violin concertos, symphonies and numerous chamber works to his name and a rare French exponent of early classical violin composition.
Saint-Georges would have perhaps come into contact with George Bridgewatera violinist of African origin born in present-day Poland.
These Women Composers Should Be Household Names Like Bach or Mozart
By the age of nine, his father who was probably born in Barbados had taken him to London, where he was shown off as a child prodigy, performing in front of the likes of Thomas Jefferson and George IV. His story was also the basis for a opera, written by Julian Joseph. As a violin scholar at the Royal College of Music, he was taught composition under Charles Villiers Stanford and soon developed a reputation as a composer, with Edward Elgar recommending him to the Three Choirs festival in By the time he died of pneumonia — aged only 37 — he had already toured America three times and performed for Theodore Roosevelt at the White House.
As Alex Ross observes in his study of modern classical music, The Rest Is Noise, the history of African American composition around the turn of the 20th century is full of sorrowful tales. Most sorrowful of all was Scott Joplin By the turn of the century his piano rags, such as Maple Leaf Rag, had become a national sensation, but he was desperate to be taken seriously as an orchestral composer.
His opera Treemonisha was all but ignored, and he died insane in after his brain was destroyed by syphilis. Other black American composers had happier endings.
Florence B Price was the first African American woman to have a work played by a major orchestra — the Chicago Symphony premiered her Symphony in E minor inbut despite success during her lifetime, her many compositions are rarely played today. And George Walkerborn in and still working today, was the first black American composer to win the Pulitzer prize for music for Lilacs, a piece for voice and orchestra, in However, for all his acclaim, he still remains a cult figure in the world of contemporary composition.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest. Topics Classical music Music blog. Orchestra blogposts. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. Loading comments… Trouble loading?The music of Beethoven will be inescapable this year, as orchestras around the world celebrate his th birthday.
But the Juilliard School has another anniversary in mind for its upcoming Focus Festival : the centennial of the 19th Amendment.
It was difficult enough for Mr. Sachs and Ms. But then The New York Times asked them to speak about 10 whose music they were especially eager to share during the festival.
Here are their picks. The music of Florence Price — whose milestones included being the first black woman to have her music played by a major American orchestra, the Chicago Symphony — has enjoyed something of a renaissance over the past decade, after a trove of her manuscripts was discovered in And record labels have responded in kind with a flourishing catalog of albums.
This sonata, Ms. Ursula Mamlok, who died inwas a close friend of Mr. Her birth year was often listed asbut that was a reflection of her early life: Her family had fled Germany during Nazi rule and settled briefly in Ecuador. Ruth Crawford Seeger is the only composer to be programmed twice during the Focus festival. But the majority of her works come from before the worst days of the Great Depression and World War II; after those events, for reasons both personal and societal, her output slowed and she was programmed far less than her male peers.
Sachs said. But they found the score too continuous to pull out any particular moment, so they opted for this orchestral interlude, which Ms. The Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina is now nearing her 90s; she has lived through Stalin and the fall of the Soviet Union, along with waves of musical fashion that have washed over, more than influenced, what Mr.
Sachs praised as her singular voice. She was encouraged and mentored by the likes of Schnittke and Shostakovich, without sounding like either one. The drama of it, Mr. Sachs said, is very clear. And for the players, Ms. This work was commissioned for the Scottish city of Glasgow. Lee Young-ja, born inis considered one of the most important South Korean composers of her generation, if not the 20th century as a whole.
Her style is a global one that reflects her education in both Europe and the United States. This trio — for piano, violin and cello — is a work in a decidedly French mode that Ms.
The Romanian composer Myriam Marbe was not closed off from the musical trends of the 20th century, but she rarely left her country — even during its worst years under communist rule. As such, Ms.
And her country has responded with honors including a competition in her name in Lodz. That city is where Mr. Sachs first conducted her Second Cello Concerto, which remains a relatively obscure work in Ms.
Juilliard Celebrates 32 Female Composers of the 20th Century
By the time she wrote the piece, her style had evolved into a modernism on par, Mr. It almost seems improvisatory, and uses the cello as a kind of dramatic singer.
She does, though, have a cult following, including increasingly popular marathons of her six piano sonatas — with a total running time of only an hour, but the physical and emotional demands of something much longer.
Florence Price Piano Sonata in E minor Grazyna Bacewicz Cello Concerto No.Maybe Haydn or Handel. Maybe Wagner but usually only Ride of the Valkyries. Maybe a 20th-century composer or two like Stravinsky or Copland. But certainly, never about any of the women over the years who have written classical music.
In the past, women were often limited in what they could write, thanks to gender roles. Never large -scale works, like operas or symphonies, where you would need to rent out a concert hall to have them properly performed. In fact, some of the biggest, most influential composers of that era were known mainly for writing operas, like Verdi and Wagner, or symphonies, like Gustav Mahler.
However, women were making headway in what would become classical music long before these rules came into place. And even once they did, women found ways to get their voices heard despite the odds. There are plenty of ancient Greek musical treatises — which helped set the foundation for modern Western music theory — but not a lot in the way of actual music for anthropologists to check out, and most of that does exist is only in fragments.
The oldest known complete musical composition in the world only dates to about B. Hildegard von Bingen C. Hildegard von Bingen…. Heck, she even invented her own alphabetand her medical texts are still influential today with advocates of natural remedies.
In an era when most people — much less, women — never left their home villages, Hildegard went on four preaching tours throughout Germany at the time, mostly part of the Holy Roman Empire.
She used her platform not just to spread her theological views and tales of her visions, but also to call for reform within the church. As far as music goes, St.
Hildegard used her visions to write some truly gorgeous liturgical music. She set her own lyric poetry to music, collecting it in the Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum in the early s, as well as writing music based on more typical hymn texts.
One of her best-known works is the Ordo Virtutuma morality play which is the only one from the medieval period where both the text and the music survives. It portrays a group of Virtues and Satan battling for a soul, or anima. And yes, St. Hildegard might have even had a queer side. She had a close relationship with a fellow nun, Richardis von Stadewhich some scholars believe may have been romantic in nature.
When Richardis was appointed abbess elsewhere, Hildegard wrote letters urging that the decision be reversed, to no avail, only for Richardis to die shortly after her departure. Though she was nominated for it repeatedly, beginning only a few decades after her death, Hildegard has only just recently been officially canonized as a saint.
But she also has an asteroid named after herwhich is even cooler in my book. Later in the Middle Ages, during the 12th and 13th centuries C. But did you know there were female troubadours, too? But what is interesting is that a number of their love songs were addressed to other women.
Trobairitz Beatriz de Dia fl. Several centuries later, Venice, Italy was the center of the music world, where new genres of vocal music developed during the late Renaissance and early baroque periods — the late 16th and 17th centuries. During this time, another notable woman composer came on to the scene: Barbara Strozzi She was trained and performed as a singer and studied with important composers of the day, such as Francesco Cavalli, one of the early Venetian composers of the then-new genre known as opera.
She was one of the most prolific vocal music composers of her time, writing hundreds of music in both traditional genres like madrigals and motetsand in the new genre of the cantata, where she was a pioneer. Later in the period, Bach became known for his choral cantatas, but Strozzi was one of the early composers in the form. Below is an excerpt from her cantata Lagrimie mie :.While African American history should be taught and honored all year round, the celebration of Black History Month allows us to pay special tribute to the monumental struggles and triumphs of generations of African Americans.
A key aim of Sphinx is to empower current composers of color and introduce more of their works, as well as the works of those who paved the way before them, into the lexicon of popularly performed pieces. Though hardly an exhaustive list, these seven significant classical composers of color have made unique and groundbreaking contributions to the industry, and we salute them during this important month of learning and reflection.
He trained in Panama and the United States, where he received a Guggenheim Fellowship for composition and conducting. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, named after Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor, was an African-American composer whose work crossed genres from the classics, to jazz, to scores for film and television. Coleman began her music studies in Louisville, Kentucky at the age of eleven — by the age of fourteen, she had written three symphonies and won several local and state performance competitions.
Haitian-American composer, performer, violinist, and band-leader Daniel Bernard Roumain DBR is known for his genre-bending music, infusing signature violin with electronic and urban music influences. New York native Jessie Montgomery is a violinist, composer, and music educator. Montgomery is a member of the Catalyst Quartet and serves as Composer-in-Residence for the Sphinx Virtuosi, an piece self-conducted ensemble that tours the country each fall. Still was a trailblazer in many ways: he was the first African American to conduct a professional symphony orchestra in the United States Los Angeles Philharmonic inthe first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra Symphony No.
His legacy includes volumes of chamber music, especially for unusual combinations of instruments, as well as many significant orchestral works, including four symphonies and concertos for piano, violin, and viola. Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, named after Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor, was an African-American composer whose work crossed genres from the classics, to jazz, to scores for film and television.
She is currently working on the two-hour score for the opera The Little Rock Nine, based on the true story of the nine African-American students who enrolled at the formerly all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in September Valerie Coleman b. She is a prolific recording artist, sought-after recitalist, educator and mentor, and strong advocate for diversity in the arts. Inshe launched the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival, a summer mentorship program for collegiate and post-graduate musicians.
Johnson Memorial Award presented at SphinxConnect, the epicenter for artists and leaders in diversity. Jessie Montgomery b. Listening to, learning, and performing the works of composers of color allows classical music to tell a more complete story, to represent a broader perspective, and to amplify voices that must be heard. We encourage you to share this list, and to do your own research on the countless other composers of color who have made and are making the world of classical music a richer tapestry.
Receive Sphinx e-news updates! Sign up here.Tom Huizenga. The Women's March and MeToo movement have helped raise the volume for women's voices across the country. But one place where women still struggle to be heard is in America's symphony halls.
Take a look at which composers the top U. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be presenting some 54 composers throughout its season. Want to guess how many of those composers are women? The number is zero. Same goes for the Philadelphia Orchestra. To be fair, Philadelphia has programmed women composers in the past so has Chicagoincluding works by Jennifer Higdon.
She's lucky; her music gets played a lot. This year she has three concertos premiering, including her Concerto for Low Brass, which was heard in Philadelphia in February. Higdon is a year-old Pulitzer and Grammy winner and a Philadelphia resident whose music is accessible to both orchestras and audiences.
Higdon's most popular work is blue cathedral and it's on tap next season for the Cleveland Orchestra. But out of 41 composers the symphony will present, Higdon's is the only one by a woman. Success has given Higdon some perspective. While orchestras play her music, she says they seem deaf to hundreds of other women composers. And when they do program women, it tends to be the ones who are already successful, like Higdon, or Julia Wolfe, who won a Pulitzer in for her oratorio Anthracite Fields.
But, out of 49 composers, Wolfe is joined by only one other woman in the upcoming season. It's a ratio that doesn't sit well with Higdon. Jennifer Higdon is one of the only female composers presenting this season. Half of humanity is made up of women," she says. And so, you end up with tons of Mozart and Beethoven. Another problem, Rosen adds, is that orchestras have to please a lot of constituents: audiences, board members, marketing departments and donors.
Then there are the conductors and artistic directors — most of them men. They're the ones who choose the music. But the bottom line for orchestras is money. And you've got very thin financial margins you're trying to manage. So I think it's part of life in the arts," Rosen says. The real question for composers, though, is how to break into the exclusive group whose music gets performed? Rothman says this question is equally relevant for young composers, composers of color and women.
And for orchestras to simply check off the female composer box once or twice a year isn't going to cut it either, according to Rosen. Among the top American orchestras programming more than just one or two women next season are the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
But they still come up short. Each is presenting just six women out of a total of One composer on both of these rosters is Kaija Saariahoa Finnish native who gets played more in Europe than she does in the U. Some might caution that crunching numbers for a single season doesn't provide a large enough picture. But Higdon knows the numbers have been lousy for years. It's up to us ticket holders, she says, to ask for something better.