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Today I came across an article with a very disturbing title; The ”Woman Composer’ is Dead. This terrified me into reading on.

The article mainly discusses the struggles of female composers throughout history, but also that in today’s society, many of these issues can still be found.

Many female composers in the up to the late 20th century were faced with gender restrictions which made any artistic or career pursuits very difficult. Clara Schumann, well-know and highly regarded pianist was also a brilliant composer, although this fact is often omitted from texts. She faced many obstacles and was fiercely criticised for presenting performances of her works. In her diary she wrote:

“I once thought that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose—not one has been able to do it, and why should I expect to? It would be arrogance, though indeed, my father led me into it in earlier days. “

And she’s not the only one. The list of women who have faced the same issue is endless.

The rest of the world is progressing, slowly as it may be, where gender stereotyping and restrictions are concerned, so why is the creative industries (which is at the forefront of technological advances and an acclaimed area for building awareness and fighting serious social and political issues for decades) still working with such an archaic way of thinking?

Was Schumann right? Is it arrogant to think that women can be successful as creative innovators? Is it impossible for a female to really possess enough creative talent to compete with the male dominated industry?

 

Cross Over

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Last week I had the pleasure of taking part in a fantastic Creative Crossover Lab, produced by Crossover Labs, Faction North and Sheffield Doc/Fest.

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This is one of the best events I have ever attended. The mentors and organisers were engaging, relevant, and so helpful. Teamed with an intense programme of tasks, assignments and opportunities, this week long workshop was a phenomenal experience to be a part of.

After receiving a list of bios from the mentors and attendees I was initially terrified as the list of achievements and skills presented were vast and a little intimidating, but minutes after arriving at the venue I was deep in conversation about film, music, and the industry (and a sigh of relief as I discovered that my fellow attendees were human, and equally as intimidated as I was)

The week consisted of talks and tasks from industry professionals who offered compelling stories about how they got where they are today, and invaluable little nuggets of advice on how we can do the same (and again, they were human!)

The assignments set encouraged everyone to work together in small groups and utilise the unique skill sets we all possessed. We were presented with new techniques, advice on how to present our ideas, and encouraged to explore new ideas together in a comfortable accepting environment.

The people I met over the week were a wonderful and creative bunch (although I am sure sanity had no place in that venue for the week) and I am sure these people will be both professional contacts and great friends for the rest of my creative career.

I would strongly recommend that everyone in the creative industries, no matter what stage of your career, should take part in one of these labs. It will change the way you see your own work, that of others, and how you approach every aspect of it in a wonderful new light.

Cross over! It’s mind blowing!

What about us?

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I know this isn’t a new topic of discussion, but as a female composer currently trying to break into the industry, this is a pressing issue for me. Recently I have been thinking a lot about where my place is in the music industry as a female composer, and I have found that I am not the only one. Many other female composers have blogged, discussed and asked the same question. So what’s going on?

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Film composition isn’t the only industry where this happens. It is well known that there are many careers which are male dominated industries, such as engineering, manual labour and politics, so it’s a fairly common occurrence, but why? As far as I can see, generally we live in a world where the boundaries of gender have almost entirely disappeared in most walks of life. So where are all the ladies?

When asked to name famous film  composers, most people would recall Williams, Zimmer, Elfman and Horner, but where is the female equivalent of these musical greats? Many female composers are very successful in their careers, and there are a huge number of women composing for media at the moment, but most are composing for TV or smaller budget films. Most of the women who have composed for major film releases have received less recognition, or have been a relatively unknown co-composer alongside the aforementioned superstars of film scores.

One of the most worrying opinions I have read comes from John Ottoman. In an interview for The International Alliance for Women in Music, Mikael Carlsson posed this question, to which he replied:

“It’s simply been women not being viewed as having the “chops” that males have — especially when it comes to “commanding” scores, or those with aggression. The misconception is that women composers tend to be meek, less bold or daring. And if they try to do so, the prejudice against them is that their efforts are seen as contrived or forced; in other words, trying to imitate boldness and not doing it naturally. So women composers have been in a sort of “Catch 22.” Because of this, I assume there are not as many women composers even trying to get into an uphill battle because they’re discouraged being faced with a glass ceiling.”

This worries me. Will I have to settle for less success? Less money? Just because I was born the “wrong” gender for this industry. Will I have to work harder, sacrifice more? Is there any point or should I just give in and accept the fact that I will have to take what I can get, or be ok with being rejected in favour of a male alternative? Or should I adopt a Viola (Twefth Night) style method in order to avoid gender stereotyping and discrimination?
In an already competitive industry is this really another barrier I should expect in the 21st century?