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Lucy Brumby

Perspectives On Music

In 500 words, explain: "Why are there no Great Female Composers?'. Refer
to the articles by Damian Thompson and Kerry Andrew.

In order to answer the question why are there no Great Female Composers?' it is necessary to
define greatness, which according to the Oxford dictionary is of an extent, amount, or intensity
considerably above average. (Oxford Dictionaries, English, 2017). Both female and male composers
exist, however, if you were asked to name three famous composers, generally, Mozart, Beethoven,
and Bach might enter your head, rather than Schumann, Beach, and Smyth for example. Does this
then mean that the females aren't great composers? Not at all, that's a matter of opinion as to
whether they are considered to be above average. It's no surprise that therefore the question of the
lack of composers that are female, greatness irrelevant, is entwined with the topic of male
dominance throughout history.

In the spectator's article, Thompson admits that in the past, so few women wrote music'
(Thompson, 2017) linking to Andrew's article in which she states it was just about acceptable by the
19th century for female writers to be published'. This makes considerable acknowledgment to the
fact that there have been significantly fewer women composers, full stop. So effectively, throughout
history fewer women statistically have pursued composition, for various reasons, therefore the small
percentage that may be creative geniuses' (Thompson, 2017) is automatically minimized.

Alternatively, the gender gap that is traditionally apparent in most professions plays a role within
composition and women. Actually, only 14% of the PRS for Music Foundations are female, which is
just one statistic confirming that women are still heavily underrepresented within the music
industry. It is frequently the case in the present day that women are used to or made to feel like a
box ticker' for a select metaphorical category because there are so few female composers. She's
significant mainly because she's a woman' (Thompson, 2017), indicates that general perspective is
that as a product of the shift towards equality and equal gender representation, females are
positively discriminated against, that being a woman gives them the support vote. It seems
ridiculous to tick a box of a metaphorical category when that category is half of the population.

Look a little further down the chain, and you'll consistently see more eager male teenage
composers, there's a real dropping-off in confidence in teenage girls to compose' (Andrew, 2017)
Realistically, education is the root of most influences and if there is a lack of females looking at
composition as a prospective career, that is probably due to the lack of educational influences and
role models. The Edexcel exam board have recently changed their curriculum to include female
composers, which displays that girls have not been shown women that compose, most of the taught
composers are stereotypically white, male and dead. It, therefore, isn't a surprise that females aren't
instilled with confidence to become composers.

Greatness is a matter of individual perception and opinion- she's an interesting composer, but not a
great one' (Thompson, 2017). It is much more likely something will be great, if we are both, aware of
it, and that we can place it in comparison with other similar things to decide what is the best,
consequently creating a metaphorical category of those that are great, unanimously. If we are not
aware of female composers, because there aren't any, there will certainly never be any great female
composers. And if those females that do pursue a career in composition are consistently taught and
compared to the likes of Mozart and other stereotypical historic composers, with composers that
are a product of the twentieth century, gender regardless, there will never be any great female
composers. I think celebrating people that are alive is really important' (Galloway, 2017) which is
what it essentially comes down too, alongside changing early influences from root education to
Lucy Brumby
Perspectives On Music
encourage confidence that anyone can compose, and the unanimous acceptance of both male and
female being completely equal.

Word Count: 556 excluding quotes.


Lucy Brumby
Perspectives On Music

Reference List

Andrew, K. (2017). Why there are so few female composers | Kerry Andrew. [online] the Guardian.
Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/08/why-so-few-female-
composers [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].

Discogs.com. (2017). The 50 Greatest Composers. [online] Available at:


https://www.discogs.com/lists/The-50-Greatest-Composers/1571 [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].
`
Interview:
Galloway, M. (2017). Why are there no Great Female Composers?.

Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2017). great | Definition of great in English by Oxford Dictionaries.
[online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/great [Accessed 29 Oct. 2017].

Thompson, D. (2017). There's a good reason why there are no great female composers | The
Spectator. [online] The Spectator. Available at: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/09/the-reason-
why-there-are-no-female-composers-on-the-syllabus-is-because-theyre-no-good/ [Accessed 29 Oct.
2017].
Lucy Brumby
Perspectives On Music