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18 MMNieuws

2012 # 6

Where are the women? Working to change the landscape of European music Text: Patricia Adkins Chiti

One of the most dynamic areas in the current labour market is that of the cultural and creative industries. Studies show that this market (which includes everything from visual or performing arts to multimedia production, publishing and the fashion business) is considered capable of securing sustainable employment for millions of people in Europe and that it will reinforce endogenous regional potentials. Yet within this field, the rights of women composers and creators of music are consistently subjected to gender based discrimination. There is an on-going increase in the number of women entering and working in the various professional fields within the sector and, quite clearly, they would be helped and sustained by a major understanding of the impetus for equal opportunities implicit in the Treaty of Amsterdam.

The issue that Women in Music Uniting Strategies for Talent (WIMUST) faces is that within a diversified society and arts community some actors are seen as far more equal than others. There is diversity rich in inspiration, but the distribution and consumption of the creative product is being delivered through a network of exclusive clubs and gatekeepers. We should ask ourselves why so many influential female artists remain largely invisible in the history of the arts and absent from contemporary conversations about the value of diversity in the arts today. The Fondazione Adkins Chiti: Donne in Musica has been working since 1978 to empower and mainstream the music of women composers and creators while encouraging the mobility of women musicians to enhance professional skills and artistic development through residencies, presentations and live performances and to increase the circulation of ideas and music across linguistic and national borders. However, even in countries where women teach composition in conservatories or universities and run music organisations, their inclusion in mainstream music events is minimal and they are unable to live from their compositions and the performing rights that should arrive if works are publicly performed. In most countries, women are equal in number to male composers, and in some countries more. However, only 1% of their music (traditional, popular, classical, and contemporary) is programmed by public funded institutions and 89% of public arts and culture institutions are directed by men. If, as WIMUST

research confirms, women represent 40% of European composers and creators of music, why do only 2% of them receive performances of their works by publicly funded organisations? Why is this money (52,32% of which comes from female tax payers) being used to promote male aesthetics? Where are the women? A matter of taste? Composers and music creators submit scores to artistic directions, organisers, recording companies and radio stations in the hope that these are read by peers. The majority depend upon suggestions from others – music publishers, external consultants, colleagues. The study Secret Agenda’s in Orchestra Programming showed that new works by female composers are rarely accepted. All women composers suggest that publicly subsidised organisations should have score reading/artistic commissions made up of equal numbers of men and women and that all scores should be submitted blind (that is, without the name of the author). As the result of the questionnaire distributed to many hundreds of European women composers, we learned that they complained, above all, of not being sufficiently programmed. National legislation could enforce the inclusion of a percentage of works by women within those projects that are publicly funded. Throughout Europe, composers (women and men) are unable to earn a living only from their musical compositions and performing rights and in many countries, the music-generated income is well below national poverty level. When women are excluded from the programming of important events and continually face difficulties with the production and promotion of their music they certainly do not feel understood or accepted. How many set up their own ensemble, performing group or band to guarantee some kind of continuity for their own music? How many women composers (in any field and of any age) are given radio or television coverage? How many are invited to give presentations of their own works in conservatories or university music departments? How many are included in school text books, or within the curricula for conservatory courses? WIMUST exists to try to answer and solve these kinds of questions. Europe has many excellent composers but very few large scale opportunities due to stringent arts funding. This means that old boy networks flourish and the best opportunities go to composers backed by powerful advocates who often receive all the opportunities year after year. When women are interviewed they


complain that their work is subject to quality control. Within fields where artistic directors or administrators define quality, only a minority achieve their objectives. When a woman is never considered for any of the above one hears that a ‘woman would have been invited if they had had the same qualities as a man’. Interesting when one remembers that quality is more often defined by men than by women. The number of women composers increases every year. We know that there is a large audience curious and willing to listen to and participate in new music if a bridge is built between composer and public. Access to dissemination channels and therefore to a potential audience is of critical importance for creators to develop an ability to interact with their environment and to survive. A helping hand In 2011 the Fondazione Adkins Chiti: Donne in Musica created WIMUST, supported by European Commission Culture Programme, administrated by EACEA, in collaboration with Women in Music organisations in 27 countries representing all musical genres. An integral part of WIMUST is the mapping of women composers throughout the EU. Gender disaggregated data is essential for the arts, country by country. But active participation in the arts is just as important as statistical data and may be achieved by reaching out to new audiences. Donne in Musica has organised concerts, festivals and spectacular events since 1978 and is well aware of the importance of audience participation. We believe that audience development is complementary to artistic education and begins at school. In many countries music making is an integral part of school curricula but the repertoire taught does not include contemporary music or that composed by women. To encourage a greater knowledge of what a composer does, and to have a close encounter with contemporary music, Donne in Musica’s on-going Composer Presentation Concerts in schools and training institutions, are attractive and different because they are totally interactive: any member of the public can ask questions and receive answers. New works are presented in segments/sections and then performed without a break facilitating the impact on the audience. Donne in Musica builds its public by inviting parents to come to the school concerts and by inviting older, established concert goers to bring along a young relative. Concerts and performances are streamed onto YouTube and television and radio stations are encouraged to record and film performances while university arts departments come to performances to make documentaries. The principle message given at every concert

is that today’s new talent could be tomorrow’s great artist; each time the public lines up to have their programmes autographed. To mainstream and empower women as creative artists their works must be listened to – only if heard can other stakeholders talk about quality or innovation. Composing is a craft after all and music must be heard so that the composers can develop and move on. We need a larger enthusiastic public to change the status quo. When WIMUST organisations plan a concert or festival or nightclub programme they try to obtain as many performances of the same programme as possible – often the audience returns for a second hearing and this encourages musicians to prepare music with greater care allowing them to develop as

heard a live concert – certainly not contemporary music – and that has never met a composer in the flesh. WIMUST is convinced of the need to increase and encourage access and participation in the arts for all members of society; a fundamental step towards a greater and more active European citizenship. Culture will not reach its full potential if half of the population is excluded from it in so many different ways. c LINK

However, even in countries where women teach composition in conservatories or universities and run music organisations, their inclusion in mainstream music events is minimal and they are unable to live from their compositions and the performing rights that should arrive if works are publicly performed. well. Contemporary music is often not a primary concern in professional training institutions and musicians prefer to play older, better known work. Ergo, the repetition of a new work encourages enthusiasm from the players and it is the polished, enthusiastic and convinced performance of a new work that communicates the composer’s intentions to the audience. Behind all of this there is preparation of an audience profile, a marketing and advertising plan and campaign and then an attendance plan which includes multiple emails and telefaxes inviting individuals, organisations and associations to the event. In recent years WIMUST has nurtured a number of bloggers and podcasters who push concerts and feature (through online interviews) the women composers. WIMUST and the participating European organisations for Donne in Musica have each built a large diversified public of men and women from childhood to old age, including the socially disadvantaged (handicapped, in hospitals, prisons and old age homes). By taking concerts to villages and provincial towns it is possible to reach a public that may never have

Lend a helping hand! WIMUST is not just about research, it’s also about action. We invite everyone to contribute and sign our online petition to help raise awareness of our cause and tackle the problems mentioned in the article. You can find our petition at: www.gopetition. com/petitions/wimust-%E2%80%93access-and-equal-opportunities-forwomen-in.html

Partricia Adkins Chiti is president of the Fondazione Adkins Chiti: Donne in Musica and actively involved with WIMUST. (adkins.chiti@

Article by Patricia Adkins Chiti in MMNieuws  

Where are the Women? Working to change the landscape of European music