The Music of Women Creators





In spite of significant gains in gender equality over the last half century, women creators remain dramatically underrepresented in the music world, in all genres of music and in all categories of musical production: as composers, improvisors, producers, conductors, and even as performers. The course is intended to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of women creators to the history of music. We will focus on a selection of contributions of female and non-binary musicians who have composed, improvised, or collaboratively created music in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will listen closely to their music, asking questions such as: what were the historical, institutional, cultural and educational factors that supported or hindered their work? How do they define their gender identities, gender roles, and sexual orientation, and to what extent do these relate to their work? How does these identities function intersectionally with others, such as racial, class, national, and transnational identities? How has their work been received? What structures have historically enabled inclusion into the musical canon and exclusion from it? We will also talk about activism: how to "move the needle" and work towards great representation of women's music in different genres today. A class visit to the Schlesinger Library will help us to unlock the potential in women's archives. We will consider a wide range of women creators from the early 20th century to the present, with examples from classical, jazz, and popular music. The syllabus will focus on five to seven case studies, examining women creators within a particular cultural and political network. A sample list could include: Florence Price, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Elisabeth Lutyens, Nina Simone, Pauline Oliveros, Meredith Monk, Younghi Pagh-Paan, Carla Bley, Irène Schweizer, Mary Lou Williams, Laurie Anderson, Tanya Leon, Chaya Czernowin, Björk, Nkeiru Okoye, Okkyung Lee, Reena Esmail, Nicole Mitchell, Maria Schneider, Caroline Shaw, Du Yun, and Alex Temple. Goals: (1) To recognize women's experiences and contributions in music of the 20th and 21st centuries. (2) To listen to a lot of good music. (3) To gain a basic understanding of gender theory and feminism. (4) To learn about how using a gender lens changes how we think of music and music history.

Additional Information

Faculty: Anne Shreffler
Semester: Full Fall Term
Time: Tues, Thurs, 12:00 - 1:15 p.m. ET