Friday, January 8, 2010

The Birth of Saint Cecilia's Blog

I still remember back in 1985 being asked

what I would think about helping to work on a symposium about women in music. Specifically about women who are composers.

By that time in my career I had been in music arts administration for decades. I had a degree in music history. I was a music librarian and was working as a university concert hall manager. I had written hundreds of program notes for various recitals and concerts. I loved classical music (in fact I lived and breathed it virtually every day) and I had long been attracted to exploring music beyond the standard repertoire. I was fascinated by composers beyond Bach and Handel or Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert, or Mendelssohn and Schumann, or Wagner and Verdi, or Brahms and Dvorak, or Stravinsky and Shostakovich. Mind you I loved all of those composers and I still do. But I also enjoyed music by Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Sch├╝tz, Boccherini, Purcell, Scarlatti, Danzi, Weber, Rimsky-Korsakov, Bruch and Copland and Prokofiev. I loved discovering music for baryton in addition to that for cello. Mandolin concertos were as fascinating to me as violin concertos. How about music for harmonica or jews harp? I listened to all of it, every chance I got. I was enthralled when, in about 1972, I discovered that there were actually classical composers who were black, and their music was performed as we learned more about black history in our schools. But I had so much more to learn.

Getting back to that first conversation about female classical composers, I’m ashamed to admit that I couldn’t think of one woman who had written classical music. I think I sheepishly said, “Well, the patron saint of music is St. Cecilia, does that count?” In my defense, the standard music history text when I went to school, by Grout, in fact didn’t mention any women composers. Of course, very few American composers were mentioned either, virtually no black composers and none from outside the European mainstream. The idea of contemporary music was also given little enough space. That was the first time that it was really brought home to me that all we knew was music by dead, European, white, men. It didn’t take long for me to be hooked on my new discovery.

There is a wealth of music composed by

women throughout history. Fortunately today we can hear it on the local classical music station and, occasionally, in live concert. It has even grown to be heard beyond the ghetto of specialized women music months or conferences or books. But that is not to say that the general lover of classical music knows enough. Maybe today a somewhat aware listener would mention Clara Schumann, Hildegard von Bingen, Fanny Mendelssohn, Joan Tower or Amy Beach when asked about women composers.

The purpose of this blog is to share my fascination with classical music composed by women. I’ll write about composers of all places, styles and eras, as I continue to discover their music. Equally important I’ll share links to recordings of their music. And, I’ll point out books about women’s music and the score sources of music as we work toward reclaiming or rediscovering Cecilia’s music.

As with any writing endeavor I have to take the ultimate responsibility for the content and accuracy of my information. Obviously I’m more likely to write about music that somehow touches my soul, rather than that which I merely find slightly interesting. But I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank those who have had a positive and even profound influence on this venture. To Barbara: for that long-ago first introduction to Women in Music. To Melanie: for her many encouragements to have the confidence to express myself about something that I love. And thanks again for the impetus to share that pleasure with others. To Shelley and Lesa: for encouraging me to write, and for introducing me to the blogging world.

No comments:

Post a Comment