Advanced search

women in (classical) music

(43 Posts)
mousmous Sun 24-May-15 12:25:15

fight between my sisters.
watched eurovision last night and saw that the austrian brass band in the interval was very male heavy.
at college/uni it's about 50/50 in brass section but in orchestras it's more like 95/5 (if that, the most famous austrian only 'allowed' women to join after a court case recently).
one sister and I are at the 'angry' stage whilst our younger sister is in 'they didn't practice enough to get through a fair selection procedure'.
fair selection my arse

mousmous Sun 24-May-15 12:27:06

your thoughts?
brass instruments are physical but there are excellent female musicians, especially on french horn which (ironically) is the physically most demanding of all brass instruments.

SanityClause Sun 24-May-15 12:43:46

There's a bit about this in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink.

American orchestras apparently now audition blind, because of the ingrained sexism towards female brass players.

YokoUhOh Sun 24-May-15 12:47:47

Is it the Vienna Phil which still only admits male players, or is that relic gone for good?

mousmous Sun 24-May-15 12:48:04

austrians do, too. but there are rumours that the piano player identifies females by playing a cerain way...

mousmous Sun 24-May-15 12:49:46

vienna philharmonic, in theory they admit women but only have a handful.

HarpyBeard Sun 24-May-15 12:52:22

I don't think anyone would deny that until very recently many orchestras were immensely patriarchal institutions - the Vienna Phil is a particularly outrageous example, having not appointed a woman to a permanent position until 1997. Their membership is still only 6 or 7% female, and they weren't conducted by a woman until some stage in the last couple of years. I would say that was a combination of Austria being a socially conservative country in many ways, and an unusually chauvinistic orchestral culture.

YDdraigGoch Sun 24-May-15 12:52:28

Likewise though, woodwind at youth orchestra level is very female biased, especially flutes and clarinets.

mousmous Sun 24-May-15 13:01:54

bassoon and clarinets and percussions are (equally?) physical and there the female representation is much higher.

SanityClause Sun 24-May-15 13:04:43

I have mentioned the blind auditions to people in the music world, who have given a knowing smirk, so I expect you are right.

It's obviously a good thing for male players to be able to only actually have to compete against half of the eligible candidates.

Get your little sister to read Cordelia Fine's Delusions Of Gender, if she really believes that women are inherently worse brass players than men.

I would also suggest that a musician's hours may not be family friendly, so unless she had an understanding partner, a woman may not be able continue an orchestral career if she had children.

mousmous Sun 24-May-15 13:10:09

my sisters both are orchestra musicians. both brass.
it works for them with a combination of school/nursery and grandparents.

SanityClause Sun 24-May-15 13:15:31

Well, exactly. How many of their male colleagues are doing that juggling? I would think a male player could more easily expect to find a partner willing to support his career by taking on childcare responsibilities.

mousmous Sun 24-May-15 13:59:34

thanks for the literature suggestions.

OrlandoWoolf Sun 24-May-15 14:28:05

There is something about conductors as well - rare to find female conductors. The "usual" discussion about a career like this and family came up.

yallsexist Sun 24-May-15 14:43:06

If their arms can't lift up these instruments, they shouldn't be expected to play them.

PuffinsAreFictitious Sun 24-May-15 15:10:20

yall dear, do you actually read threads before dribbling on them?

yallsexist Sun 24-May-15 15:18:58

It just stands to reason that a heavy instrument like a french horn will have more males that play it. I'm not saying females can't play it, I'm saying that quantifiably more males will.

mousmous Sun 24-May-15 15:26:05

but french horn is the one which has more female professional players than any other brass instrument in an orchester. even though it is said to be the most difficult to play.

PenguinsandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 24-May-15 15:27:25

What bollocks. We aren't talking about bench pressing like a navy seal. I see you have been deleted on a number of other threads today Yall. That must be sad for you.

mousmous Sun 24-May-15 15:29:06

yes it's physically demanding to play a brass instrument (and other instruments) but if's very achievable by women.

mousmous Sun 24-May-15 15:30:42

alison balsom is one of the best ever baroque trumpetists (different league all together)

OrlandoWoolf Sun 24-May-15 15:35:03

And the flute is so so light - far too small for a bloke with such big hands confused

Those drums are so heavy.

The double bass, cello.

yall Why do you think there are so few female conductors? They only have to hold a baton after all?

uglyswan Tue 26-May-15 23:20:40

Historically, brass instruments were not part of classical or pre-classical musical ensembles, but were recruited, when necessary, from military ensembles, which of course were all male, and - the classical music scene, being what it is (reactionary for the most part, especially in Austria) - the bias has lingered on. The same applies to percussion instruments. Besides which,
There is also a quite fascinating cultural history of what instruments were considered "seemly" for women: for example, a pervasive narrative surrounds the supposed distortion of the face caused by playing brass instruments, making them unsuitable for women, who always had to look beautiful and composed. One recurring story that crops up over and over again in the history of music aethetics, for example, is Athena's rejection of the aulos upon catching sight of her reflection while she was playing it, which has frequently been cited as an example of musical instruments as tools of social and especially gendered demarcations. Richard Leppert's "The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation, and the History of the Body" has some other, very interesting examples.

uglyswan Tue 26-May-15 23:37:55

Btw, the argument re phyical strength is complete rubbish. Yes, the french horn is one of the heavier instruments. Which is one reason why composers -even Wagner! - never score it for long passages and always factor in long breaks to give the musician (male or female) a chance to rest. So in practice, playing a lighter instrument such as the violin is frequently a lot more grueling because you have to play continuously, with very few and only very short breaks. And you certainly don't bench press a french horn, or hold it under your chin with one hand. Although I wouldn't mind seeing that...

mousmous Wed 27-May-15 07:16:20

thanks for more reads!
very interesting about the beauty aspect.
with 'physically difficult' I don't (just) mean the weight of the instruments. trpets are small after all.
it takes a lot of muscle (face/diaphragm) and breath. a 'loud' passage can leave you breathless like a 400m sprinter.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: