Women in Music

Heather Hadlock

in Music

ISBN: 9780199757824
Published online June 2011 | | DOI:
Women in Music

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  • Applied Music
  • Ethnomusicology
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  • Music Education and Pedagogy


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Our current understanding of women in music began to take shape within the context of second-wave feminist activism of the 1970s, with its mission of promoting women’s voices and perspectives in contemporary arts and in the history of the arts. In the domains of both popular and art music, female musicians promoted each others’ work through women-centered orchestras, choruses, bands, and ensembles; concerts and festivals of women’s music; female networks for teaching, collaboration, and mentorship; and independent labels for recording and distributing music by women. Composers such as Pauline Oliveros explored and cultivated feminist musical aesthetics. Historical researchers sought to recover female composers previously neglected by historians, and to integrate their lives and works into the music-historical narrative and art music canon. At the same time, the framing of issues in terms of “women and music” created new tensions. Gender-based advocacy, in the form of courses, journals, concerts, festivals, and record labels, was indispensable for raising awareness and creating opportunities for women in music, but also threatened to perpetuate their status as marginal to the dominant discourses and institutions of music. Third-wave feminists of the late 1980s and 1990s pointed out that norms of feminine and masculine roles and behavior vary widely across social contexts, and that there is no universal experience of “women.” Research on women in music increasingly focuses on how gender is enmeshed with other categories such as race, ethnicity, social class, geographic region, political affiliation, and sexual orientation. In any particular time and place, the intersection of all these factors creates the conditions for women’s access to musical training, resources, audiences, publication, and professional careers. Women’s musical activities and contributions have become more visible in musicology as the discipline has deepened its engagement with performers, with popular music, with nonwritten musical activities, and with music as social event and embodied practice. The study of women in music thus takes place within broader theoretical investigations of how music reproduces, affirms, subverts, and transforms cultural norms of gender and sexuality.

Article.  10671 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Applied Music ; Ethnomusicology ; Music Theory and Analysis ; Musicology and Music History ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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