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#1147553 - 07/05/08 05:10 AM Who is the most famous female composer?
swampwiz Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/07
Posts: 561
Loc: Louisiana, USA
Of any genre, all-time.

Recently, I have been having a discussion with a feminist type of woman, and I mentioned that only the male brain is capable of high level of music creativity (not to be confused with performance, which I know that women can do very well.) She showed me the Wikipedia listing for female composers, and pretty much the only names I recognized were the wives of the great composers - and I attribute the contribution by those women to be the same as Yoko and Linda to John and Paul.

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#1147554 - 07/05/08 05:25 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
mrenaud Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/29/02
Posts: 1313
Loc: Switzerland
There's a number of more or less famous female composers, amongst them I'd name these:

- Sofia Gubaidulina
- Kaija Saariaho
- Galina Ustvolskaya
- Elizabeth Lutyens
- Clara Schumann
- Fanny Hensel Mendelssohn
- Germaine Tailleferre
- Louise Farrenc
- Cecile Chaminade
- Ruth Crawford Seeger
- Thea Musgrave
- Augusta Read Thomas
- Chen Yi
- Jennifer Higdon
- Judith Weir
- Joan Tower
- Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
- Unsuk Chin
- Elena Firsova
- Lera Auerbach

There are undoubtedly more. For a start I'd recommend to listen to some Gubaidulina. Try Stimmen... verstummen. Her violin concerto Offertorium is also said to be very good. I find the idea that women can't be good composers to be quite silly, honestly, and I attribute the small number of female composers more to societal norms (according to which women just were not supposed to be composers) than to anything else.
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#1147555 - 07/05/08 05:53 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5932
Loc: Down Under
One of Australia's best-known composers is a woman - Elena Kats-Chernin. The fact that you haven't heard of the women composers in the Wikipedia entry says nothing about the quality of their music.
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Du holde Kunst...

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#1147556 - 07/05/08 07:27 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
Mankeh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/08
Posts: 86
That's a really sexist comment, I agree with mrenaud, it's just that women were not supposed to compose, just like women were not supposed to vote at one point, hopefully this will change as time progresses.

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#1147557 - 07/05/08 07:38 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5932
Loc: Down Under
It's well known that Mendelssohn, whilst genuinely admiring his sister Fanny's music, strongly discouraged her from seeking publication, as he firmly believed it was not fitting for a married woman to seek such recognition.

Not mentioned so far were the Boulanger sisters - Lili (who died young) won the Prix de Rome for composition in 1913, and Nadia taught composition to a huge number of significant (male) composers of the 20thC.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1147558 - 07/05/08 08:00 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5486
Loc: Orange County, CA
Where to begin?

The medieval mythic Hildegaard of Bingen

The great American pianist Amy Beach

Professor Judith Lang Zaimont

And a bunch of contemporary pedagogical composers who write piano music for students:

Melody Bober
Martha Mier
Carol Klose
Jennifer Linn
Jeanine Yeager
Eugenie Rocherelle
Naoko Ikeda
Glenda Austin
Sondra Clark
Barbara Becker

My vote for the "most famous female composer" is Clara Schumann.
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#1147559 - 07/05/08 12:46 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
ScottM Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/05
Posts: 556
There's also Amy Beach and Ethel Smyth.
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Scott

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#1147560 - 07/05/08 02:45 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
swampwiz Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/07
Posts: 561
Loc: Louisiana, USA
Perhaps I am not quite as broad in my knowledge of music (pun not intended), but I've never heard of any of these women - aside from a few that the wives of famous composers. I guess I would prefer to listen to the few quality pieces of music over and over then listen to not-so-quality pieces.

OK, so to help me gauge the quality of the best piece of music composed by a woman, what exact piece of music written by these women would you recommend for my listening? (Preferably something popular enough that I could download at a "price I can't refuse.") I don't want to consider anything from the wives of the composers since there would be a good chance that the true authorship is not reliable.

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#1147561 - 07/05/08 05:52 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5932
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by swampwiz:
Perhaps I am not quite as broad in my knowledge of music (pun not intended), but I've never heard of any of these women - aside from a few that the wives of famous composers. I guess I would prefer to listen to the few quality pieces of music over and over then listen to not-so-quality pieces.
[/b]
Well maybe you'd better stick to your "few quality pieces" if you're afraid of hearing something of lesser quality, or unwilling to even buy a CD. That means you'd miss out on a lot of very interesting music written by male composers too, but there you are. As for suggesting any piece written by the wife of a male composer is likely to be actually by him, well give me a break! With attitudes like this (what century are we actually in now?) it's no wonder there aren't more high-profile female composers.

But containing my ire for a moment, you might enjoy the viola sonata by Rebecca Clarke. When she submitted it for a competition in 1918 she did so under the name "Anthony Trent". One wouldn't have thought you'd need to do so in 2008, but maybe we're not so far from those days as I thought.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1147562 - 07/05/08 06:24 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
ScottM Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/05
Posts: 556
Yes, I forgot about Rebecca Clarke. I've read good things about her, but have not heard her music. The symphonies and chamber music by Louise Ferrenc are very good.
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#1147563 - 07/05/08 06:45 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11676
Loc: Canada
Unless you reincarnate as a whale, the idea that musical creativity is an attribute of the males of your species is unsubstantiated balderdash.

Let's look at the world of performers and composers a little closer. To begin with, we talk about known works and known performers - how does this "known" part come to be? How does the composer end up knowing how to compose? How does he get published? It doesn't just happen. As romantically as we like to think about such things, the art world is not totally romantic.

The musicians of the past had some kind of background to them. They didn't just get up one day and play and compose through innate talent alone. Somebody taught them - somebody sponsored them. Leopold Mozart was "in the business" and he did a regular PR job, taught his two children preparing them for their (well, his son's anyway) future career extremely early, invested in them. While they were still little and cute he got them to play among the gentry so they would be known, doing little parlour tricks like playing through table cloths. Poor Beethoven was not so lucky in paternal support, but he, too, studied with someone.

They had to study with someone, needed to have someone willing to take them, possibly have a patron, family member, somebody to support them in their efforts to become able to do what they did. Then after they reached these abilities, the needed to perform somewhere. Somebody had to take them in and find them acceptable. A talented musician with splendid repertoire and no audience - where does that lead? Nowhere. The composer needs to learn the ins and outs of composing, and then he needs his compositions published and accepted. Oh, and so does she.

Back to Nanette Mozart. She was a prodigy like her brother. As soon as she hit puberty she disappeared. Did she suddenly lose her talent? To make a blanket statement about musical creativity sitting in the Y gene based on the prevalence of known scores without looking at the whole picture is short sighted, though I must admit, rather imaginative.

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#1147564 - 07/06/08 12:44 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5486
Loc: Orange County, CA
I smell a troll.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1147565 - 07/06/08 12:49 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11676
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by AZNpiano:
I smell a troll. [/b]
Don't trolls hang out bait? That makes me a fish. So the smell is fishy, or a can of worms?

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#1147566 - 07/06/08 12:58 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
swampwiz Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/07/07
Posts: 561
Loc: Louisiana, USA
I understand that members of the fairer sex can be good instructors. In fact I'd say that except at the top levels, a female music instructor would be preferable to a male.

It's just that compared to the massive amount of material compose by men, there is a much, much smaller amount of material composed by women - and certainly in the top range of quality, there is virtually nothing composed by women.

Why is there so much anger out there? Especially from musicians, who for women, tend to be the most level headed.

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#1147567 - 07/06/08 01:13 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5932
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by swampwiz:
I understand that members of the fairer sex can be good instructors. In fact I'd say that except at the top levels, a female music instructor would be preferable to a male.
[/b]
You've already admitted your knowledge of music is not broad. Why don't we just leave it at that.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1147568 - 07/06/08 01:26 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11676
Loc: Canada
Let's not feed it. I think AZN is right.

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#1147569 - 07/06/08 01:26 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by swampwiz:
Why is there so much anger out there? [/b]
Political correctness.

With no offense intended, I think it's silly to post a list of obscure (except to a niche audience) female composers, to show that there are just as many well-known female composers as there are male. I think it's quite obvious that there are many many many more famous male composers than there are female composers, and that none of the composers listed in this thread have the fame and frequent programming in concerts as their male colleagues. To claim otherwise is pulling at straws.

We can all speculate as to the why, but unless we're trained and qualified to perform such a study/analysis, I'm not sure we'll get very far, especially since it is a very sensitive subject, especially for women. It's very easy to have an emotional reaction, to repeat the cliched arguments without really any deep support for them, and to demonize anyone who dares say something politically incorrect. I'm not saying those cliched arguments are necessarily wrong, and I agree with others that this doesn't prove that women in general are not as good at composing as men. I've heard some great music by women, but on the other hand does that show that women as a whole are as good as men, or only that gender differences are not either or, and there are always women with more "masculine" characteristics and vice-versa? I do think the question is a good one: there have been very well-accepted and very well-known female writers and poets, scientists, politicians, performers -- why not composers?
_________________________
Sam

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#1147570 - 07/06/08 10:33 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Probably the most famous female composer alive right now is Rachel Portman. Very few people know her by name, but I'm willing to bet everyone here has heard her work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Portman
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006235/
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1147571 - 07/07/08 11:35 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
Chozart Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/14/08
Posts: 17
Loc: Vancouver
MOST famous?

Clara Schumann,
Fanny Mendelssohn.

they simply rock.
_________________________
music should never offend the ear. - mozart

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#1147572 - 07/29/08 08:37 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
James McFadyen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/23/06
Posts: 103
Loc: Manchester UK
Joan Tower is one of favourite composers! Real quality darkness to her music
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#1147573 - 11/25/08 08:41 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
tabatam Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/25/08
Posts: 1
Loc: Canada
Just because there is more music from male composers doesn't mean a thing about women's ability to compose. It just points to the fact that for centuries women were forced to stay at home and raise the family, with little thought as to their abilities and education. Those that managed to compose are unique because they went against social standards that dictated they stay dumb.

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#1147574 - 11/26/08 12:00 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
I'm a female composer, though not at all famous:

www.larisamigachyov.com/sheetmusic.html

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#1147575 - 12/05/08 02:24 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
I was going to mention Rebecca Clarke, but on reading through the thread, I see that currawong beat me to it.
 Quote:
. . . you might enjoy the viola sonata by Rebecca Clarke. When she submitted it for a competition in 1918 she did so under the name "Anthony Trent". One wouldn't have thought you'd need to do so in 2008, but maybe we're not so far from those days as I thought.
I heard the viola/piano sonata currawong mentions just last year, played by none other than Miss Minnesota 2007, Jennifer Hudspeth. I only mention the performer because it seems sort of quirky, in this day and age of feminist consciousness, to have this pioneering female composer’s work performed by a Miss America contestant. But I don’t care. Miss Minnesota 2007 is one hell of a violist. She did a first rate job of a difficult score.

Rebecca Clarke was a wonderful art song composer too. I have an old Xerox copy of a song by Rebecca Clarke someplace in a pile of music in my basement called "the Donkey." The poem is in the first person--or the first donkey, I suppose--of the donkey who carried Jesus into Bethlehem. The harmony and rhythm is rough and dissonant as the donkey tells of his ugliness, his deformity, of his hideous voice, his long ears--and of the horrible beatings he has endured. But when he enters Bethlehem carrying Jesus, there were "Palms about my feet." The harmony on the word "palms" resolves into the most beautiful D major chord you have ever heard in your life. I swear, it is a great musical and poetic moment. "The Donkey" is a little masterpiece, really, worthy of Schubert or Hugo Wolf. but It is the only song I have ever seen of hers. And the copy I have--I hope I haven't lost it--is a Xerox copy of a hand script. I don't think it's ever been published. The only copy may very well be in my basement. I have no recollection of how I came across it.

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1147576 - 12/05/08 02:53 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13789
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Interestingly enough, I have a few musician friends who've done the pageant thing - one competed for Miss California, one who is a former Miss Missouri, and one who was Miss Teen Texas. All three pianists, all very good, including one who now performs across the country and teaches at a small college.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1147577 - 12/05/08 06:45 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5932
Loc: Down Under
 Quote:
Originally posted by tomasino:
Rebecca Clarke was a wonderful art song composer too. I have an old Xerox copy of a song by Rebecca Clarke someplace in a pile of music in my basement called "the Donkey." The poem is in the first person--or the first donkey, I suppose--of the donkey who carried Jesus into Bethlehem. The harmony and rhythm is rough and dissonant as the donkey tells of his ugliness, his deformity, of his hideous voice, his long ears--and of the horrible beatings he has endured. But when he enters Bethlehem carrying Jesus, there were "Palms about my feet." The harmony on the word "palms" resolves into the most beautiful D major chord you have ever heard in your life. I swear, it is a great musical and poetic moment. "The Donkey" is a little masterpiece, really, worthy of Schubert or Hugo Wolf. but It is the only song I have ever seen of hers. And the copy I have--I hope I haven't lost it--is a Xerox copy of a hand script. I don't think it's ever been published. The only copy may very well be in my basement. I have no recollection of how I came across it.
[/b]
Very very interesting, tomasino! That would be the poem by G.K.Chesterton (The Donkey). I'll add that to my list of music I'm hunting for (another is the Faure song le don silencieux but that's another story \:\) ). I played the Clarke sonata (well the first movement anyway) with a violist for a competition not long ago - fabulous music!
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#1147578 - 12/05/08 07:20 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5932
Loc: Down Under
Found this link . You're right about it being unpublished, tomasino.
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Du holde Kunst...

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#1147579 - 12/05/08 08:40 PM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Thanks for the link, currawong. I was happy to read in it that "the Donkey" had actually been recorded by Povla Frijsch. After I wrote my post about the song, I had a strong urge to go find it in my basement, and send it to her estate, just in case they didn't have it. Now I feel I don't have to.

I agree that the viola/piano sonata is fabulous music.

Tomasino
_________________________
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10


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#1147580 - 12/19/08 07:12 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
rrb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/17/08
Posts: 212
Loc: Bend, USA
I got stuck with the same discussion, swampwiz, and there was no way to avoid it. I could see myself getting deeper and deeper in the mire of 'political incorrectness' when something I said seemed to strike a concordant note.
"You have to be more'n a bit crazy to want to compose classical music," said I.
"Ah!" says she.
Breath is bated.
"You mean, women are too sensible?"

In my experience, women are better than men at certain tasks. The converse is also true. If composing music is a talent both genders possess equally, women have a lot of ground to make up, and there is no longer a social bias. In fact, many program directors would kill for a compelling score written by a female.

To the list of female composers already referred to I would add Elizabeth Lutyens, whose music was promoted extensively by the UK establishment in the 1960's. She is referred to on Wikipedia as "A combative and idiosyncratic character and a composer of music that has been described as ‘sensuously beautiful’".

One wonders 'by whom'? Not by me, that's for sure.

If we go back to an earlier time, when the social argument truly had force, consider that Clara Schumann's father, Wieck, promoted her relentlessly, though admittedly first and foremost as a pianist. Robert's dad, on the other hand, was dead set against him pursuing a musical career at all and forced him to study law. This he did, but he cultivated his musical talent along the way and eventually, and sneakily, prevailed via his mother and began at a late age to study with Wieck. (And what happened thereafter is one of the great love stories of history.)

Now you can argue all you like about the significance of Clara's compositions. But she herself was surely in no doubt who, when it came to composition, was the genius and who was not.
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Rob

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#1147581 - 12/20/08 04:09 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
William A.P.M. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/09/08
Posts: 554
Loc: Ecuador
Margaret Brouwer anyone?

she's amazing!

Take a listen at her orchestral piece.

SIZZLE

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#1147582 - 12/20/08 07:05 AM Re: Who is the most famous female composer?
epf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/13/07
Posts: 658
Loc: Central Texas
At the risk of falling into the absurd, consider the case of Euphemia Allen. Her one known composition is probably known by more people than any other (at least, in a simplified form). She was the composer (writing, at the time, as Arthur de Lulli, of The Celebrated Chop Waltz also known as Chopsticks.

Ed
_________________________
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