come get your copy to sign from GRID!
GRID panel at Darmstadt
by Neele Hülcker, Stella Veloce, Maya Shenfeld, Madeleine Johnson Gille and Lucie Vitkova.
In the process of writing this statement one point became very important to us.
Talking about diversity and inequality of representation, in 2016, requires that transgender and intersex identities would be included as a part of our group as composers, musicians, thinkers and artists. Speaking only of men and women automatically excludes so many conceptions of gender.
Therefore I would like to shortly introduce you to the terminology used in this text:
Cis-gender refers to individuals that identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Trans-gender is an umbrella term for individuals who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Intersex refers to people whose bodies, reproductive systems, chromosomes and/or hormones are not easily characterized as male or female.
It is important to us that these identities are represented in our reflection.
Recently there have been some attempts in the media to bring up the topic of gender imbalance in contemporary music composition.
Ricordi recently announced a competition for a publishing deal. Two weeks before the deadline Ricordi asked in a tweet: „Female composers: where are you? Up to now, mostly men applied to ricordi-lab.com“. British composer Lauren Redhead commented on this quote on her blog: „It is good news that some more people have started to ask questions like „where are all the women?“ But if these questions aren`t followed up by questions such as „how might we be also creating the conditions that exclude women?“ then they are partly ineffectual and partly insulting.“
We agreed with her and would like to base our statement on the question how this exclusion works.
Composers have to speak their mind out loud, with no hint of doubt. This is exaclty what very often a young boy is expected to do and a young girl is told not to do. Of course this is a big obstacle for young women, trans and intersex people to be taken seriously, also by themselves.
Many highly talented girls grow up full of self doubts without the confidence to show their work to other people. Growing up in the 90’s superwomen did not exist yet, we had spiderman, superman and batman.
Feminine individuals in mainstream medias were more often complimented for their looks than acknowledged for their actions and wits. A quote from Julia Serrano in the book Whipping Girl states: „It`s all in the words we use. When someone is bold or brave, we say they have „balls“, while words like „pussy“ and „cunt“ are only ever spoken as insults.“
These are just a few of the first things we learn through puberty. Being confronted with societies clichees about gender. But we didn’t learn about confident female, trans or intersex composers and conductors to inspire us to study composition and become a fulltime professional composer. All these examples, still don’t explain the enormous gender inequality that we find in the contemporary music scene.
We think there are two basic problems that lead to the unacceptable situation of gender inequality within contemporary music.
The first one has to do with confidence and the lack of role models -especially in universities- and gender expectations in general. The other is connected to how the contemporary music scene works as a market. Specifically, how curators make their programs.
The composer Jen Wang states:
„A couple of my FB friends have put out calls recently for female composers. That’s great.
If you’re a performer or conductor or presenter who’s been thinking lately about how you program lots of composers who are men (or white, or heterosexual, or cisgender) and you want to change that, that’s awesome. But in addition to consulting or creating big lists of women composers—say, lists that are probably way too long for you to thoroughly consult—might I suggest doing some soul-searching into how you “usually” program, how you usually find and build connections, and why that process does not lead you to working with women. Are you, say, an ensemble consisting of men, who are mostly friends with composers who are other men, and so end up commissioning mostly or entirely men? Do you frequent festivals with lots of composers, but somehow men are always the ones that you end up befriending and staying in touch with? To what extent do people need to be “like you” for you to feel connected to them, and to what extent does that influence how you form your professional network?My hypothesis is that, if women composers seem invisible to us, the problem is not that we need a bigger spreadsheet or list or website. The problem is in how we form our networks, and how we utilize those networks.“
Take a moment to reflect on the music organisations, ensembles and institutions surrounding us: The networking structures of those operate in repetitive and clear patterns. But why not step off the ways and try something different?
Again: Why is the new music scene a basically white cis male club?
Can you believe that in the history of the Darmstädter Ferienkurse there were 14 years in which not a single woman, trans or intersex composer was programmed? And 12 years in which just one woman was programmed? Why did everyone accept that?
So what can we do?
And by „we“ I mean all of us, no matter what gender you identify with.
There are increasingly more feminist networks like Konstmusiksystrar, Her noise, female pressure, waking the feminists and others who are supporting women and trans composers, sound artists, DJanes and others. These kinds of network-work, empowerment and visibilty as well as hearability is definitely needed to unite the voices that go unheard.
We find very important to have male allies, the following example shows one of the ways how this can happen:
The composer Hampus Noren was invited in 2014 to the festival sonic in Kopenhagen, after realizing that Sonic was yet another heavily male dominated festival he chose not to play his own work but instead he gave up his seat for a female composer. He chose to present a piece by composer Marta Forsberg followed by a presentation on statistics on performances of music by female composers in swedish music institutions.
A great initiative comes from the fantastic feminist composer collective Konstmusiksystrar from Sweden. They recently did a 2-day workshop course in experimental electronic music and contemporary art music for girl- and trans* participants between the ages 13-19. The participants made graphic scores, listened and analyzed sound, recorded sounds and worked with these digitally. At the end they performed for each other.
Konstmusiksystrar also recently organised an international female and trans separatistic conference on new music and sound art in Berlin.
This sort of activity is a very good example for what we all need right now: building networks in order to organise our work and activism, empowering our own, and the next generation of female, trans and inter composers, and becoming a bigger community that can not be ignored.
G. Born Darmstadt Post-Adornian Sociology of Music