We’re Gonna Program Like It’s…1954
It’s the time of year when orchestras start to roll out their 2011-12 season announcements, and there has been some conversation around the New York Philharmonic’s season, which, as it has been pointed out, includes no music by women, nor does there appear to be any on the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s season.
“Oh, but the NY Phil is doing Gruppen!” you say, or, “There are many female composers impacting music around the country and throughout the world!” Believe me, I am as excited about Gruppen as anyone, and while applauding the NY Phil’s and the L.A. Phil’s clear commitment to contemporary music, the lack of music by women is a significant oversight. Given the fact that composers who happen to be female are indeed making a greater worldwide impact than ever before—because more and more ensembles are playing their music and more and more music presenters are programming it—it boggles my mind that this remains an issue when it comes to the larger institutions of our musical world.
Several years ago, a good friend who was curating a new music series shared with me his upcoming concert season, and while he had made excellent choices, the first thing out of my mouth was “Why is there no music by women included?” He just stared at me blankly for a minute, and I realized that he simply hadn’t thought about it. A couple weeks later he had changed things substantially, and there were four or five female composers represented during the season. The next year’s programming brought the same thing—no music by women. So I piped in again and changes were made. However, since then there have been female composers represented in every season, with no nudging required. It takes time to make anything a habit.
UPDATE: Alex Ross writes to note that Zosha di Castri is on one of the L.A. Phil Green Umbrella concerts. I stand (happily) corrected!