Thursday, June 08, 2006

A real woman feels no need to publish her works?

Just as it is generally assumed that professionalism represents a status and identity to be aspired to, especially by the middle class, so most practitioners of Western music history assume that composers view publication as a universally desirable goal. But given the fact that women historically have had fewer pieces published than men, we might start to wonder about the assumptions behind that statement. Why has it been assumed desirable to publish? Why does a composer publish music? Might there be reasons why a composer might not wish to publish? What are the larger implications of such a choice? Are women problematized through ideological conflicts arising from publication?
- Marcia J. Citron: Gender and the Musical Canon (1993), p. 108.
Reading on in the chapter, I find that Citron makes the common analogy between creating works of art and raising children, and that she assumes only mothers, not fathers, can feel insecure and concerned about sending their "babies" out in the big bad world, and thus are more naturally controlling personalities, reluctant to show their efforts to anybody outside their circle of family and friends -- people the artist/writer/composer knows and can trust -- since "women may feel more comfortable conceiving a work for a knowable context" (p.111). Publication is like sending your children out in the unknown, it is also in part like the loss of a family member, the grown child who moves out of the house to live on his own; a "loss of control that engenders anxiety" (p.112). This possible anxiety of separation Citron says can be a problem both to male and female composers, but she suspects the "social conditioning" (conditions?) make it easier for a man to let a work of his enter the public's consciousness, as that is expected and encouraged practice in the world of professionalism, where his activities are supposed to belong.

Maybe we can conclude that at least in the past, women may have been both discouraged from and genuinely uninterested in sharing information about their personal, intellectual, artistical, practical and spiritual experiences with the whole wide world -- today, that equals the www, or internet.

I played my first composition for an audience of mostly unknown people when I was seven or eight years old. I sent my first book manuscript to big publishing companies when I was eleven. I published stories and opinions in a school paper I was editor for when I was 13. I have never held the view that my work is only for my near and dear to enjoy, or felt that the risk of attracting ridicule and critique from perfect strangers could make the enterprise of performance or publishing less appealing.

2 comments:

Michael Morse said...

I agree that Citron is posing her questions in an odd, unhelpfully bizarre way. It's not immediately clear what the desirability (and general politics) of music publishing has to do with gender. If some composers do not see the value of publishing, even if they are female, is their gender the determining factor in their reticence? As I say, a bizarre assumption.
If we assume that such reticence is the honest sentiment of (some) female composers, and not imposed on them by social gender roles, then we risk supporting and perpetuating the worst stereotype of all, the passive female, too afraid to have her own voice, and conteneted--by nature itself, even--to let the boys do all the talking. If we assume instead that the work of woman composers is regularly rejected by sexist publishers, that's another story. But it's the first issue that Citron is raising. Again, I'm not sure why. If this is her attempt to ';deconstruct' the stereotype of the passive woman, it seems clumsy and tendentious..

MW Morse

MaLj said...

And, as you mentioned in another forum, these examples that Norman Lebrecht discussed in a column in April are interesting:

http://www.scena.org/columns/lebrecht/060412-NL-silence.html

I read and enjoyed his article when it was published, but thought nobody else could be interested in the topic, so I have stayed passive and silent, not wanting to disturb the boys...