The end of the road

“Female composers account for only 1.8% of the works performed. When only looking at works from living composers, they account for 14.8%.”

Fuck you, classical music.

Really, we’re done.

This isn’t a sudden decision although it may look like one. And I imagine there are people out there who have read my blog who will jerk back in surprise to learn that I’m a woman. Yes, I am. A big part of the reason why I haven’t been that forthcoming about it is because:

  1. I know that my natural style of expression tends to read as male anyway. Well, it reads as “male” if you think I’m a man. If you know I’m a woman, then it reads as “mega-bitch.” (You’d have better chances if you were just nicer and more ladylike!)
  2. 1.8%. Or sorry, a whopping wonderful 14.8%. I’m so pathetically grateful! Stockholm Syndrome is so pink-n-sparkly.

Any woman composer who tells you that she hasn’t been kept up nights with the lead weight of this on her chest is lying to you. (No, not performers. Composers.) Should I publish my music under my own name? Should I use a male name?

1.8%, people. Yes, a male name helps a great deal. Genius, despite what we’d like to tell ourselves in our most pollyanna moments, is not always recognized for what it is.

But this is soul-destroying. This is like giving birth and being forced to tell your child that it must never tell anyone that you’re its mother.

I’m really and truly done defining myself as a classical musician. I’m also done worshiping male composers at this point, even the ones that I like. Even my favorite Georg Frideric. I’m really done. Yes, I like his music, but the last thing these (or any) dudes need is one more woman banging on about how very brilliant they are.

I’m done with classical music as a composer. I am now officially new age or folk. And this means that I finally have to bite the bullet and get myself that lever harp. Woman folk harpists have a lot more room for advancement in what is a far more niche culture, although I’m hardly giving up the piano. It’s too useful a tool. (Well, I also want to have more money in the bank before I grab myself a good-sized lever harp, so it may be a few months timewise.)

But I will go where I can make progress. Sorry, but I’m almost 50 and that means I’m done with this throwing myself on grenades bullshit. I will no longer be kept up nights agonizing over whether to tell anyone that I actually wrote the music that I actually wrote and what damage it will do to the music itself if I dare to get girl cooties on it. I have, as Ernest Hemingway called it, “one and only life,” and no one has the right to expect that I will waste it on things that cause me pain and keep me awake, as I’ve been for months if I’m at last — at last! — honest about it.

Least of all, me.

Again, this isn’t a sudden decision brought about by getting pissed at one link. This is the culmination of months of agonizing back-and-forth. I remember a long Soundcheck interview with Tori Amos — another classical refugee — where she explicitly stated that she knew and was told that she would be crippling her career if she wrote classical music since there was no room for women composers in that world. In fact, I think it’s been a big part of why the Haendel project sort of just … stopped after the third aria intro. It’s hard to fire up your enthusiasm for getting knocked up when you know you’ll have to warn your kid to tell everyone they’re not yours.

Well, being crippled sucks. I’m not crippling myself. I’m not living like that. I want to go to bed at night happy with the music I’ve written and at least somewhat confident that it will be judged on its merits.

1.8%. Holy fucking shit. (Oooh, but it’s a whopping 14.8% for living composers! Woo-eee! I’m fucking drowning in equality. Maybe in another century or two, we’ll reach 25%. I’m dizzy with the possibilities.)

I suppose it’s all because women just haven’t learned how to write music yet, the poor dim little dears. When they bring themselves up to men’s level, I’m sure the boys will be perfectly happy to welcome them into the club!

Or maybe it’s because I’m just such a huge mega-bitch and I’m not nice and ladylike enough about that fucking 1.8%. I suppose all women composers since the dawn of time have just naturally been horrible ball-busters, and all the men have been sweet, accommodating darlings.

BTW, if you want to witness a litany of asshole behavior, read a detailed biography of any male composer in history. It’s the inevitable, predictable difference between:

  • “Sure [MALE COMPOSER] was a raging asshole, but he’s still remembered and revered today because he was a genius.”
  • “Sure [FEMALE COMPOSER] was a genius, but she’s not remembered and revered today because she was a raging asshole.”

(Where “raging asshole” in the second case means either “didn’t respond to that 1.8% with a dough-faced snivel of resignation” or “once deviated from utter perfection where someone could see.”)

And don’t anybody dare try to tell me this doesn’t happen in precisely 100% of cases. It damned well does.

Fuck them, and fuck their club.