Women's Own Stories: Re-Evaluating Female Composers
The purpose of this document is to evaluate some of the excuses given for excluding the music of women from the Western Classical musical canon. Songs have been the most popular medium in which female composers have written, since it is considered socially safe to do. However, the musical canon is dominated by the male gaze and the male perspective on what is 'worth' keeping and what is not. The songs of Amy Beach, Pauline Viardot, Clara Schumann, Barbara Strozzi, and Gwyneth Walker are examined here to shed light on their compositional style and to discuss what they represent in the broader narrative of women in music.
Using the style guide developed by Carol Kimball for her books Song and Art Song, Amy Beach's songs are reevaluated to challenge the validity of the assertion that they contain no stylistic growth. Pauline Viardot's Russian compositions are explored to understand the relationship of the Other in Russian music and women's music. Two settings of Heinrich Heine's poem "Loreley" are examined to understand how gendered settings of this text may influence the complexity of the characters therein. "Hor che Apollo," a serenata by Barbara Strozzi, will explore sexuality in the music of female composers. Finally the songs of a living female composer, Gwyneth Walker, will be examined to see the relevance of defiance against societal norms in the music of women.