Caroline Shaw

imagesHow many women composers of serious music do you know?  For centuries the Classical music scene was dominated by male composers and then further promoted by male authors of music history books that took little notice of any woman composer. “A woman must not desire to compose – not one has been able to do it, and why should I expect to?” wrote Clara Schumann, a very significant 19th century German composer.  It is very important that we are all informed about gender in our work and professional music production and creation is no exception. Read brief introductory histories about 10 other “famous” women composers to get a sense of the scope of the issue.  Note that this week the Metropolitan Opera in NYC is performing an opera written by a woman (KAIJA SAARIAHO-have you heard of her?; click the link for an awesome trailer!).  This is the first time in over 100 years since the Met has performed an opera by a woman.  Why?   At Xavier University we offer a course, MUSC 116 – Women in Music, taught by Dr. Jewel Smith that focuses exclusively on women composers, all music majors should elect to study this history, as it is truly fills in for the hidden half of our social and cultural creative works that few are aware of and that society continues to hide from us.

In this blog, we focus on Caroline Shaw, a living composer of today.  Her experiences are primarily in the 21st century not the 19th century.  What does this mean for her?  You will find a few of her works are now widely available. Research a bit about her, inform yourself briefly about the marginalization of serious women composers throughout history and then listen to parts of several works by Caroline Shaw.  Pick two works to review.  In your review, critically evaluate her music.  Use terminology and concepts learned in Music Theory I (take a look through all the terms at the end of each chapter and as appropriate use these to guide your reply).  Is her music based on a scale or a mode?  How chromatic is her music?  What type of rhythmic features characterize the work?  Discuss the timbre of her music.  To what extent are 16th century musical lines and techniques employed?  Are there traditional melodies present?  Finally, comment on gender in music from your personal perspective. Do you perform any music by women composers?  Can you name one?

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