Music Women in Music
by
Heather Hadlock
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0078

Introduction

Our current understanding of women in music began to take shape within the context of second-wave feminist activism of the 1970s, with its mission of promoting women’s voices and perspectives in contemporary arts and in the history of the arts. In the domains of both popular and art music, female musicians promoted each others’ work through women-centered orchestras, choruses, bands, and ensembles; concerts and festivals of women’s music; female networks for teaching, collaboration, and mentorship; and independent labels for recording and distributing music by women. Composers such as Pauline Oliveros explored and cultivated feminist musical aesthetics. Historical researchers sought to recover female composers previously neglected by historians, and to integrate their lives and works into the music-historical narrative and art music canon. At the same time, the framing of issues in terms of “women and music” created new tensions. Gender-based advocacy, in the form of courses, journals, concerts, festivals, and record labels, was indispensable for raising awareness and creating opportunities for women in music, but also threatened to perpetuate their status as marginal to the dominant discourses and institutions of music. Third-wave feminists of the late 1980s and 1990s pointed out that norms of feminine and masculine roles and behavior vary widely across social contexts, and that there is no universal experience of “women.” Research on women in music increasingly focuses on how gender is enmeshed with other categories such as race, ethnicity, social class, geographic region, political affiliation, and sexual orientation. In any particular time and place, the intersection of all these factors creates the conditions for women’s access to musical training, resources, audiences, publication, and professional careers. Women’s musical activities and contributions have become more visible in musicology as the discipline has deepened its engagement with performers, with popular music, with nonwritten musical activities, and with music as social event and embodied practice. The study of women in music thus takes place within broader theoretical investigations of how music reproduces, affirms, subverts, and transforms cultural norms of gender and sexuality.

General Overviews

No single-author textbook on women or gender in music has yet aimed for the radically inclusive narrative of music’s history that feminist historiography promises, or thoroughly problematized music history’s focus on composers and art music. Pendle 2004 is designed to supplement traditional music history textbooks, and follows their chronological and “great composer”–centered organization. Bowers and Tick 1986 has often been employed as an undergraduate textbook, but has no narrative thread to connect the studies of women in various domains of Western art music; the level of detail and disciplinary focus is more appropriate for readers at or above the graduate level. Bernstein 2004 focuses primarily on women as performers with a balanced presentation of European and world musics, art music and popular music, and historical and contemporary topics; the organization is thematic rather than chronological, and the editor’s introductions to each section make the book particularly valuable for teaching. Fragner, et al. 1998 acknowledges gender dynamics of performance and listening practices as well as composition, and popular music as well as art music; however, the German language limits its usefulness for teaching. Ammer 2003 is an effective textbook-style presentation of genres and gendered roles within American music.

  • Ammer, Christine. Unsung: A History of Women in American Music. 2d ed. Portland, OR: Amadeus, 2003.

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    Significantly expanded and revised since the first edition of 1980. Surveys women’s activities as composers, instrumentalists, conductors, and teachers from the colonial period to the present. Includes art music, blues, jazz, ragtime, electronic music, mixed media, film, performance art, and women as patrons of music. Includes comprehensive bibliography.

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  • Bernstein, Jane A., ed. Women’s Voices across Musical Worlds. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

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    Essays examine literal and metaphorical voices of women as composers, performers, and ritual participants in musical cultures including India, Japan, Egypt, medieval and modern Europe, Italian opera, and American popular music. Accessible to an interdisciplinary readership and appropriate for advanced undergraduate and graduate students. Requires little or no score-reading ability. Includes comprehensive bibliographies.

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  • Bowers, Jane M., and Judith Tick, eds. Women Making Music: The Western Art Tradition, 1150–1950. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986.

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    Essays on women as composers and performers in Western Europe and the United States. Introduction outlines historical constraints on women’s musical participation, including limited access to formal training, large forms, and professional careers, and the consequent exclusion of women from narratives of music history. Individual essays at a level appropriate for graduate students and advanced music undergraduates.

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  • Fragner, Stefan, Jan Hemming, and Beate Kutschke. Gender und Musik: Geschlechterrollen und ihre Bedutiung für die Musikwissenschaft. Regensburg, Germany: ConBrio, 1998.

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    Primary focus on 19th- and 20th-century art music; includes essays on composers, performers, popular music. Several theoretical essays address the relation of gender roles, music, canons, and musicology. Thirteen articles in German, five in English. Bibliography of mostly German sources; at the graduate level a valuable complement to Bernstein 2004, Bowers and Tick 1986.

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  • Pendle, Karin. Women and Music: A History. 2d ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.

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    Designed as an introductory survey of women composers in the Western art music tradition; may stand alone or supplement traditional music history survey courses. Fragmentary and relatively unsophisticated chapters on popular music and world music.

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Reference Works

Tick and Koskoff provides the most comprehensive and informative gateway to the topic of women in music. Sayrs, updated in 2002, offers an extensive overview of resources on women, gender, and sexuality in musical analysis, music history, and pedagogy; includes art music, popular and vernacular musics. Burns 2002 is the most up-to-date reference on 20th-century American women; Ericson 1996 is a richly annotated guide to a brief but highly productive five-year period. Fuller 1995 covers British and American female composers from the 17th to the 20th century. Mockus 2000 introduces lesbian composers, almost exclusively 20th-century. Sadie 1994 is limited in scope, and covers only women’s activities as composers. Cohen 1987 has the most extensive list of female composers. The German online scholarly project Musik und Gender im Internet compiles bio-bibliographic entries on female composers and performers, and multimedia presentations on various themes including “the servant-girl in 18th-century opera,” “music and the body,” et al.

Scores

Perhaps the most effective way to advocate for female composers is to teach, study, and perform their music. Briscoe 1997 and Briscoe 2004 are formatted for study rather than performance. Schleifer and Glickman 1996– includes music from all eras. Johnson 1989 offers a guide to violin music by women; Heinrich 1991 lists organ and harpsichord compositions by women; Walker-Hill 1992 catalogues solo and ensemble work for piano by black women composers; Boenke 1988 offers a guide to flute music by women. Dees 2002 lists solo piano pieces by women before 1900; Dees 2004 lists solo piano repertoire by women born in the 20th century.

Historical Background of Research on Women in Music

In the 20th century, feminist scholars began to question the absence of women from histories and canons of literature, music, and the visual arts. Across the arts one finds a tension between “feminine” social roles and the implicitly gendered “masculine” role of creative artist and genius. Cusick 2001 reviews the development of scholarship on women, gender, and sexualities in music. Citron 1993 shows how ideas about gender influenced the formation and perpetuation of the Western art music canon. Drinker 1948 offers an idiosyncratic survey of women’s relation to music, rejecting the focus on individual achievements to examine instead communal, socially motivated music-making and women’s power derived from archetypal roles as mother, healer, visionary. Solie 1993 situates Drinker 1948 within traditions of feminist historiography. Neuls-Bates 1996 offers primary sources that illuminate the relation of women to music in different periods.

  • Citron, Marcia J. Gender and the Musical Canon. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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    Analyzes how female composers’ creative lives, musical output, and reception have been affected by gendered concepts of genius, creativity, and professionalism. Discusses impact of gender on concert programming, criticism, recording, and publishing. Includes an analysis of sonata form in the first movement of Chaminade’s 1895 Piano Sonata, op. 21. Demonstrates how gender dynamics underpin central musicological concepts of musical value, historiography, and tradition. Trans-cultural psychological explanations of women’s subordination have largely been superseded; see Cusick 2001.

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  • Cusick, Suzanne G. “Eve .º.º. Blowing in our ears? Toward a History of Music Scholarship on Women in the Twentieth Century.” Women & Music 5 (2001): 140–145.

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    Excellent overview of evolving agendas, theories, and methods in the study of women in music; reviews scholarship and methods, poses questions and directions for future research.

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  • Drinker, Sophie. Music and Women: The Story of Women in Their Relation to Music. New York: Coward-McCann, 1948.

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    The first American attempt to analyze or tell the story of women in music. Drinker’s approach is more anthropological than historical or canonic; focus on traditional and ritual music; collective and social music-making; intersection of power, religious authority, and gender in various times and cultures. Best read in conjunction with Solie 1993.

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  • Neuls-Bates, Carol. Women in Music: An Anthology of Source Readings from the Middle Ages to the Present. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1996.

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    Selected passages from female musicians’ letters and memoirs; eyewitness descriptions of women as performers, composers, teachers; early-20th-century documents asserting different reasons for women’s absence from music history and claiming a gendered basis for musical creativity and compositional ability.

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  • Solie, Ruth. “Women’s History and Music History: The Feminist Historiography of Sophie Drinker.” Journal of Women’s History 5.2 (Fall 1993): 8–31.

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    Situates Drinker 1948 against standard disciplinary models for researching and narrating the history of women and the history of music; acknowledges the revelations and limitations of Drinker’s cross-cultural, collective, socially and ritually oriented approach to music and gender.

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Feminist Musicology

McClary 1991 is widely regarded as having launched “feminist music criticism” as involving not only compensatory research on female musicians but a radical critique of sexist bias in the fundamental assumptions of musicology. Solie 1993 examines canonic works through the lens of gender difference and feminist theory, examining how the expressive codes, conventions, and forms of instrumental music and opera have represented femininity, masculinity, eroticism, and gendered dynamics of power. Cook 1994 uses gender to problematize the division of music into art, popular, and folk categories. Moisala and Diamond 2000 complicates the notion of gender by acknowledging its fluidity and its performative dimension; the rapidly changing political, social, and economic contexts in which musicians and listeners negotiate gender; and the increasing role of technology in musical lives. Leguin 2006 draws on feminist and gender theories of embodied subjectivity and communication to illuminate Classical-era chamber music, and to place the performer’s experience at the center of the critical enterprise. Peraino 2006 uses feminist and queer theories to examine how subcultural individuals and communities from the medieval period to the present have used music to form and communicate identities. Feminist musicology now draws on the fields of women’s history, lesbian/gay/transgender history, feminist theory, and queer theory to de-naturalize and de-essentialize gender, critique sex and gender identity categories, and analyze the heteronormative frameworks that maintain notions of “natural” gender and sex roles as universal, unequal, mutually defining and mutually reinforcing. See also Women and Gender in Popular Music and Lesbian Musicians and Musicality. For citations on voice and gender, see Women in Opera and Women as Professional Performers.

  • Cook, Susan C., and Judy S. Tsou, eds. Cecilia Reclaimed: Feminist Perspectives on Gender and Music. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

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    Eleven articles on women in music from the 16th to the 20th centuries; includes art music, folk music, and popular music (rap); interrogates the traditional division of musical activities into gendered public/private spheres. Includes a survey of the achievements and concerns of feminist musicology to 1994.

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  • LeGuin, Elisabeth. Boccherini’s Body: An Essay in Carnal Musicology. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

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    An extensive and original development of feminist calls for a musicology that would place the body, sensation, and intimate communication at the center of the discipline’s attention. Study of the late-18th-century composer Luigi Boccherini theorizes the embodied and socially communicative aspects of music, synthesizing the author’s own experience as performer with historical sources and cultural theory.

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  • McClary, Susan. Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

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    Paradigm-shifting critique of sexism in music historiography, the musical canon, and musicology. Juxtaposes art music and pop music, reading canonic masterworks through a feminist lens and analyzing feminist consciousness in works of Laurie Anderson, Madonna, Janika van der Velde.

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  • Moisala, Pirkko, and Beverley Diamond, eds. Music and Gender. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

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    Contributors from an unusually wide range of disciplines, including sociology, music technology, and music education. Grapples with the complexity of talking cross-culturally about such culturally dependent concepts as music, performance, personhood, the self, society, and expression. Foregrounds the diversity of theoretical frameworks for intersectional analyses of gender, culture, embodiment, and musicality. Most appropriate for readers at and above the graduate level.

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  • Peraino, Judith Ann. Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

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    Synthesizes methodologies from feminist, lesbian, and queer theory to examine how lesbian-feminist, queer, and transgender individuals and subcultures have used music to create, express, share, and critique their identities and communities.

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  • Solie, Ruth A., ed. Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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    Feminist criticism of canonic works as a direction within critical or “New Musicology” contexts. Articles focus on “the feminine” deployed as a sign of difference within musical discourses, often intersecting with signs of racial/ethnic difference (Orientalism) and non-heteronormative sexualities. Focus on instrumental music and opera from the late 18th to the mid-20th century.

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Women in Opera

Clément 1988 argued that opera’s primary cultural work is to stage the defeat, subjugation, and death of heroines. Abbate 1993 is the most influential response to this claim, arguing that the female singer’s authority in performance overrides her “undoing” within the plot. Smart 2000 extends these notions of women in opera as undone or empowered. Smart 2006 studies the relationship between music, body, and gesture in 19th-century opera. Heller 2003, Gordon 2004, and Cusick 2008 offer substantial studies of gender in Italian opera and vocal music before 1750.

  • Abbate, Carolyn. “Opera, or, The Envoicing of Women.” In Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. Edited by Ruth Solie, 225–258. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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    Theoretically sophisticated and influential response to the “undoing” thesis of Clément 1988. Proposes that the vitality and authority of the singer’s voice overrides the confining and silencing effects of tragic plots. Anti-essentialist account of the performative dimensions of operatic femininity both on- and off-stage.

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  • Clément, Catherine. Opera, or, The Undoing of Women. Translated by Betsy Wing, with an introduction by Susan McClary. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988.

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    Retells opera’s stories from the feminist perspective of a “resisting reader,” and argues that opera marshals the power of narrative, music, and theater to make the audience desire the heroine’s death as both inevitable and beautiful. Originally published in French as L’opéra ou la défaite des femmes in 1979, the 1988 English translation provoked extensive debate and critique in Anglo-American musicology through the 1990s; see Smart 2000.

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  • Cusick, Suzanne G. Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

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    Biography and stylistic study of Caccini, a singer and composer active in Florence in the first half of the 17th century; includes historical and critical examination of her opera La liberazione di Ruggiero (1623).

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  • Gordon, Bonnie. Monteverdi’s Unruly Women: The Power of Song in Early Modern Italy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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    Analyzes uses and poetic descriptions of the female voice in Monteverdi’s madrigals, balli, and operas; situates the development of early-17th-century vocal techniques, musical genres, and aesthetics within the context of contemporary understanding of anatomy, physiology, and sexuality.

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  • Heller, Wendy. Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

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    Extensive study of opera and gender in the early modern period; female heroines and villains of Venetian opera serve as a lens for viewing opera within literary, philosophical, and political debates over the nature and status of women.

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  • Smart, Mary Ann. Mimomania: Music and Gesture in Nineteenth-Century Opera. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

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    Traces the development of musical strategies for imitating, evoking, and choreographing the movements of the body on stage; examines music for mute characters and for scenes of madness, lamentation, despair, and erotic transport. Builds on feminist theories of performance, embodiment, and spectatorship.

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  • Smart, Mary Ann, ed. Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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    Smart’s introduction offers the most valuable overview of opera and gender studies at the end of the 1990s. Most of the articles focus on female characters and archetypes in 19th-century Italian and French opera; also essays on Italian opera seria, Mozart opera, and 20th-century German opera. Many contributors extend, refine, and critique claims of Clément 1988 and Abbate 1993.

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Women and Gender in Non-Western and Traditional Musics

All human cultures to some degree divide musical activities according to gender, and ethnomusicology continues to develop increasingly flexible tools for complicating and refining the crude categories of “masculine/feminine” through intersections with age, sexuality, marital status, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, political affiliation, and native or foreign status. Koskoff 1987 offers a durable introduction to the interconnectedness of music, gender, and sex roles in world cultures. Herndon and Ziegler 1990 examines music, gender, spirituality, social change, and power in fifteen cultures. Herndon and Ziegler 1991 includes theoretical essays, case studies, and extensive bibliographies on women in world music. Sugarman 1997 explores gender, identity, modernization, diaspora, and social authority in Prespa Albanian culture through traditional wedding songs and singing rituals. Magrini 2003 presents diverse Mediterranean musics whose performers transgress, defy, or subvert gender norms, and problematizes schematic mapping of masculine/feminine onto other dyads such as public/private, mind/body, honor/shame. Bernstein 2004 integrates ethnomusicological studies of female singers with historical and popular music studies in an accessible style and format designed for interdisciplinary readers. Feldman and Gordon 2006 exemplifies a hybrid historical-ethnomusicological method for studying courtesan–musicians; analyzes courtesans’ musical activities through anthropological paradigms of pre-capitalist (gift-based and patronage-based) economic arrangements.

  • Bernstein, Jane A., ed. Women’s Voices across Musical Worlds. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

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    Essays on women’s literal and metaphorical voices in protest music of the Americas; Arab nationalism; North Indian religious ritual; Japanese nihon boyu; Prespa Albanian wedding songs. These “world musics” are presented in cross-cultural context, along with essays on female voices in European art music and American popular music.

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  • Feldman, Martha, and Bonnie Gordon, eds. The Courtesan’s Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Pathbreaking collection that dissolves boundaries between historical and ethnomusicological methods in order to study courtesan-musicians in pre- and postcolonial India and Korea; Imperial China; ancient Greece; early modern Europe. Exemplary demonstration of how women’s music-making has been shaped by cultural norms governing sexuality, commercial activity, and the division of social spaces into public and private/domestic. Thorough and rigorous without sacrificing lucidity; includes CD of musical examples; accessible to advanced undergraduates.

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  • Herndon, Marcia, and Susanne Ziegler, eds. Music, Gender, and Culture. New York: C. F. Peters, 1990.

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    Fifteen essays on music and gender in cultures of North America, Europe, North Africa, Asia, and Oceania. Proposes to focus on “music and gender” rather than “women in music”: seven essays compare men’s and women’s musical ideas and roles within a culture, eight focus on women’s musical experiences. Useful models for studying the intersections of music, gender, spirituality/ritual, performance and compositional style, and power; several authors emphasize musical practice as a means of female empowerment.

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  • Herndon, Marcia, and Susanne Ziegler, eds. “Women in Music and Music Research.” World of Music 33.2 (1991).

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    Special issue of the journal World of Music focused on methods, topics, and themes in research on women in world music. Includes comprehensive bibliography organized by geographic region.

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  • Koskoff, Ellen, ed. Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective. New York: Greenwood, 1987.

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    Foundational collection of essays linking women, music, and culture. Demonstrates that “the division of musical roles and responsibilities is conceptually linked to other culture-specific, gender-related domains” (p. 8). Like other second-wave feminist musicology, tends to ignore musicians outside the binary and heteronormative frameworks of masculine/feminine (strong/weak, dominant/subordinate, public/private), such as the “third sex” and transgender musicians found in many cultures.

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  • Magrini, Tullia, ed. Music and Gender: Perspectives from the Mediterranean. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

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    Essays examine how music and dance both affirm and subvert masculine and feminine gender roles in Mediterranean folk and popular/urban genres including Turkish classical song, flamenco, Roma (Gypsy) musics, and Prespa Albanian village dance. Valuable for problematizing the boundary between masculine/feminine with explorations of transgender and transvestite performers, and of performers subverting traditional gendered styles.

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  • Sugarman, Jane. Engendering Song: Singing and Subjectivity at Prespa Albanian Weddings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

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    Exemplary study of gender, vocality, singing styles, ritual, and negotiation of gendered roles and power relations in a traditional society. Includes transcriptions and recorded examples.

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Women and Gender in Popular Music

Frith and McRobbie 2000 (originally published 1978) sets initial terms and frameworks for analyzing sexual dynamics in rock style and performance and the relationships of male and female fans to the music. Frith 1987 outlines a method for understanding popular music and identity, subcultural formations, music facilitating memory, and emotion. O’Brien 1995 surveys female songwriters and performers. Wald 1998 focuses on the meanings of rock for young female fans. Whiteley 1997, Whiteley 2000, and Burns and Lafrance 2002 offer theories and models for feminist study of popular musics. Rustin and Tucker 2008 moves beyond a “women in jazz” framework to examine femininity, masculinity, and gender transgression; intersectional approaches to gender, race, class, sexuality, and nationality; gender in jazz historiography and criticism.

  • Burns, Lori, and Mélisse Lafrance. Disruptive Divas: Feminism, Identity & Popular Culture. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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    Chapters on rock and pop musicians whose personae and songs challenge normative ideas of femininity and female roles; popular music as a channel for individual feminist consciousness and collective social critique. Valuable chapter on methodological issues in the analysis of popular song and the intersection of form, genre, expressive convention, and lyrics to produce meaning.

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  • Frith, Simon. “Towards an Aesthetic of Popular Music.” In Music and Society: The Politics of Composition, Performance, and Reception. Edited by Richard Leppert and Susan McClary, 133–150. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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    A foundational essay outlining the social functions of popular music, including the creation and management of identity, the channeling of emotion and intimacy, and the shaping of memory. Proposes how to move beyond sociological approaches toward aesthetic and cultural questions. No explicit focus on women, gender, or sexuality, but informs much subsequent scholarship.

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  • Frith, Simon, and Angela McRobbie. “Rock and Sexuality.” In On Record: Rock, Pop and the Written Word. Edited by Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin, 317–332. London: Routledge, 2000.

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    Originally published in 1978, established paradigms and terms for understanding rock music as a gendered and sexualized musical form that presumes and promotes dramatically different responses and patterns of consumption for male and female fans. See Wald 1998 for response and critique.

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  • O’Brien, Lucy. She Bop: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop and Soul. New York: Penguin, 1995.

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    Accessible narrative survey of female participation in major popular music genres up to 1995.

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  • Rustin, Nicole T., and Sherrie Tucker, eds. Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

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    Appropriate as a textbook in jazz studies; introduction surveys existing scholarship. Articles establish the interconnectedness of gender, sexuality, race, nationality, and class in jazz repertoires. Designed to counteract the typical framing of women and gender as a lack or absence in the history of jazz.

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  • Wald, Gayle. “Just a Girl? Rock Music, Feminism, and the Cultural Construction of Female Youth.” SIGNS 23 (1998): 585–611.

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    Interrogates common presuppositions in sociology and popular music studies that rock is essentially a masculine space and genre, and that female fans have only a secondary or superficial investment in it (see Frith and McRobbie 2000). Argues that this gendering of rock rests on sexist stereotypes and tends to marginalize or erase women’s participation as performers and fans.

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  • Whiteley, Sheila. Women and Popular Music: Sexuality, Identity, and Subjectivity. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.

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    Survey of female performer/songwriters in rock, soul, folk, punk, pop; covers the 1960s to 1990s. Examines music/gender in 1960s counterculture, feminism, gay liberation, androgyny, technology. Suitable as a textbook.

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  • Whiteley, Sheila, ed. Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

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    Whiteley’s introduction reviews core questions and methods in popular music and gender. Articles are evenly distributed among masculinities, femininities, and straight and gay discourse, with attention to androgyny and lesbian musicians as well. Annotated bibliography designed as a guide to further study.

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Lesbian Musicians and Musicality

The first phase of gay/lesbian musicology focused on gay and lesbian composers, artistic themes, and critical reading strategies as exemplified in Brett, et al. 2006 and Solie 1993 (see Feminist Musicology). Mockus 2007 shows how a 1970s lesbian-feminist vision of lesbian relationships as free of power inequality and domination informs the music and aesthetics of Pauline Oliveros. The lesbian musicality described in Cusick 2006 and Wood 2006 also reflects this utopian vision. Since 2000, “lesbian and gay musicology” has evolved into the more expansive and ambiguous category of “queer musicology,” focusing on how music can challenge and destabilize heteronormative notions of gender and sexuality. Fuller and Whitesell 2002 opens up the field of inquiry to include musicians who were neither unambiguously straight nor gay. Tucker 2002 analyzes the stigmatizing effects of non-heteronormative appearance or behavior on female jazz musicians, including impact on their professional opportunities and perceived competence. Peraino 2006 is a theoretically sophisticated examination of music as a tool of lesbian/gay/transgender/queer identity-formation. The essays in Whiteley and Rycenga 2006 focus on gender ambiguity, gender transgression, and polymorphous or fluid eroticism, and examine how political and material parameters such as class, subcultural space, and ethnicity constrain and shape gender performance. Lewis 2009 surveys current concerns, methods, and challenges in queer musicology and proposes future directions.

  • Brett, Philip, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas. Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    Expanded edition of the pathbreaking 1994 collection. Includes as a “Coda” the full text of the authors’ entry on “Lesbian and Gay Music” as submitted to the 2001 New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Comprehensive scholarly bibliography on music and sexuality.

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  • Cusick, Suzanne G. “On a Lesbian Relationship with Music: A Serious Effort Not to Think Straight.” In Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. 2d ed. Edited by Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, 67–83. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    Personal meditation on lesbian subjectivity as experienced through music; the erotic dimension of playing, hearing, and sharing music; a “lesbian relationship with music” defined as a free exchange of power and pleasure in which the player neither “masters” the piece nor “submits to” the music/composer. Poses a still-provocative question: “What if music is sex?”

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  • Fuller, Sophie, and Lloyd Whitesell. Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

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    Essays exploring intersections of musicality and “queer” (non-heteronormative) sexual identities and lives in modern Britain, Europe, and the United States, 1870–1950. Most essays focus on male subjects, but the book includes two studies of lesbian romance and political-artistic subcultures, and an investigation of female impersonators in American music hall and vaudeville.

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  • Lewis, Rachel. “What’s Queer about Queer Musicology Now?” Women & Music (2009): 43–53.

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    Overview of concerns about and approaches to questions of music, sexualities, and identities, posing questions and future directions for the field. Footnotes provide the most up-to-date bibliography on music and sexuality, situating queer musicology within interdisciplinary queer theory and history of sexualities.

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  • Mockus, Martha. Sounding Out: Pauline Oliveros and Lesbian Musicality. New York: Routledge, 2007.

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    Situates Oliveros’s work within lesbian-feminist communities and the political context of second-wave feminism. Mockus organizes her discussion around four aspects of “lesbian musicality”: a commitment to pleasure, physicality, collective music-making, and dissolving boundaries between the musician’s private/romantic and artistic selves. Definition of lesbian musicality builds on Cusick 2006.

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  • Peraino, Judith Ann. Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

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    Theoretically sophisticated and detailed study of music in a wide range of lesbian, gay, transgender and queer subcultures; organized around Foucault’s “technologies of identity”: desire, discipline, sign systems, production, and power. Case studies include historical and contemporary composers and performers; art and popular musics; vocal and instrumental genres; film and music video.

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  • Tucker, Sherrie. “When Subjects Don’t Come Out.” In Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity. Edited by Sophie Fuller and Lloyd Whitesell, 293–310. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

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    A challenging meditation on the ethics of historical research that seeks to place subjects in identity categories (e.g., “woman musician” or “lesbian”) that subjects themselves do not claim. Seeking to uncover lives that had been suppressed or hidden from history, Tucker met resistance from subjects whose first priority was to be regarded as “legitimate” musicians (that is, unmarked by gender and sexuality).

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  • Whiteley, Sheila, and Jennifer Rycenga, eds. Queering the Popular Pitch. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    Extends the scope of lesbian/gay/queer music scholarship beyond the white, largely upper-class, homosexual creators of art music studied in Brett, et al. 2006 and Fuller and Whitesell 2002. Samples an ethnically, socioeconomically, stylistically, and sexually diverse array of pop musicians and subcultures. Most essays are brief and narrowly focused. Best read with the “Coda” of Brett 2006 or Lewis 2009 to contextualize individual essays within larger frameworks of queer theory and/or popular music studies.

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  • Wood, Elizabeth. “Sapphonics.” In Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. 2d ed. Edited by Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, 27–66. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    Part historical survey, part meditation on the pleasures afforded by female voices with a break between a powerful low register and a flexible upper register. Such voices may be heard variously as androgynous, as “lesbian” (envoicing butch authority and eroticism), and as “queer,” destabilizing binary conceptions of gender and sexual identity as securely grounded in the body and in biological sex.

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Women as Composers of Western Art Music

Early scholarship on women composers focused on excavating and piecing together details of their lives and works. Since the 1990s, research on women composers has built on those archival and documentary foundations and used tools from feminist historiography and anthropology to raise questions about class and subcultural distinctions, canon formation, musical valuation, and nationalism.

Medieval Period

Women were active in sacred and secular music; a tiny handful of elite women left attributable written songs, and a much greater number of anonymous female musicians participated in improvised music and practices communicated by oral tradition. Yardley 1987, a survey of nuns’ music-making across Europe, contextualizes Fassler 2004 on Hildegard of Bingen (b. 1098–d. 1179), a prolific poet, composer, liturgist, and visionary. Holsinger 2001 situates Hildegard’s work within scholarship on medieval sexuality, the history of the body, and queer theory. From the secular realm come women troubadours of the Occitan region (1150–1250); Bruckner, et al. 1995 offers the most elegant translations and critical commentary. For a feminist-deconstructive examination of the “female voice” within women troubadours’ songs, see Bruckner 2002. The picture of women in music is enriched by considering iconographic evidence, descriptions of music-making, and poetic representations of female voices in genres such as the chanson de toile, chanson de mal-mariée, and pastourelle. On the songs and musical activities of lower-class, usually anonymous medieval women, see Boynton 2002 and Cohen 2002.

  • Boynton, Susan. “Women’s Performance of the Lyric before 1500.” In Medieval Women’s Song: Cross-Cultural Approaches. Edited by Anne L. Klinck and Ann Marie Rasmussen, 47–65. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

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    Detailed account of early medieval female composer-improviser-singers of lyric poetry, including women across classes (rustic, urban, enslaved, professional, aristocratic), religions, and ethnicities. Explores the role of women in creating and transmitting poetry and song within and across European and Arab cultures; theorizes historical and fictional dimensions of the female voice.

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  • Bruckner, Matilda Tomaryn. “Fictions of the Female Voice: The Women Troubadours.” In Medieval Women’s Song: Cross-Cultural Approaches. Edited by Anne L. Klinck and Ann Marie Rasmussen, 127–151. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

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    Sophisticated interpretation of lyrics by 12th-century female troubadours, using literary theories of poetic voice and artistic construction/deconstruction of “the feminine.”

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  • Bruckner, Matilda Tomaryn, Laurie Shepard, and Sarah Melhado White, trans. and eds. Songs of the Women Troubadours. New York: Garland, 1995.

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    Translations of thirty-six lyrics by trobairitz (female troubadours) of the 12th-century Occitan region. Editor’s introduction situates the poems within the genre of troubadour poetry, and the aristocratic female poets within the context of courtly love. Draws on literary theories of poetic voice and artistic construction/deconstruction of “the feminine.” Most up-to-date historical and theoretical presentation of the trobairitz repertoire.

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  • Cohen, Judith. “Ca no soe joglaresa: Women and Music in Medieval Spain’s Three Cultures.” In Medieval Women’s Song: Cross-Cultural Approaches. Edited by Anne L. Klinck and Ann Marie Rasmussen, 66–80. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

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    The author, a performer and ethnomusicologist, surveys women’s musical activities in the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures of medieval Spain, from aristocratic women poet-singers to slave musicians. Includes informed suggestions about modern realization and performance.

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  • Fassler, Margot. “Music for the Love Feast: Hildegard of Bingen and the Song of Songs.” In Women’s Voices across Musical Worlds. Edited by Jane Bernstein, 92–117. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

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    Introduces Hildegard’s life and theology as expressed in her poems and songs. The Eucharistic/wedding feast as a metaphor for religious experience in her treatise Scivias, songs for St. Ursula, and sacred play Ordo Virtutum. Musical and poetic analysis of the sequence “O Ecclesia”; suitable for students in music, religious studies, medieval studies. Includes extensive scholarly bibliography.

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  • Holsinger, Bruce W. Music, Body, and Desire in Medieval Culture: Hildegard of Bingen to Chaucer. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

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    Focus on medieval music as an embodied material practice, including poetic images of human and divine bodies as musical instruments and sound-sources. Builds on interdisciplinary scholarship on medieval sexuality, queer theory, and the history of sexuality. In chapter 3, nuanced readings of Hildegard’s bodily and sensual metaphors reveal her “conception of music as a somatic and often gendered dimension of her visionary life” (p. 102).

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  • Yardley, Anne Bagnall. “‘Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne’: The Cloistered Musician in the Middle Ages.” In Women Making Music: The Western Art Tradition. Edited by Jane Bowers and Judith Tick, 15–38. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

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    Surveys music-making in convents across Europe from the 10th to the early 16th century, including plainchant, polyphony, and sacred dramas.

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Early Modern Period

Seventeenth-century Italy is notable for the appearance of two prolific and published female composers: Francesca Caccini, a Florentine court musician, and Barbara Strozzi, a Venetian singer-composer who performed in her father’s accademia. Cusick 2009 traces Caccini’s development as a composer and singer in a leading musical family under a powerful patron with international connections to France and Poland. Information about Strozzi’s life has come to light over several decades of archival research by (see Rosand 1978) and see Glixon 1997 and Glixon 1999); Heller 2006 is a valuable synthesis and contextualization of the accumulated biographical data. Rosand 1978 and Kendrick 2003 provide the most detailed examinations of Strozzi’s style and technique. For information on female composers in the early modern period who have not yet received extensive individual study, or about whom we have only fragmentary information, see Bowers 1986 (under Introductory Works), particularly Jane Bowers, “The Emergence of Women Composers in Italy, 1566–1700,” and Julie Ann Sadie, “Musiciennes of the Ancien Régime.” Research on music in early modern convents has revealed numerous sacred compositions by nun-composers, most notably Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana (see Monson 1995) and Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (see Kendrick 1996). Cozzolani’s sensuous and sophisticated motets for one to eight voices have become particular favorites of early music ensembles and festival programmers. Monson 1995, Kendrick 1996, and Reardon 2002 create a complex and exciting picture of Italian convents as economic, religious, and musical institutions; Yardley 1987 (annotated under Medieval Period) offers valuable background on nun–musicians in earlier periods. Baldauf-Berdes 1993 (see Women as Professional Performers) permits comparison with Venice’s secular ospedali grandi, internationally renowned for their choirs and orchestras of “foundling” girls trained in music, at the state’s expense, for public concerts and ceremonies.

  • Cusick, Suzanne G. Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

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    First book-length biographical and analytical study of female composer of the Italian early baroque. Includes transcriptions of Caccini’s letters. Analyses of Caccini’s madrigals, sacred songs, and 1625 “commedia in musica” La liberazione di Ruggiero.

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  • Glixon, Beth. “New Light on the Life and Career of Barbara Strozzi.” Musical Quarterly 81 (1997): 311–335.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/81.2.311Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Revises older beliefs about Strozzi’s biography. Shows that she had four children and maintained a long-term liaison with a member of the upper-class Vidman family. Tends to discredit claims, based on contemporary satires and iconography, that Barbara Strozzi was a courtesan (Rosand 1978).

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  • Glixon, Beth. “More on the Life and Death of Barbara Strozzi.” Musical Quarterly 83 (1999): 134–141.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/83.1.134Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Further documentation and clarification of details of Strozzi’s biography, including evidence of her relationship with Giovanni Paolo Vidman and a precise place and date of death in Padua, November 1677.

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  • Heller, Wendy. “Usurping the Place of the Muses: Barbara Strozzi and the Female Composer in Seventeenth-Century Italy.” In The World of Baroque Music: New Perspectives. Edited by George B. Stauffer, 145–168. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.

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    Synthesizes biographical research and situates Strozzi’s life and career in a broader context of other female musicians and contemporary ideas about women and music.

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  • Kendrick, Robert. Celestial Sirens: Nuns and Their Music in Early Modern Milan. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.

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    Situates nuns’ musical and liturgical activities in the political, religious-historical, and economic context of early modern Italy. Focus on mid-17th-century composer Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, of the convent of Santa Radagonda, Milan. Available recordings of Cozzolani’s music can bring this composer and style to life for undergraduate students.

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  • Kendrick, Robert. “Intent and Intertextuality in Barbara Strozzi’s Sacred Music.” Recercare: Rivista per lo Studio e la Practica della Musica Antica 14 (2003): 65–98.

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    The first study of Strozzi’s sacred music; valuable for focus on her musical style and technique.

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  • Monson, Craig. Disembodied Voices: Music and Culture in an Early Modern Italian Convent. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

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    Focus on Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana, composer of a collection of motets for one or more voices (1623), and her musical and religious life as a nun in the wealthy and artistically sophisticated convent of Santa Cristina della Fondazza, Bologna.

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  • Reardon, Colleen. Holy Concord within Sacred Walls: Nuns and Music in Siena, 1575–1700. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    Sophisticated analysis of nun musicians in the historical context of theological reform; convents within networks of aristocratic families, clerics, and patrons; female religious archetypes as models for nuns’ artistic and spiritual authority. Valuable for graduate-level research.

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  • Rosand, Ellen. “Barbara Strozzi, virtuosissima cantatrice: The Composer’s Voice.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 31 (1978): 241–281.

    DOI: 10.1525/jams.1978.31.2.03a00020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First biographical and stylistic study of Venetian composer and singer Barbara Strozzi, who published 125 vocal pieces in the mid-17th century. Analysis of the cantata “Il Lamento (Sul Rodano severo)” examines text-setting, melodic style, and multimovement solo cantata form. Evidence of contemporary satires suggests that Strozzi may have been a courtesan; this view has been superceded by Glixon 1997 and Glixon 1999. On courtesan-musicians in early modern Italy, see essays in Feldman and Gordon 2006 (Women and Gender in Non-Western and Traditional Musics). Article adapted as “The Voice of Barbara Strozzi” in Bowers and Tick 1986 (cited under General Overviews), pp.168–190.

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Eighteenth Century

Scholarship on women and gender in 18th-century music has primarily focused on domestic performers (see Women as Amateur and Domestic Musicians), and female composers and professional musicians are less studied than those in the early modern and Romantic periods. Jackson 2001 surveys women’s musical activities in 17th- and 18th-century Europe, including a number of composers whose works await more sustained investigation. One example of such sustained investigation is Head 2004, which analyzes a young female composer and the ideologies of gender and sexuality at work in the praise she received. Letzter and Adelson 2001 restores a previously unknown cluster of female authors to the history of late-18th-century French opera, and argues that French operatic genres and institutions have been overshadowed by musicology’s bias toward Austro-German and symphonic music. See Sadie 1986 for background on aristocratic female musicians and patrons in late-17th-century and 18th-century France. Ritchie 2008 excavates musical and literary texts authored by British women and challenges reigning assumptions about gendered social functions and practices of music.

  • Head, Matthew. “Cultural Meanings for Women Composers: Charlotte (“Minna”) Brandes and the Beautiful Dead in the German Enlightenment.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 57.2 (Summer 2004): 231–284.

    DOI: 10.1525/jams.2004.57.2.231Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A model of critical feminist biography that develops an interpretive context relevant to the particular composer and the culture in which she lived and worked. Analyzes the ideologies of femininity, beauty, and musicality that inform the primary source of information about Brandes: an account of her life written by her father after she died.

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  • Jackson, Barbara Garvey. “Musical Women of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.” In Women and Music: A History. 2d ed. Edited by Karin Pendle, 97–146. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

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    Survey of women as composers and instrumental performers in public and domestic settings.

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  • Letzter, Jacqueline, and Robert Adelson. Women Writing Opera: Creativity and Controversy in the Age of the French Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

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    Reveals an unsuspected surge of activity and professional success by female librettists and composers of opera-comique in Paris during the decades before and after the French Revolution (1770–1820). An intervention in the history of women in music, opera, the “classical” period, and the historiography of French music.

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  • Ritchie, Leslie. Women Writing Music in Late Eighteenth-Century England: Social Harmony in Literature and Performance. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008.

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    Interdisciplinary study of musical, poetic, didactic, and fictional texts by women in late-18th-century Britain. Complicates two dominant assumptions in study of gender and music in this period: that music functioned as a form of social control, and that women’s musical activities were confined to the “domestic” sphere.

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  • Sadie, Julie Anne. “Musiciennes of the ancien régime.” In Women Making Music. Edited by Jane M. Bowers and Judith Tick, 191–223. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986.

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    Primarily focused on aristocratic amateurs; includes information on Jacquet de la Guerre, a major composer awaiting attention from modern scholars.

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Romantic Period

Among the numerous amateur and published women composers in the first half of the century, Clara Wieck Schumann (wife of Robert Schumann), and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (sister of Felix Mendelssohn) have received the longest and most detailed scholarly attention. Reich 2001 and Todd 2010 exemplify the increasing attention to class as both an inhibiting and an empowering force in women’s musical careers. Kimber 2002 summarizes and critiques biographical approaches to Mendelssohn Hensel before 2000. The literature on Mendelssohn Hensel is particularly valuable to music students because of a growing focus on musical analysis since 2000; see bibliography in Todd 2010. Iitti 2006 proposes strategies for bringing feminist and gender theory to bear on musical analysis. Late-19th-century Paris has emerged as a rich milieu for studying women and music in the context of debates over women’s rights, nature, and potential. The Parisian career of Augusta Holmès, one of the first women to succeed professionally as a symphonist and opera composer, has become a focus of scholarly attention since the late 1990s, and provides an entry into the broader picture of women and music in the late Romantic and pre-war period. Henson 1997 focuses on Holmès’s operatic career, connecting issues of gender to nationalism, Wagnerism, and Orientalism; Fauser 2005 examines her Ode triomphale for the 1889 World’s Fair for intersecting discourses of gender, Revolutionary heritage, and Republicanism; Pasler 2008 analyzes her persona and career within the political and aesthetic ideal of “virility.” Fried Block 1998 studies similar issues of femininity and authority in the musical public sphere in the career of Amy Beach, intersecting with particularly American currents of class, ambivalence about European models, and intellectualism. MacDonald 1993 compares the impact of sexism in reception and evaluation of piano concerti by Clara Schumann and Amy Beach. The footnotes and bibliographies to these studies provide a gateway to articles on other equally significant composers who have as yet received less detailed or extensive scholarly attention, including Lili Boulanger, Nadia Boulanger, Ingeborg von Bronsart, Luise Adolpha LeBeau, and Rebecca Clarke.

  • Fauser, Annegret. Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2005.

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    Chapter 3 argues that Augusta Holmès’s persona, blending masculine strength and feminine emotion, allowed her Ode triomphale to be celebrated as a worthy descendant of Revolutionary art and present voice of the Republic.

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  • Fried Block, Adrienne. Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian: The Life and Work of an American Composer, 1867–1944. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    Richly documented biography of Beach, a child prodigy who matured into a productive and admired composer within the wealthy, cultivated environment of upper-class Boston. Essential for study of American art music; gender and orchestral music; intersection of gender and class in musical life.

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  • Henson, K. “In the House of Disillusion: Augusta Holmès and ‘La montagne noir.’” Cambridge Opera Journal 9 (1997): 233–262.

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    First feminist study of Holmès’s career and persona, focusing on her negotiation of the tension between femininity and the male-dominated spheres of professional composition and the opera industry; negative critical reactions to her 1895 opera and her response.

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  • Iitti, Sanna. The Feminine in German Song. New York: Peter Lang, 2006.

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    A poststructuralist analysis of “the feminine” within discursive networks of power relations; explores musical signs of “the feminine” (frequently intersecting with signs of “the Oriental”) as deployed by male and female composers. Analyzes songs by Clara and Robert Schumann, Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn, Johanna Kinkel, and Hugo Wolf. Overview of French feminist philosophy appropriate for graduate students.

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  • Kimber, Marion Wilson. “The ‘Suppression’ of Fanny Mendelssohn: Rethinking Feminist Biography.” Nineteenth-Century Music 26.2 (Fall 2002): 113–129.

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    Disputes the widely circulated belief that discouragement from male relatives prevented Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel from fulfilling her potential as a composer. Argues that feminist biography tends to exaggerate themes of suppression, and to repeatedly invest in narratives of oppression, failure, and neglect, to the detriment of the subject.

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  • MacDonald, Claudia. “Critical Perception and the Woman Composer: The Early Reception of Piano Concertos by Clara Wieck Schumann and Amy Beach.” Current Musicology 55 (1993): 24–55.

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    Shows that when Schumann and Beach employed certain structural and gestural elements similar to those of male contemporaries, critics interpreted these gestures as evidence of feminine moodiness, impulsiveness, and superficiality. Analyzes gender as a force in reception history and musical evaluation.

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  • Pasler, Jann. Writing through Music: Essays on Music, Culture, and Politics. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    See chapter 8, “The Ironies of Gender, or Virility and Politics in the Music of Augusta Holmès.” Analyzes the persona and orchestral music of Holmès in light of contemporary French political debates about the rights of women, the entry of women into education and the professions, and the centrality of “virility” in defining artistic vision and excellence. Considers resonances between discourses of gender and music in late-19th-century France and today; footnotes comprise valuable bibliography on women composers in France at the fin de siécle.

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  • Reich, Nancy B. Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

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    Revised and expanded second edition of the prize-winning biography. Detailed narrative of Schumann’s family life, musical friendships, compositional activities, and career as a professional concert pianist. No analysis of her compositions. Bibliography includes women musicians of the early Romantic era.

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  • Todd, R. Larry. Fanny Hensel: The Other Mendelssohn. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Scholarly biography by an expert on both Mendelssohns; synthesizes and adds to the substantial literature on Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel. Includes both biographical narrative and stylistic study of her music. Comprehensive bibliography and literature review.

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Twentieth Century

Literally thousands of women composers were active in the 20th century; see Cohen 1987, Sadie 1994, and Burns 2002 in Reference Works. Tick and Koskoff 2001 (see Reference Works) includes biographical entries on many women, with the most comprehensive bibliographies. However, the vast majority have received only a few lines in dictionaries and encyclopedias. There are few book-length studies of women composers. The works listed below are exemplary in their use of gender theory, feminist historiography, and intersectional perspectives to situate female composers within cultural and political contexts. Roberts 2008 focuses on feminism and radical British politics as the context for Ethel Smyth’s operas; Wood 1993 examines Smyth’s management of her lesbian identity in her memoirs and compositions. Tick 1997 focuses on the intersection of gender, class, and mid-20th-century politics in Ruth Crawford Seeger’s musical career. Mockus 2007 situates Pauline Oliveros’s music within American lesbian feminism. Hisama 2001 is the most extended and ambitious effort to synthesize feminist theory and music theory in analyses of women’s compositions.

  • Hisama, Ellie. Gendering Musical Modernism: The Music of Ruth Crawford, Marion Bauer, and Miriam Gideon. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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    Innovative analytic study of modernist compositions by three American women. Weaves together individual biography, gendered aesthetics, and political-intellectual contexts to generate music-analytical and interpretive strategies for avant-garde compositions. An unusually in-depth fusion of feminist theory and music theory, arguing that gendered subjectivity informs abstract structural and formal decisions.

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  • Mockus, Martha. Sounding Out: Pauline Oliveros and Lesbian Musicality. New York: Routledge, 2007.

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    Biographical and analytic situating composer/improviser Pauline Oliveros’s work within lesbian/female-centered communities and the political context of second-wave feminism. Mockus organizes her discussion around four aspects of “lesbian musicality”: a commitment to pleasure, attention to the body’s resonance, an anti-individualist focus on collective music, and a dissolving of boundaries between the musician’s private/romantic and artistic selves.

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  • Roberts, Suzanne. “Smyth the Anarchist: Fin-de-siècle Radicalism in The Wreckers.” Cambridge Opera Journal 20.2 (2008): 149–180.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0954586709002456Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the intersection of gender, class, politics, and music in opera by British feminist, suffragist, and composer Ethel Smyth. Footnotes provide bibliography and guidance to earlier scholarship.

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  • Tick, Judith. Ruth Crawford Seeger: A Composer’s Search for American Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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    Honors and reconciles the apparently incongruous halves of Crawford’s musical career: as an avant-garde composer in the 1920s she explored atonal structures and dissonant sonorities, and in the 1930s shifted to transcribing and arranging folk songs. Argues that Crawford embodies tensions in 20th-century American culture between art/folk and individualism/collectivism.

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  • Wood, Elizabeth. “Lesbian Fugue: Ethel Smyth’s Contrapuntal Arts.” In Musicology and Difference. Edited by Ruth Solie, 164–183. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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    Playful, innovative reading of Smyth’s evasive and sometimes cryptic narratives of her first major lesbian relationship, using musical metaphors of fugal counterpoint, pursuit, presentation, and transformation of a subject through interaction with itself and other subjects. Explores tensions between self-disclosure and hiding, pursuit and evasion, repetition and variation in an early-20th-century lesbian musician’s life.

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Women as Professional Performers

The study of opera singers is as much the study of fantasies and ideologies attached to performances of femininity as it is the study of historical women. Abbate 1993 remains a fundamental theoretical frame for thinking about the diva’s places within operatic discourses and power structures. Rutherford 2006 focuses on “prima donnas” as a professional cohort within the economic and social structures of the opera industry. Newcomb 1987 documents the emergence of professional female virtuoso singers in the late-16th-century court of Ferrara. Smart 1994 analyzes the contradictions between a diva’s professional ambition and authority and her performances of stereotyped images of feminine sexuality and vulnerability; Hadlock 2004 analyzes perceptions of female performers in male roles c. 1830, when modern associations of voice/gender/character were emerging. In theorizing performers as both objects of the spectator’s gaze and self-fashioning subjects, research on opera singers intersects with feminist work on popular music stars and celebrity culture. The study of performers, male and female, brings historical musicology into contact with ethnomusicology and popular music studies. Professional female instrumentalists are much rarer than singers, particularly before the 20th century; all-woman orchestras were as novel in the modern era (Neuls-Bates 1987) as in early modern Europe (Baldauf-Berdes 1993). Tucker 2000 documents gender and race dynamics in American female jazz and swing orchestras. See Women as Amateur and Domestic Musicians for studies of women and gender in instrumental music outside the professional sphere.

  • Abbate, C. “Opera, or, The Envoicing of Women.” In Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. Edited by Ruth A. Solie, 225–258. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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    A paradigm-shifting essay that challenged feminist critics’ tendency to equate female characters with actual women; raised the possibility of regarding every diva, regardless of sex, as a female impersonator. Offers recordings as operatic “texts” and proposes (female) singers as authors of operatic experience.

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  • Baldauf-Berdes, Jane L. Women Musicians of Venice: Musical Foundations, 1525–1855. Oxford: Clarendon, 1993.

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    Comprehensive study of music at Venice’s four orphanages and welfare institutions (ospedali grandi), internationally renowned for their choirs and orchestras of “foundling” girls trained in music at the state’s expense for public concerts and ceremonies. Rare information on female instrumentalists before 1750. A case study of the intersection of gender, civic policy, and the arts in the early modern period.

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  • Hadlock, Heather. “Women Playing Male Roles in Italian Opera, 1815–1830.” In Women’s Voices across Musical Worlds. Edited by Jane A. Bernstein, 285–307. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

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    Case studies of singers Giuditta Pasta, Rosmunda Pisaroni, and Marietta Brambilla, each celebrated in male roles either originally composed for castrati or specifically written for female performers. Documents shifting contemporary assessments of women in male roles as nobly androgynous, unwomanly, or effeminate.

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  • Neuls-Bates, Carol. “Women’s Orchestras in the United States, 1925–1945.” In Women Making Music: The Western Art Tradition. Edited by Jane Bowers and Judith Tick, 345–369. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

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    Documents women’s formation of almost thirty professional all-female symphonic orchestras in the United States during a period when mainstream orchestras did not admit female players. Their cultivation of female players and conductors and their advocacy for music by women composers were important predecessors to the feminist orchestras formed during the 1970s and 1980s such as the Bay Area Women’s Philharmonic.

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  • Newcomb, Anthony. “Courtesans, Muses, or Musicians: Professional Women Musicians in Sixteenth-Century Italy.” In Women Making Music: The Western Art Tradition. Edited by Jane Bowers and Judith Tick, 90–115. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.

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    The emergence of professional female singers in the late 16th century led to changes in musical style, as composers responded to these singers’ advanced vocal and ensemble techniques. Focus on Ferrara’s concerto delle donne. For a more up-to-date theoretical framing of the “courtesan/musician” question, see Feldman and Gordon 2006 in Women and Gender in Non-Western and Traditional Musics.

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  • Rutherford, Susan. The Prima Donna and Opera, 1815–1930. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Comprehensive and sophisticated fusion of women’s history and feminist theory to situate first-rank female singers as a professional group within the economic and social structures of the opera industry. Analyzes ideas about gender, femininity, power, and class at work in careers, interpretations, and reception of female singers and leading female roles.

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  • Smart, Mary Ann. “The Lost Voice of Rosine Stoltz.” Cambridge Opera Journal 6.1 (March 1994): 31–50.

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    Analyzes an operatic diva’s career, professional persona, and historiography using feminist biographical principles, particularly Carolyn G. Heilbrun’s Writing a Woman’s Life (1988).

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  • Tucker, Sherrie. Swing Shift: “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

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    Women negotiated gendered musical identities as they stepped into traditionally masculine instruments, styles, and performance spaces. Places female musicians in context of other women in male-dominated professions during and after World War II. Sophisticated intersectional analysis of gender, sexuality, race, and class dynamics in popular music.

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Women as Amateur and Domestic Musicians

Research on amateur and domestic music-making has focused on how musical practice and performance “schooled” the bourgeois female subject in presenting a calm and disciplined body, a warm but modest spirit, and strong but not excessive emotion. Leppert 1993 finds evidence of music as an enforcer of gender and class norms in 18th- and 19th-century portraits, literature, and painted decorations on domestic instruments such as the harpsichord and piano. Solie 1992 argues that a similar process is at work in song literature. Head 1999 surveys the vast repertoire marketed to female performers to show how music conveyed both discipline and sensibility. Hoffmann 1991 documents the sexual and gendered connotations of musical instruments in different eras, including femininity, masculinity, respectability, sensuality, and licentiousness. Hadlock 2000 studies the “glass harmonica” in the early Romantic period as a feminized locus of musical pleasure and danger. Solie 2004 documents young women’s surprising range of attitudes toward musical practice.

  • Hadlock, Heather. “Sonorous Bodies: Women and the Glass Harmonica.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 53.3 (2000): 507–542.

    DOI: 10.1525/jams.2000.53.3.03a00030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines iconography, music, and literary descriptions of the glass harmonica and its associations with young female players, femininity, sensibility, and the supernatural between 1760 and 1820.

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  • Head, Matthew. “‘If the Pretty Little Hand Won’t Stretch’: Music for the Fair Sex in Eighteenth-Century Germany.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 52.2 (Summer 1999): 203–254.

    DOI: 10.1525/jams.1999.52.2.03a00010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive study of songs and keyboard music marketed to female amateurs. Shows how domestic music-making perpetuated notions of femininity as decorative, physically weak, and naturally melodious; deduces that counterpoint, fast tempos, percussive accompaniments, and chromatic harmony were gendered masculine. Points toward broader questions about the gendering of 18th-century musical styles.

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  • Hoffmann, Freia. Instrument und Körper, die musizierende Frau in der bürgerlichen Kultur. Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1991.

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    Extensive list of amateur and professional performers on all instruments; historical background on the gendering of instruments going back to classical mythology and biblical associations; analysis of 18th- and 19th-century attitudes about why different instruments were or were not suitable for women.

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  • Leppert, Richard D. The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation, and the History of the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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    Chapter 4 reads paintings of female musicians in the family and domestic sphere; chapter 6 analyzes music-making as a site for staging femininity and enforcing gender norms; chapter 7 shows how music facilitates both erotic and misogynistic fantasy in Tolstoy’s story “The Kreutzer Sonata.”

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  • Solie, Ruth A. “Whose Life? The Gendered Self in Schumann’s Frauenliebe Songs.” In Music and Text: Critical Inquiries. Edited by Stephen Paul Scher, 219–240. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511518355Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the nameless female speaker of Schumann’s song-cycle Frauenliebe und Leben (Woman’s Life and Loves) epitomizes bourgeois male fantasies of feminine character and life defined by courtship, marriage, and motherhood. Argues that Lieder required amateur female musicians to perform compliance with notions of proper femininity.

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  • Solie, Ruth A. Music in Other Words: Victorian Conversations. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

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    Chapter 3, “‘Girling’ at the Parlor Piano,” uses young women’s diaries and letters to document attitudes toward musical practice, including enthusiasm, resentment, and resistance. A valuable extension of the primary sources on domestic/amateur music in Neuls-Bates 1996 (Historical Background of Research on Women in Music).

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