July 19, birthday of Marianna Auenbrugger (1759 – 1782)

Since I published this, I found this website dedicated to female composers:  Association of Swedish Women Composers (KVAST).

Finally! After a couple of months searching for the names of composers in each day’s Wikipedia entry, I found my first female composer.  What is it with the classical music world?  Even in many European countries, gender parity and equal pay for musicians lag far behind that of men.  This brings me to some research I learned of that’s looked into the causes and solutions to the imbalance.

Recently, I started teaching a workshop entitles “Everyday Bias,” created by Howard Ross.  One of the examples of bias that Ross gives is how many orchestras have adopted a technique to reduce gender bias against women in orchestras when selected based on live audition.  I decided to look up the study on the web, and found some related background ones as well.

For example, in 1996 a paper was published revealeding that:

“In a cross-national study, the gender researchers Allmendinger and Hackman have established percentages for the representation of women in orchestras in four countries: 36% for the USA; 30% for the United Kingdom, and 16% for both East and West Germany. They also found that women were concentrated in lower paid orchestras, and that they are notably less present in major orchestras.  Far from leading the way, gender integration in orchestras is lagging behind the progress being made in the rest of society.”  (Osborne, William, “Art Is Just an Excuse: Gender Bias in International Orchestras. October 1996 issue of the IAWM Journal, pp. 6-14.)

Osborne culled through many studies and other data on the topic.  He cites the factors which have contributed to, or–in many cases– have allowed men to continue this practice:

“We could summarize these conservative tendencies of international orchestras with the following five factors. 1) They believe that music has qualities defined by gender and ethnicity, and that the uniformity of these factors produces aesthetic superiority.  2) Traditional values about the sexuality of subjugation and women disturb the uniform dynamic of authority in the orchestra´s hierarchical atmosphere.  3)  The gender bias is constellated with chauvinistic overtones of national and ethnic superiority.  4)  The attitudes toward women are affected by the cross-national interaction of the conductors and musicians.  5) Patrons expect a masculine and ethnic character to orchestral music.” (ibid.)

The statistics for American orchestras are much better because of “blind” auditions practices that were adopted during the 1970s and 80s.  In a blind audition, the judges sit behind a screen and cannot observe who is playing.  Some orchestras also cover the audition stage with a carpet so judges cannot hear the footsteps, which differ greatly between men and women.  The results, according to Dr. Cecilia Rouse of Princeton, a labor economist who studies the effects of  gender bias, were striking:

“we find that the screen increases—by 50 percent—the probability that a woman will be advanced from certain preliminary rounds and increases by severalfold the likelihood that a woman will be selected in the final round. By the use of the roster data, the switch to blind auditions can explain 30 percent of the increase in the proportion female among new hires and possibly 25 percent of the increase in the percentage female in the orchestras from 1970 to 1996.”  (Goldin, Claudia and Cecilia Rouse. 2000. “Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians.” American Economic Review, 90(4): 715-741.)

It is very hard for people to deny their biases when the data is provided.  Based on similar studies on the biases against name, physical attribute, or ethnic origin, some employers remove the names and pictures from CVs submitted so those can not be used unconsciously by the staff involved in the recruitment.

At least for female musical performers, employability in orchestras has somewhat improved in some places, however, I wonder if anyone has studied why there are so few female composers.  Actually, according to Wikipedia, there appear to be hundreds.

So why do we hear so little about them?

According to Wikipedia, Marianna Auenbrugger (1759 – 1782) studied with Hayden and Salieri in Vienna, the latter publishing a one of her works at his own expense after her death. Whoop-dee-doo!

Below is the only Youtube video I could find of Marianna, and it’s only the Rondo from her Sonata in E-flat.

Sonata in E flat Major Rondo

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About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

54 Responses to July 19, birthday of Marianna Auenbrugger (1759 – 1782)

  1. richibi says:

    this is important information, Kurt, and thank you for taking a stand – Richard

    Liked by 2 people

  2. kvennarad says:

    Thank you first of all for the music. Secondly for the thoughts on gender bias. Although I’ll add a caveat. It is the way of ‘the system’ to absorb protest as a way of neutralising it, and as a way of public ‘legitimation’. For example, take same-gender marriage in the UK. There have been two results of its institution. Firstly that gay couples have entered into mainstream bourgeois conformity; in doing so they have lost their radicalism. A few years ago one could rely on gays being receptive to other radical agendas, now that is less the case. Thus the system absorbs protest and de-radicalises people. Secondly, the system can say “Look how progressive and liberal we are! This proves our ‘democracy’. Vote for us!”

    I do not believe in steps backwards. But less do I believe that the aim of radical campaigns should be entry into the bourgeoisie. I believe that liberation is not piecemeal, it is total. And that is a constantly radical position.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kurtnemes says:

      I understand your argument. Cultures as system always attempt to return to stasis. Neuroscience and psychology (which are in the hands of white men, I know) now tell us we have evolved two biological systems to survive: an autonomic nervous system which responds to danger and quickly dumps adrenaline into our bloodstream so we can fight or flee; and another based around the vagus nerve, which has oxytocin receptors that make us feel loving, altruistic, cooperative, heroic, grateful, etc. Going to the extreme of the first, we get Hitler and Donald Trump. Going to the extreme the second way, we get new age gobbledegook. I’m a bit of a gestaltist and think who we really are is found in the constant tension between these two. My question to you is what will radicalism replace the bourgeois with? This quote from “1984” sums up more how I feel (though remember, Orwell didn’t have the scientific knowledge we now have, though his views were based more on firsthand qualitative research).

      “Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”
      ― George Orwell, “1984” Here’s the lecture on the Vagus nerve:

      Like

  3. kvennarad says:

    I too have read Orwell. I think in order to get a grip on this issue, one has to remember that he had first-hand experience of living in a grass-roots-up socialist environment. It was eventually crushed by top-down forces, including the influence of the Stalinist USSR. The former is radical, the later is not.

    Radicalism as I understand it, never even attempts to gain or hold ‘power’. Power is an essentially conservative concept. Radicalism effectively diffuses power, enabling the egalitarian and the participatory. Here’s a couple of radical quotes for you:

    “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.”
    Acts 4:32

    “Everything for everyone, nothing for us” a slogan of the EZLN

    Like

    • kurtnemes says:

      I’ve always liked the Zapatistas. What is your opinion on the social safety nets of Sweden and Denmark?

      Like

      • kvennarad says:

        Not unlike the ideas that the post-WW2 labour government tried to put in place, but a little more developed. A ‘mixed economy’ is not a strange thing to us (older) Brits. Until the early 1980s that is what we had here. We also had a society that was more pluralistic, with, for example, influence fed in from the Civil Service and the Trades Unions and other non-governmental and non-corporate sources. This had its consequent tensions and problems, but Margaret Thatcher stripped all of this away and left real power with capitalism; Parliamentary politics then became a matter of servicing the corporations.

        I think Sweden and Denmark have had a lot going for them. However they have a problem in Scandinavia in the rise of the Nordic far-right.

        Liked by 1 person

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