Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Can't Quite Count

There was a dust-up on Twitter this afternoon between musicologist Dr. Kendra Leonard and the Brooklyn Art Song Society over women composers on the BASS's programs this season. I got involved because I was pretty sure Dr. Leonard was in the right, and BASS's Twitter account was tweeting....defensively.

Among other things, I said I'd post some numbers about the season, and here they are.

I'm looking at the 2018-19 season, which opened on October 5 with an all-Ives program. Unfortunately, because the organization's web site doesn't list every song by every composer, I can't provide exact numbers. But I'm very sure that there are many more works by men than by women being performed.

Among other things, there are eleven concerts, and Ives, Barber, Bernstein, Rorem, Copland, Gershwin and Wolf get programs all to themselves, for a total of 8 programs of the 11 (Wolf's Morike-Lieder are performed twice). No female composer gets a whole program or even half a program. One program has several women on it. Libby Larsen is on two programs.

It'd be nice if BASS would count the number of woks on each program so we can see exactly what the gap is between male and female composers.

UPDATE 10/31: Brooklyn Art Song Society has asked that I note their Ithaca College residency, at which they taught the songs of Libby Larsen. There was also a lecture about her.

Good for them! But 1) it doesn't change the count below 2) their web site doesn't state the length of the residency or their focus on Larsen, as far as I can tell. That's the kind of thing I would highlight if it were very important to me.

Male Composers Represented

Charles Ives (program to himself, songs on the touring program. Maybe 10 songs?)
Samuel Barber (program to himself, at least 13 songs)
Leonard Bernstein (program to himself, not sure how many songs are in Arias & Barcarolles. 8 songs on the program total, I think.)
Ned Rorem (program to himself; two cycles and selected songs. Say 10 songs?)
Aaron Copland (program to himself, at least a dozen songs)
George Gershwin (program to himself; hard to tell how many songs/pieces total, but let's say 10)
Daniel Felsenfeld (5 works)
Hugo Wolfe (Programs to himself; Morike Lieder complete - 23 songs? - given by two different sets of singers)
Michael Djupstrom (Oars in the Water)
Hershel Garfein (3 Rides)
David Ludwig (Songs from the Bleeding Pines)
James Matheson (Pessoa Songs)

Female Composers Represented

Libby Larsen (Songs from Letters; The Strange Case of H.H. Holmes; Pharoah Songs)

On one program:
Germaine Tailleferre (6 songs)
Ruth Crawford Seeger (2 works)
Clara Schumann (Selected songs)
Eve Beglarian (Selected songs)
Whitney George (one work)

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