Observations on Orchestrations – The Sound Of Patriarchy



As a first in my series of the invisibility cloak forced upon women in the arts, I have decided to open with this first post by BoomChikkaBoom, from The Sound Of Patriarchy blog.

If you are an artist and would like to submit a piece of art or writing for “Painting Patriarchy” whether you are a painer, writer, sculptor, performance artist, crafter, musician or all or none of the above, please drop me a message via The Venus Envy Facebook page

Spot a woman!

Ok folks, here we go, this is my first entry and I’ve got a game for you!
Are you by any chance a classical music lover or at least occasionally like to watch orchestras playing on a telly? Then turn on your BBC iPlayer and look up the list for Proms. Right there you’ll find ‘Haitnik Conducts the Vienna Philharmonic’ which I accidentally stumbled upon this morning (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01mhqn8 ).
Now you’ve been watching this for some minutes and a weird feeling started creeping up on you but you might not yet know what it actually is…watch closely. The swinging movements of conductor’s elbows, the fast moving fingers of string section, the solemn faces of brass and woodwind players…
Wait…I know what it is! I can’t see any women there! Oh wait, there’s one sitting at the 4th desk of violins…oh, there’s another one in oboe section! Eh, I know, the harpist surely must be a woman! Hehe, I was right! Can you spot more?

This is not an easy game, you see…especially if you are a woman in a classical music world with its hundreds of years of keeping mouldy traditions and hierarchy.
Having been in this mess since I was a little kid, I was constantly told off for being creative or non-conformist or having big dreams. My teacher used to say, ‘Do you really want to stay in this? I know you are young and able, but it’s  not an easy way. Especially for a woman…’
And you know what? She’s totally right. Although, I would add to it the obvious race and age discrepancies as you can see from the wide dominant range of players. That being that they are white, middle aged, and male.
“There is no ban on women musicians playing here but the Vienna Philharmonic is by tradition an all-male orchestra. Our profession makes family life extremely difficult, so for a woman it’s almost impossible. There are so many orchestras with women members so why shouldn’t there be – for how long I don’t know – an orchestra with no women in it … A woman shouldn’t play like a man but like a woman, but an all-male orchestra is bound to have a special tone.” {Paul Fürst}
But of course, no-one even thought of arguing with that! The marvellous tone of invincible male power, the sound of admiration sighs from female audience members! It’s like a boy band but much larger and with more manner and asshole-gone-polite sort of attitude.
This is an orchestra, ‘regularly considered one of the best in the world’ meeting the 21st century…how far can you go with the same old sexism and genderisation of musical instruments, accompanied by exclusion of ethnic minorities and other racist, misogynist, conservative bullshit? How much more can you hide underneath your thinning white hair and your neurotic smile?
If we look at other great examples, the situation, although mildly better, is still concerning, as in the case of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra http://www.berliner-philharmoniker.de/en/orchester/ ).
And the worst part of it is that no one on this side of the fence dares to speak up. Why? Because of the fear of losing one’s job or to never being able to get one, because in this world everything is made with connections and status.
What I hope is, that one day there will be more of us to actually start organising, go there and change things. We need at least a minor grassroots movement to start moving this old rusty tank away, inch by inch, or simply, blow up everything and start anew…
Posted 9th September 2012 by 

One thought on “Observations on Orchestrations – The Sound Of Patriarchy

  1. Pingback: l zuhotlkoc jysox | Scribls

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