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When Even Tokenism Doesn't Matter

IAWM List

June 9, 2005

 

On June 17th there will be a concert of electronic music at the State Music Conservatory in Stuttgart. The program is announced on the school's website. It lists nine male composers and no women: 

Manfred Stahnke, Georg Hajdu, Sascha Lemke, Sean Reed, Martin von Frantzius, Ulrich Se, Marco Stroppa, Marko Nikodijevic, Ingvo Clauder u.a.

The "u.a." at the end is German for "among others." I checked to see if any women were among "The Others." The answers I received were a little vague and defensive, but I think there might be one or possibly two women. Interestingly, the Musikhochschule Stuttgart did not even consider it worthwhile to list the women composers on the website. The nine men were sufficient. One often notices that in Germany even tokenism doesn't matter.

One of the professors for electronic music at the school is Marco Stroppa, who established his career at Ircam. In its 35 years of existence, only one woman has successfully worked at Ircam, Kaiha Sariaho.

One of Abbie's students is performing a piece by Stroppa on the concert entitled "I Don't Want to Kiss Your Fucking Flag Anymore." I think it is an anti-war work. It is interesting how many of these composers think of themselves as socially progressive, and yet the idea of fairly representing women on their concerts hardly even occurs to them. When I asked about the lack of women I got the usual reaction: mistrust and resentment mixed with what seems to be a slightly anti-American attitude. As usual, the end result will likely be ostracism.

Sometimes the absence of women is almost ironic. In 2000, the Zentrum fuer Kunst and Media (something like the German Ircam) held a podium discussion about how technology will shape the future identity of humans. It was entitled "Das neue Menschenbild - Zur Konstruktion des Humanen" [The New Human Image -- Constructing the Human.] No women were included on the panel. Isn't it odd to have a panel discussion about the future of human identity and not include any women? Once again there was an odd combination of partially progressive thought mixed with open sexism that doesn't even occur to them. The lack of awareness can be mind-boggling.

There is often very little protest. One of the most limiting factors is that the Internationaler Arbeitskreis Frau und Musik in Germany, and the Frauen Musik Forum in Switzerland, do not even have Internet discussion lists. And, of course, their journals do not appear often enough to protest these all-male events -- or at least not with any specifics. Austria does not even have an organization for women in music. Situations such as I have described are usually met with silence. 

William Osborne
http://www.osborne-conant.org

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