Female composers: trolls, sluts, bitches and non-authentic


This morning I read a heated discussion online about the sexist way a male journalist wrote about female composers, among which Alma Mahler.


She would have an anti-Semitic belief and being 'power hungry' when it comes to men we could say she was a complex, hysterical woman with a character full of contradictions. So her work must suck. As if Mahler himself was such a sweetheart. Yet it seems as if men are forgiven in advance when it comes to the assessment of their work, because oh what a beautiful art he makes. She however, is a troll, a slut, ‘a bitch with a small collection of miserably composed songs.’


Muffin tops

I don’t agree. I’m glad I got to know the selection of beautiful songs that haven’t been destroyed. I got to play them some years ago in an arranged version for small ensemble.

The legacy of many great female composers is not stimulated by the (male!) biographers and journalists who even write about ‘muffin tops’. (Seriously, in one of Alma Mahler’s biographies it’s described what hateful people had to say about her appearance.)


Non-authentic

Programs are still generally dominated by male composers. Also in the saxophone repertoire, although it was two women (Paule Maurice and Fernande Decruck) who left a lasting mark on the classical repertoire for the saxophone.


It is also written about Decruck that her husband would be behind her compositions. Much of her work is lost or destroyed.


Female contributions

I took the picture above at the start of spring in Zeeland, south of Holland. For me, the start of spring (doubtfully but suddenly exploding) is inextricably linked to Fernande Decruck’s sonata in c-sharp minor. It’s a highly unusual sonata with impressionistic influences that give the piece a dreamlike and fairytail character.


My cd ‘La fille et le saxophone’ unites many female contributions. This beautiful illustration that Rhaida El Touny drawed for the cd booklet shows a young girl waiting for spring. "The start of spring is magical every year. Sometimes it seems as if it will never break out again, and its colours and scents exist only in memory. Then comes a huge eruption that dispels every shadow; once again she can lose herself in a field filled with flowers."


Next episode: composer Celia Swart.



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