Tuesday, March 28

Exclusionary machismo survives in Spanish orchestras

Inma Shara, conductor, conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert held in Murcia. / EFE

Only 5% of its concerts are directed by women and 1% of pieces by female composers are programmed. Only 8% of the batons are in the hands of women, with 13 active female conductors compared to 141 conductors

Michael Lorenci

Of all creative and cultural fields, classical music is the one with the largest gender gap. It is the most macho, one could say, and the furthest from parity, to which pop-rock, cinema, literature or theater are closer, in addition to politics, science, or the Armed Forces. This is confirmed by the study entitled ‘Where are the women in symphonic music?’ that confirms how the Spanish orchestras clamorously fail in equality. So much so that only 1% of the works programmed by the Spanish symphony orchestras are the work of women.

The study also finds that only 5% of the concerts are directed by women and that only 23% of those that included a soloist were performed by a woman. “It is shown that there is a gender bias,” says Fátima Anllo, president of the ‘Classical and Modern’ Association. It is the association that has carried out the study together with ‘Mujeres en la Música’, in collaboration with the SGAE Foundation.

Its alarming conclusions show that “the participation of women in music is far from what would be desirable in terms of parity and equality.” “The injustice for female composers and performers is obvious and they show that classical music is the most exclusive field in the field of creation,” says Anllo.

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The subscription programs of 23 Spanish orchestras during the 2018-2019 season have been analyzed -19-20 was discarded due to the suspensions imposed by the covid-, a group that offered 643 concerts with 1,840 works by 305 composers, 154 conductors and directors and 215 soloists.

The results show “that the world of classical music is one of the masculine territories par excellence in the cultural sector” and that “compared to the analyzes of the 2016/2017 season, there are no changes in this trend”. That is to say that the manifest inequality, far from being reduced, is maintained.

The study confirms that only 1% of the works programmed by the Spanish symphony orchestras have female authorship, with 26 selected works written by female composers compared to 1,864 pieces signed by men. Furthermore, only 8% of the batons are held by women, with 13 female conductors versus 141 conductors. «In the rest of the cultural fields, the direction of women reaches almost 30%», Anllo points out.

In the season analyzed, these 13 active directors directed 5% of the scheduled concerts, that is, just 32 concerts out of the total of 643 analyzed. Compared to the previous study, the direction of concerts by women rose just one point, while the number of female directors increased by 3 points.

few soloists

Only 23% of the concerts with soloists were performed by a female instrumentalist (105 women, compared to 358 men) . A figure in accordance with the list of female soloists, who represent less than a third of the total of all soloists, only 28% (60 women and 1,550 men)

As for the instruments, only in harp and viola are they the majority, with 100% and 60% of the performers respectively, while in flute they also exceed a third, with 40% of women, “a figure that could be considered egalitarian”, according to those responsible for the study. In more than half of the instruments, 13 out of 22, there is no female presence.

Of the 23 orchestras studied, 13 have never scheduled a work composed by a woman or a concert conducted by a woman. Among them are the OCNE (National Orchestra and Choir of Spain) and the OSCRTVE (RTVE Symphony Orchestra and Choir) “which we all pay for with public money.” “We highlight these for the volume of concerts they have scheduled and how unusual it is that there is not a single woman throughout the season.”

“The data allows us to verify that the laws for equality in this field are not effective,” says Anllo. He also regrets that “institutional recognition arrives slowly” and that “institutions do not investigate the cultural reality, nor monitor and interpret the gender gap despite the 2007 Equality Law.”

“Imminent measures must be taken, acting in the conservatories and on the programmers to achieve real equality,” says Pilar Rius, in charge of ‘Mujeres en la Música’. “There are no excuses. There are many orchestra directors and more every day. There are also many female composers but their works and their lives are ignored in conservatories, made invisible despite musicological research. There are only between 3 and 6% of women composers in music studios”, laments Anllo.

The associations also regret that the awards fall mostly on men and leave women aside. “Only four female composers have received the National Music Award in the composition category,” the study denounces. It also points out that the National Prize for Interpretation “has been awarded to women in a proportion of 27%, including several sopranos.” Also that the composition prize awarded since 2000 by the Spanish Association of Symphony Orchestras (AEOS) and the BBVA Foundation “has only been awarded to one woman in its ten editions”

“It is devastating, because the figures were known and are known. But many of the figures have worsened, despite certain promises that were made to support women, from cultural institutions, there is no commitment, “laments Rius.

“Have we given up? Have we normalized it? It looks like it is. We have known what is happening, for a long time, but we do not know why it is happening, nor do we know how to remedy it”, concludes Anllo.


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