Friday, October 21, 2016

Bring on the long tail of women musicians


It  is quite right that women musicians are now receiving the attention and status that is rightly theirs. But it is wrong that so much of the attention is being lavished on a few women who are prominent on the classical celebrity circuit. Bring on Alice Coltrane, Philippa Schuyler and others in the long tail of women musicians.

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2 comments:

Philip Amos said...

Every movement, every trend, has its own dynamic, too often an unstoppable dynamic that, in too many instances, results in things being carried too far. I must confess that the feting of women conductors, though I applaud their emergence and success, is starting to backfire with me. I am now far more concerned that justice be done to Philippa Schuyler et al., for as the great American historian Garrett Mattingly observed, we owe justice to the dead as much as to the living. In that vein, I'd just like to add one more name to that list: Eunice Waymon, aka Nina Simone. Yes, she has been lauded by many and to the heights. And yes, her problems were many and complex. But to me, the most telling observation made about her was that, to the end of her life, she regarded her career as a poor second choice made in the face of her being denied a career as a classical concert pianist. I must agree. What makes her performances so fascinating is that always her playing includes the shades of classical composers, often her beloved Bach, sometimes those of the Romantic period. When she played jazz for Vladimir Sokoloff, the Curtis professor who taught her privately, he thought her talent for it enormous, but she made it clear to him that classical came first. Was she denied entry to Curtis because of race? I think so. Sokoloff surely had good reasons for accepting her as a student. And the awarding to her of an honorary degree by Curtis on her deathbed makes me the surer. At any rate, no matter what came later, it was her lost career as a classical pianist that came first and that haunted her for the rest of her life. She is not lost, as is Schuyler, nor underrecognized, as Coltrane, but I should like this aspect of Simone fully acknowledged.

Pliable said...

Philip, as ever your contribution is welcome. It is particularly welcome as you are one of the few left who realises that the definition of a musician extends beyond practitioners of the Western classical tradition.