Is there a gendered aesthetics? A few good questions

Eve and Adam

When I wrote my Vio­lin Sonata last year, I was grap­pling with sev­eral ques­tions from the realm of New Musi­col­ogy. I thought I would share them here to see if they might get your cre­ative juices flowing…

1. Is there a fem­i­nine aes­thetic of music? Does music by women sound “dif­fer­ent?” If so, how?

2. By the same token, is there a mas­cu­line sound of music? Is Beethoven mas­cu­line? Bar­tok? Bernstein?

3. Do com­posers ever bor­row (if that’s pos­si­ble) the other aesthetic?

4. Are there any hier­ar­chal val­ues encoded in music? For instance, what is the under­ly­ing, deeper cul­tural mean­ing to the notion of a fem­i­nine ending?

5. What does it mean that so many con­duc­tors and com­posers are men? On the fac­ul­ties of major con­ser­va­to­ries, how many women do you find teach­ing com­po­si­tion or conducting?

6. Does any of this mat­ter? How can you sup­port your answer?

7. Before you start your next com­po­si­tion, ask your­self, “What would my music sound like if it was my ‘fem­i­nine’ style’?” Or your my mas­cu­line style, for that mat­ter. (Note this ques­tion has value no mat­ter what your own gen­der is!)

About Richard D. Russell

This was written by Richard D. Russell, New York City based composer of fine music.