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One illustration of the problem that remains here is that no listener, male or female, attending, for example, a chamber recital comprising one string quartet each by Bartók, Maconchy, Bacewicz and Shostakovich without knowing the composers' identities or having heard any of the works previously, is likely to be able to identify which works were the products of masculine minds and which those of feminine ones, any more than they would be able to tell how many males and how many females were in the ensemble without prior knowledge.

Mr Standford chose (perhaps purely for the sake of succinctness) not to expand his thoughts into consideration of the homosexual mind as distinct from the heterosexual one (male or female in either case); had he done so, what conclusions might be drawn from the content of -- and male or female homosexual or heterosexual reactions to -- the music of Szymanowski and Tchaikovsky as against that of Rakhmaninov and Elgar, for example? None on which any reliance could be placed, it would seem.

In an article published in 1920, Delius, bemoaning what he saw as unpleasantly vulgar trends in certain music of the immediate post-WW1 era, wrote 'Emotion is out of date and intellect a bore'; Delius was never one to mince his words, but there was no suggestion that he saw the former as a feminine preoccupation and the latter as a masculine one and, had such a notion been put to him, I imagine that he would have found it untenable at the very least.

No -- we composers, male and female, write in the hope of communicating with minds both masculine and feminine. I suspect that most of us would not anticipate -- or wish to anticipate -- that each such minds might respond as a group to different aspects of what we do; no more would we anticipate -- or wish to anticipate -- that the masculine minds among us would create music in ways recognisably different to the feminine ones. The notions that (a) the musical products of masculine minds be strong on ambition, on structural organisation and on all the other purely technical accoutrements of finely crafted music but weak on emotional and intuitive thrust and (b) those of feminine minds be regarded vice versa -- are unlikely to find favour among many composers of either gender. To me, acceptance of the very idea that emotional power and intellectual strength are somehow the province and concern of diametrically different kinds of musical mind separated by an unbridgeable gender gap and therefore somehow mutually exclusive implies the envisaging -- if not actually encouragement -- of the creation of music that would run the risk of being inadequate in the one or the other and thus hardly worthy of serious consideration. We surely none of us want that.

Various aspects of Western social structure certainly conspired to ensure for many years that the vast majority of composers were indeed male -- but that is quite a different consideration to that about which Mr Standford writes.

Copyright © 30 October 2003 Alistair Hinton, UK






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