…or “Woman” composer, (or “Latin American” composer, for that matter) gets a perspective from composer Kristin Kuster here. It is worth reading her opinion piece in the New York Times alongside the piece she quotes from NewMusicBox.
Much of what she says about women composers applies to women conductors, and both contingents are underrepresented in the high-level circles of the profession that receive the most performances or conduct the elite ensembles. She is right that women have sought to separate the gender qualification from the reception of their work. I, for example, refuse to conduct in skirts. I have always argued that it has nothing to do with embracing a masculine persona, and everything to do with the comfort and line of a dancer. But, perhaps, it has also something to do with avoiding the perturbing shock of the unusual for the ensemble and the audience. On the other hand, the mark of great art is deep authenticity. One cannot deny one’s identity in true art.
It is also interesting to consider that interdisciplinary women artists who were able to break and continue to break boundaries between artistic disciplines seem to inhabit a different reception sphere, and are not plagued by the conflict between denying and embracing femininity. These women artists (Meredith Monk, Martha Graham, Laurie Anderson among many others) do not feel compelled to sidestep the feminine, but rather embrace it both directly and as an archetype. It seems to me that the friction stems from the location of the classical composer’s work within a concert paradigm that is rooted in a 19th-century Western European and male dominated model. I must say that I have, like Kristin Kuster, come to terms with the problem in new ways. It may be imperative as conductor and interdisciplinary artist to move away from the male-dominated conventions of the traditional concert. It is time, anyway, to create a new paradigm for music presentation, as the old one is already failing.