Presented below as received from Sydney University’s PR unit, Professor Liza Lim‘s demand that music be valued, ranked, promoted and, of course, publicly funded on the basis of the composer’s sex. By way of background and to establish just what sort of music Professor Lim produces with the unique assistance of XX chromosomes, two tastes of her oeuvre:
Now for the good professor’s thoughts on the prominence female composers might achieve if only their male counterparts’ output could be suppressed (emphasis added):
Give women composers a break!
The University of Sydney’s Professor Liza Lim at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music is appealing to festival and concert programmers in Australia for an equal gender split in music commissions and performances.
A leading Australian composer, Professor Lim makes the call in her keynote address at the Women in the Creative Arts Conference in Canberra today.
She points to four major European festivals in new music that have recently committed to a 50:50 gender split in programming over the next five years, and calls on Australia to do the same.
“In year 12 and at the beginning of tertiary studies, we see a 50:50 gender split but this dwindles to around 20 to 25 per cent participation by women in the industry, and even less for composers,” said Professor Lim.
“Sexism is structural in our society and as a result, so is the magic ingredient that allows an artistic practice to thrive – what we call ‘luck’.
“For the luck mechanism to kick in, it requires that you’re given a go in the first place. It requires multiple opportunities to try things out, to practice, to fail, to partly succeed and to keep trying.”
During her talk, Professor Lim coins the idea of ‘structural luck‘ as a key factor in determining success in the arts.
“Rather than luck arising randomly, I would like to see luck structured in a way that gives women in music the same opportunity as their male counterparts to be heard and to shine.
“The gendering of access and inclusion in the music business means that women overall make fewer such gains and tend to have less structural luck,” she adds.
Professor Lim notes the recently reported gender inequality problem for women composers locally and internationally, citing the University of Sydney’s ‘Skipping a beat’ report that found women are chronically disadvantaged in the Australian music industry.
“It is heartening to see a number of important shifts in response to statistics and reports on gender inequality, with APRA AMCOS now requiring a split of 40 per cent female, 40 per cent male and 20 percent male/female participation in music projects to be considered for funding.
“Quotas create pathways to careers, skills and to re-imagining legitimacy. Quotas create a space for talent to rise up! If we envision a culturally vibrant future, it’s absolutely imperative that we make space for and invest in a diversity of artists right now,” she says.
But why stop at quotas? Why not reform music from top to bottom and do a thorough job of making it female-friendly?
Musical notation is obviously sexist, inherently so. Music is written on a stave, synonym for “staff”, which might conjure in an oppressed female mind disquieting and career-crimping phallocentric imagery. And foul crotchets, what a gendered insult is that notation’s idiogrammatic resemblance to male genitalia!
As to classical music’s hobbling of female careers, look no further than the breve — the ovum-like symbol that commands a wait of four beats before the next note can be played. Meanwhile those masculinist one-beat crotchets skip ahead and their testosterone-tainted authors snaffle all the limelight.
Clearly, it is only more gender-filtered grants that can end this injustice and give us the “culturally vibrant future” for which Professor Lim yearns.