This course explores the richly varied ways women have contributed to music-making. Live, interactive sessions through Zoom will include presentations, interviews with guest musicians and scholars, Q&A and discussion, and suggested playlists and literature for those whose curiosity has been piqued. Together with stories of women involved in Western classical music, this course will weave stories of women making traditional music, and women writing new music in dialogue with music of the past, including contemporary composers Robyn Jacob, Jessica McMann, Afarin Mansouri, Emily Doolittle, Tawnie Olsen, and Cris Derksen.
Session 1 For Spirit and Learning
This class will begin our exploration by considering surviving artifacts that tell us about the musical lives of women from instruments to hand-copied collections of music, to prayerbooks, school primers, and visual images. Among the women we will meet will be Katharina Gerlach, a leading music printer of the sixteenth century.
Session 2 Of Invisible Women
Hidden behind screens and grilles, nuns and their convent pupils made music often idealized as “celestial.” For some, the convent was a place of refuge and a community in which to follow a musical vocation; for others, it became a kind of prison when local authorities suddenly enforced enclosure or forbade music-making. Among the nuns we’ll meet will be Sor Juana Inøs de la Cruz, Mexican philosopher, poet, and composer; Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, Milanese singer and composer; and Raffaella Aleotti, a Ferrarese organist, music director, internationally acclaimed composer, and the first woman to publish sacred music.
Session 3 For Resistance, Cultivation, and Healing
This session will consider women’s involvement in music marking major life transitions, from lullabies to traditions of funeral mourning and the music of healing rituals. We will consider both traditional musics shared orally and composed music such as Monteverdi’s Lamento della ninfa and Luigi Rossi’s Tears of Mary Magdalene, and give special attention to the music of the African diaspora in America, so intertwined with telling of stories, recording of history, and movement of work, the rocking of babies, and lament.
Session 4 On the Main Stage
From opera’s earliest inception, women were closely involved in its development. Early seventeenth-century singer and composer, Francesca Caccini contributed music for at least sixteen works of musical theatre. Later, in public theatres, prima donnas drew large crowds and high salaries, exerting considerable creative influence on the composition of their roles.
Session 5 Of Inspiring Hosts
Though in the eighteenth century, married women were usually barred from performing in public, some assumed influential cultural roles in the private sphere by hosting salon gatherings. These brought together politicians, intellectuals, and artists to pioneer new musical styles, shape ideas in lively discussion, build community, and unite sense and sensibility. These inspiring hosts included Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre in Paris; Marianna Martines in Vienna; and Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson in Philadelphia.
Session 6 In the Bach Family Circle
This class will introduce some of the women who made music in and with the Bach family, including Anna Magdalena Wilcke, esteemed soprano at the court in Cöthen and mother of the Bach family, whose musical notebooks paint a picture of intimate family music-making in the Bach household; Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, the poet of nine of Bach’s cantata texts; and Sarah Levy née Itzig, a Jewish woman, performing musician, and salonière, who contributed to the revival of J.S. Bach’s music.
Host & Course Designer: Christina Hutten
We extend our sincere thanks to Good Barrister for their generous support of EMV’s Online School.