In Germany, a composer is still male

The state collecting agency GEMA has just announced candidates for the 2018 Musikautorenpreis.

On a longlist of 20, there is just one woman.

And the jury is, of course, all-male.

Well done, Gema.




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  • Yes, where are the women?
    But, contrary to some ideologically distorted beliefs, it’s a question we must ask the women themselves first of all.
    There seems to be evidence in neuroscience, that works like composing are done better by male brains. Discuss.

    • An obvious troll, but still: please tell us where’s the evidence you mention? (I know there isn’t, because it’s complete and utter BS)

      • I hear you Ann, and best to ignore that sort of nonsense. However, given the track record of German composers, or for that matter Gerrman creative artists in general since well, you know when, I’m not sure this is a shortlist any creatively minded woman composer should be too worried about making.

        I love this country and its people, but since the 1920s Germany has gone from being the most creative place on earth, to just about the least and the reason is simple: German academicism and the German academic imperative. A total failure to comprehend the true nature of artistic genius (as being something extraordinarily rare that can never be taught) and a stubborn refusal to comprehend just who these great composers of the past were, and why they are no more.

      • Obvious is only, that you do not want to discuss but have ideological beliefs.
        Nobody said that women can’t compose.
        But statistically they are, apparently, much rarer to do so.
        Begs the question why. Discrimination could be a reason.
        But it should be shown that that is the case today. Not just stated.

        What is FACT is, that there are significant differences between men and women, not only in their anatomy, but also in their brains.
        The correlation to women not being attracted to professions like conducting and composing, statistically (!), needs a careful evaluation.

        But you are not interested. You know everything before you have even thought about it, or, God beware, even tried to do some research.
        No, women are exactly like men in any aspect, if not even superior. My feminist indoctrination told me so.

        • In terms of statistical truths it can be concluded that on average, males are NOT attracted to any artistic profession, ony a small minority is. Compared with females, that number is even smaller. There is also a minority of people (male as well as female) that has no talent whatsoever for any artistic profession but nonetheless persist in attempts to realize inhospitable ideals. It is misleading to draw any concrete conclusions about individual people on the basis of such vague and general findings, because people are first and foremost individual people, not merely a member of a group (human rights are based on the dignity of the individual human being). The only thing society can do, is to offer compensation for obvious cultural and social privilege, in a general way. But that should never infringe upon freedoms of gathering, like male soccer clubs, female mandoline ensembles, London men’s clubs, female tupperware parties, gay travel organizations, string quartets and orchestras.

          • Sorry, but what is your argument? These are not vague findings. The findings are crystal clear. Men and women are substantially different on a physiological and neurological level. Now let’s end discrimination and never cease to fight for equal opportunity for every human, regardless of their specific features that might make us different from each other.
            But, to solve the problem by putting the head in the sand and declare ‘no differences exist, whoever says so is a [insert derogatory word of choice from the p.c. brigade]’ is delusional.

          • We are much better at disruptive quarrelling, because we don’t use reason. In front of every powerful woman, there stands a reasonable man.


          • You have a vivid imagination, ANON. Yes there are neurological differences between male and female brains; I believe nobody has denied that here. But please do tell me how you drew the implicit conclusion that males tend to be better composers than women based on studies on spatital-visualization skills and verbal skills? If anything, based on these studies, women tend to be better at skills that seem to matter more to composition than men. Unless you insist 3D spatial visualization skill is vitally important to composing, the articles you linked tend to suggest women might be better composers from a neurological perspective, which is exactly the opposite to the point you are trying to imply.

          • Dear John BorsIap,
            I am so glad you recognize that some men are attracted to artistic endeavours, and persist in it, despite having no aptitude or talent for it.

      • There is lots of evidence. I have tried to post some links, but apparently that’s not allowed here. Strange how you claim to know all about it, when you apparently don’t. I’m not talking about ideology. I’m talking about the real world, observed by science.

        For a good primer for the neuroscience layman with links to other research, google ‘how-mens-and-womens-brains-are-different stanford medicine’

        • This man has done a lot of work understanding biological differences between men and women and this might help to explain the comparative dearth of female composers, inter alia. It is based on scientific. psychological testing, not anecdote or ideology. Professor Peterson extrapolates quite a lot about the results of this testing which he explores in his other online lectures from UT Canada. All those differences add up to something quite significant:

          The Left is in paroxysms over his work because they want to stick to their victimhood schtick.

    • In 2011 a team of the Neuro Unit at the Texas Institute of Technology conducted an extensive research programme to once and for all find conclusive answers to this burning question. They locked 12 male and 12 female composers in separate rooms, with equipment they were free to demand, and gave all of them one task to fulfill in just one week: the composing of a piece for a group of instruments consisting of: piccolo, English horn, mandoline, accordeon, bassoon, serpent, ud, two celli, and percussion according to wish but without anvil. The composers were filmed by cameras night and day, were fed generously, and were being questioned by the team members every late afternoon over tea (one of the scientists had been brought from Oxford University).

      It appeared that all the males had worked with keyboard (some of them with more than 2), computer, and feedback from each other by cell phone, while all females had asked for a small upright piano, paper, various pencils and a metronome and conducted interfemale phone contact entirely on non-musical subjects ranging from shoes through [redacted] to eye make-up.

      The results were perfomed at a concert at TIT 2 months later and extensively debated afterwards at a panel discussion, open to the audience. It appeared that the audience had left anyway half-through the concert, but the discussion proved quite fruitful: the males had done much better at the compositional process, using all their equipment properly and expertly, and generously tapping into mutual encouragement and feedback, sharing compositional ideas and complaints about the food, while the females had spent their time mainly with scribbling on paper, looking out of the window and fumbling on the piano. Paradoxically, as explained by the team leader Dr Van Sworn, the males did much better at the compositional process, while the females produced much better work. So, the males composed better but the pieces by the females were far superior. “We have no idea how this could possibly in any sense bring us closer to a solution of this controversial problem”, as Dr Van Sworn said at the conclusion. He reassured the 2 journalists who had stayed till the end and had shown signs of some scepticism during the whole evening, that the artistic measurement of the musical products had been carried-out with up-to-date equipment and the greatest care.

      (Source: The Timely Texas Observer, 18th August 2011.)

  • Meritocracy is the way forward. Gender is something of a red herring.
    Nowadays, In the UK (I can’t speak for Germany) a disproportionate number of composers come from public school/specialist backgrounds. Compare this with earlier generations, when this wasn’t the case.
    One corrects this imbalance by ensuring equal access/exemplary education from an early age, for all groups of society. It’s too late to adjust imbalances further on via positive discrimination.

    • “Specialist”, as in Specialist Music Schools. These are sometimes scholarship based (means tested) so seemingly open access to all sectors of society. However, you will need to have reached quite a high level in order to get accepted in he first place.

      • Or restrict the schools to just teaching instrumental and vocal excellence, which they do wonderfully well and leave the creative side to sort itself out, because all academia has ever done is kill it.

        Better still provide the resources for gifted young composers to develop their skills on their own without interference from, to quote Beecham (because I can) “pedants and pedagogues”.

          • A complete course in musical composition:
            1. Imagine some music, ‘hear music in your head’ ( it will probably have to be your own). (Music that is).

            2. Write it down, if you don’t know how to, try to remember the music but it’s a good idea to learn how to write it down.

            If you can’t do either of these things well, forget it. You’re not a composer. But that’s OK, not many people are.

          • Obviously Mr. Osborne you don’t know enough about the process of composing music to comment about it.
            You believe all good music ever composed was all fully imaginatively heard in the mind before notation?

        • Thank you Mr Anon for you kind words.

          I did not of course for a moment suggest that (for example) the whole of Elgar’s Cello Concerto popped into his head in a single moment fully formed. I merely described the way the ideas that go to make up this great masterpiece were formed.

          I am illustrating my point with the work of this composer quite deliberately, because he never had a composition lesson in his life. He was by no means alone amongst the great composers as being either self-taught or predominately self-taught.

          • You have fallen for the fallacy of a faux antagonism. Composing means both, (original) imagination and (academic/learned) technique. Arguably the great composers could multiply both with excellence into mastership.

          • Um…pretty much all composers learnt formally about composition. You have to know how to notate, something about the instruments and what they can play, and the formal structure of music (whether sonata form, counterpoint, or something from 20th century modernism). I think you are objecting to music that has particular forms that you object to (e.g. modernism), but other compositional techniques still need to be learnt, even 12-bar blues.

  • This is just stupid. No one wants to stop women from composing, and they do it if they want to do it. It’s all a question of quality. There are women’s groups, concerts, ensembles, but none that are deliberately all male. Men do not help each other, but women do. It is NOT discrimination, and calling it that won’t help. Tokenism and quotas will only bring down quality. And where’s your concern for gay men? Gay men have been proven to earn less than not only men, but all women. Straight men do not help gay men, or only rarely. And gay men rarely help each other unless you are having sex. So drop the façade of inappropriate concern and keep the politics out of music.

    • The ideology police will show up and call you a troll. This is the post-rational age after all. Dark age 2.0. Don’t argue. Succumb to the mainstream ideology. Repeat after me: Men and women are just social constructs. There are no differences. You will be assimilated. Big Sister is watching you.

      • Before I got into classical music, my therapist told me I’m a socially-cultural construct and victim of male suppression over the ages! That’s why I got so depressed. Also they have been all white. Now, I don’t mind them having been white, but I would have preferred some more coloured suppression, but to cut a story short, since I’ve come to appreciate classical I’ve turned into a much more liberated woman, yes me too, like all the other women who have fought against them men with their snobbery of tradition and stuff. In my family it were the women who took charge, as a pre-emptive measure against all those ages of men’s rule, and it worked! No man in our family got his way. Now I’m reading feminist music theory and what a relief it is. Try this: “The point of recapitulation in the first movement of the Ninth is one of the most horrifying moments in music, as the carefully prepared cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the throttling murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release.” Female theory that is, by Susan McClary, and how she knows it! That’s how I hear it always, with that crazy piece. So, #HeToo! It’s time people stop playing this man, but of course that’s yelling to deaf ears.


        • Sally, how right you are. I think all men are rapists, unless they can prove they are not. But can they?
          For centuries predominantly male composers used pens, feathers, sharp pointy objects (!!!), to rape innocent paper with their ‚compositions‘ as they call it. Meanwhile women around them changed diapers, cleaned houses, cooked meals. For the sake of equality, we must whenever such paper rapist musical ejacualations are performed, dedicate at least the same amount of time to a theatrical performance of their women doing house work, to our gender mainstreamed enlightenment.
          Harry (who feels like a woman)

  • I had posted a couple of links to scientific papers and studies which show proof of various neurological differences between men and women, but they were censored here. No idea why, probably because the gender mainstreaming ideology is totalitarian and does not want stupid science with its annoying facts here.

    • The obvious differences between male and female brains can easily be misconstrued and misused by far-right cranks and trumpists. Thank God that these brains are different, so that males don’t understand females and vice versa and need to team-up to get to understand other human brains which work differently. If not, the human race would have died-out.

      • Anything can be abused and misconstrued by anyone.
        That should not stop us to seek truth anytime anywhere.
        Who has an interest to ignore science, when it comes to understand the differences between men and women better?
        What is wrong with understanding from said truth about our reality, that male brains (in a statistical average) a better suited for tasks that require specialized focus and isolated activity of certain specialized brain regions, also better for spatial orientation tasks, and female brains have a higher interconnectivity between different spheres of the brain (in average).
        Numerous research points into this direction.
        The crucial difference is not in denying the truth about the neurological differences, it is in not drawing false conclusions about superiority of one over the other.
        Take off the ideological blinders, anyone.

        • Indeed, it should not be necessary to point out that generalizations about gender ‘superiority’ are wrongheaded and lead to injustice.

          Because these neuro differences are observed statistically, the very wide range of variation means that such outcomes loose their meaning in individual cases. It is quite possible that certain things (including writing good music) are, on average, better suited to males than females. But the level of brains is only one factor: the psychological and cultural factors can be decisive, and cancel-out any brain advantage. And then, artists are not ‘average’, i.e. if they are really good. So they don’t fall within any statistically neat category.

          A composer like Debussy was something of a womanizer, but his music has many traits which psychologically can be considered ‘ultra-feminine’. Olga Neuwirth persues the ‘hard-edge’ side of aggressive sound art, probably in an attempt to outdo the male competition in the field. Wagner built the largest through-composed musical structures in the repertoire while walking around in feminine fantasy dresses. So, whatever neuro’s come-up with, it will not apply to artists / composers.

          • You are missing the point.
            The thread opener stated that an all male jury is abnormal.
            Neuroscience on the other hand supports the statistical reality, that there are simply many more male composers than female composers. Which would not automatically render an all male jury abnormal, but quite normal.
            “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like nail.”
            Meaning that if you a culturally indoctrinated to cry “women are discriminated against” in a reflex, when you see a group of people that does not represent women proportionally to their general share in the human population, then you can’t think clearly about possible other determining factors at play.

          • p.s.
            and nowhere was a ‘superiority’ stated in my argument. only differences. that you open your post with such a straw man attack is not surprising me.

  • When you see / hear the absurd and embarrassing video about this GEMA prize, it becomes clear it is about pop music and sonic art (Oehring), both entirely populist phenomenae. The question whether females have been discriminated against in the composition of the jury, is moot. The most embarrassing aspect of the video is the quasi-serious treament of the most unserious matter, thereby confirming the worst clichées of German intellectual Entgleisung.

    • The ‘Entgleisung’ seems to be yours. It’s a simple composition contest for any, so mostly popular, music. Easy with the hyperventilation.
      Now the Germans are used to be blamed for anything lately, but also for pop music? I think Sally would disagree.

      • Entirely agreed. These musicians are very serious about their art! and Oehring got deaf parents so he knows how to handle audience capacities for his music. It’s GREAT that Germans are modernizing, it’s about time. THIS is what has to replace those authoritarian rapist music Susan writes so eloquently about. When a German pop composer talks so seriously about his art… it really makes my heart beat faster and makes me want to embrace him! especially the one with the long hair, he knows how to liberate the female in his soul, that’s how you have to revive German music…. these folks do finally understand the true volk, the longing of normal people, their purity, without all that stuff that snobs get high of.


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