Euterpe unveiled: Women in Portuguese musical creation and interpretation during the 20th and 21st centuries
Musicological approaches to Western art music have privileged anthropocentric discourses and life-telling research focused on male musicians and their production, promoting a distorted and biased vision of the history and contexts of musical creation. These one-sided perspectives have been challenged, particularly since the 1970s, by (mostly female) authors who, following on the footsteps of analogous approaches in the fields of anthropology or literary criticism, have questioned gender issues and their impact on artistic production and reception. According to Koskoff (2000), feminist scholarship has researched, sequentially but also concurrently, issues such as: addressing women’s invisibility through the study of their contribution; studying gender issues within the cultural context; and examining the connection between social and musical structures departing from a post-modern theoretical perspective.
None of these three issues has been, to date, systematically addressed in the context of Portuguese art music, and the role of gender ideology and its impact on women’s musical production and musical performance, as well as the role of music as a carrier of inter-gender relations, are topics that have yet to be approached in a comprehensive manner.
This project will thus focus on musical creation and interpretation by women in Portugal during the 20th and 21st centuries, from the beginning of the republican regime, in 1910, to the present time. The beginning of this period was marked by the emergence of the suffragist claims, and a growing involvement of women in professional artistic production; this was followed, from the mid-1920s, by the dictatorial regime, which privileged autocratic cultural policies, and specific contexts for women’s artistic participation; the period after the 1974 revolution introduced new ideological approaches to artistic production, and was characterized by diversity and an overt impact of feminist ideologies and constructions in artistic creation. Composing and interpreting art music in Portugal was influenced by these contexts, but also by historical biases and hegemonic discourses and constructs that have traditionally limited women’s involvement with some types of musical activities. This fact has also affected the reception of women’s musical creation, impaired by the lack of musical editions (scores and recordings), which would allow for a broader knowledge and dissemination of the works composed and of historical performances by women performers.
This project aims to contribute for a better understanding and visibility of the contribution of women composers and performers in 20th- and 21st-century Portuguese art music, departing from the following main lines of investigation:
- Study of the interaction between the domestic and professional contexts in music-making, focusing on gender-marked patterns of creation and interpretation during the early years of the republican period and the dictatorship regime.
- Study of paradigmatic women composers (1910-2000), focusing on collecting, systematizing, and notating their musical works and documentation (correspondence, texts, recordings, press materials), and on critical contemporary discourses associated with their activity and the connection of these discourses to gender ideologies.
- Study of recent developments in composition/performance, focusing on collaborative and dialogic paradigms of creation, and their relationship to feminine storytelling and gendered constructs.
Methods to be applied include:
- Archival tasks: working with public and private archives in order to digitize musical materials (scores, recordings), manuscripts (texts and correspondence), printed materials (press materials, concert programs), which will be shared by the research team and made available to the general public in a dedicated website and data base.
- Systematic study of the collected documentation, applying cultural studies methods centered on fieldwork and archival and bibliographic research.
- (Auto)-ethnographic fieldwork, involving women composers and performers, in order to map and analyze current work procedures, artistic outputs and associated gendered discourses.
The dissemination of research results will comprise: publication of articles and two monographs including research team results; participation in conferences; creation of a dedicated website, displaying all gathered documentation not covered by copyright restrictions, associated with an integrated data base and participative search engines (Web 2.0 technology); publication of critical editions of music scores, and two CDs of selected works, complemented by the organization of concerts; organization of one international conference on women and music and edition of proceedings.
20th and 21st century art music Portuguese music – gender studies – women composers – women performers