A Question of Equity - April 1990

Submitted by root on Mon, 08/07/2017 - 17:44

Women in the Arts

 4. WORKS BY WOMEN: a) Music cont.

ii) Jazz cont:  Additionally, unlike classical music, it is usual in jazz for the players and the composer/com­posers to be one and the same. There are of course jazz classics with definite composers - the vast majority of whom are male - and there is traditional jazz where the composer may be unknown. However even when playing jazz standards and traditional jazz it is within the very nature of the art form that the players expect to add their own creativity to the music.

There were 26 subsidised concerts by 20 groups during the period in question.

4 groups played either jazz standards or traditional jazz.

9 groups played a mixture of jazz standards and works by members of the group.

6 played only their own work.

1 group played the repertoire of Billie Holiday.

Of the 102 players all but one were male and the one women was part of a 20 piece ensemble. It is therefore obvious that the only concert to include works definitely by a women was the concert on the repertoire of Billie Holiday - presupposing it included works by the 'lady' herself.

From the evidence it would appear that in jazz, as in the field of classical music, the contribution made by women - as composers and creators - has been and still is ignored by the male jazz establishment. However the contribution made by women (and specifically by black women) to jazz, as with women's contribution to so many other art forms, has begun over the last two decades to be re-discovered and written about. It would be a sign of progress if the contribution of women working today was both recognised, promoted and recorded and then perhaps we wouldn't, as women, have to keep re-discovering our own history.

iii) Folk: Folk music is by definition generally anonymous. However there is every reason to believe that much of it was written by women - women's concerns are present within folk music, from lullabies to work songs - and unlike other art forms its survival has depended upon people passing the songs on, not for money, or status but because they value the songs for themselves. Not only traditionally were many of the singers women (men tending to dominate within the instrumental field) but historically many of the most renowned figures in folk were women and therefore there is some chance that women's work has been less written out of history. In addition to the presentation of traditional folk there are also folk singers who write and perform their own works.

As with jazz much of folk music is presented within a commercial context and therefore by looking at only the subsidised area one is looking at a partial picture. And in this case it is not necessarily a representative picture. For instance, Jacqui and Bridie have run their own folk club on Merseyside for many years and have a history of promoting women performers.