Women, New Music and the Composition of Becomings

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Sally Macarthur


This article argues that ‘new’ music continues to replicate itself by being based on a set of outdated, inflexible practices which foster the centrality of the male, entrepreneurial, composing subject. Aesthetic distinctiveness has been muzzled because too many composers are competing for the same recognition and the same small ‘pot of money’, giving rise to musical mediocrity. The article notes that while the number of women composers studying music has increased in tertiary music institutions and points out that their representation by the Australian Music Centre has improved significantly over the past decade, these statistics are not reflected in the concert hall where women continue to be side-lined. It argues that the entrepreneurial performer is focused on the products created out of the already known and out of its masculinity and explores what would happen if music were composed out of its femininity and the unknown. It draws on Deleuze’s concept of ‘becoming’ to disturb the old ways of thinking, and to imagine a transformation of music practice which would make viable that music which has been traditionally silenced.

Article Details

Articles (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Sally Macarthur, University of Western Sydney

Sally Macarthur is a senior lecturer in musicology at the University of Western Sydney. She is author of Towards a Twenty-First Century Feminist Politics of Music (in press) and Feminist Aesthetics in Music (2002), and co-editor of Intercultural Music: Creation and Interpretation (2006) and Musics and Feminisms (1999).