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Therese Birkelund Ulvo

Contemporary music - is gender an issue?

Everybody knows that a composer is a dead man from the old days. If he's not dead, he is at least very old and has a long grey beard. If you didn't know this, you will learn it if you become a student at The Norwegian Academy of Music.

How do the lack of role models affect young women’s mindset regarding their own possibilities, and do they at all consider themselves candidates of becoming composers?

Something happened when I was asked to come to Hannover to talk about being a woman composer in Norway. Before this invitation I was "just" a composer, but from this day I became a woman composer. My first approach was "oh yes, sure I can come and talk about my freelance life in Norway, but why do we need this woman focus?" I am a composer, not a woman composer". I actually thought about naming my talk: " Woman Composer - who cares?". My experience is that the challenges are about being a contemporary composer, not the women-part.


Well - I started thinking, and soon started noticing a lot of small things that affects my work life. For example: women performers commission almost all of my commissioned work - very often ensembles of women only. This was kind of overwhelming when I started to think about it. My first question here was; "why do the women commission from me?". But I soon realised that I should rather turn it upside down; "why don't I get commissions from men?" Is it a social or expressional thing? I don't know - and I’m not sure I want to know the answer, because no matter what, the answer will be disappointing!




Cecilie Ore