The Proms are organized and broadcast by the BBC, so positive discrimination for women is inevitable.
The Proms says it will leave a legacy of world class new classical music by women and help redress the imbalance of previous centuries
More women than men have been commissioned to write new pieces for The Proms, it has been announced.
The festival has exceeded its own target of commissioning an equal number of male and female composers. The Royal Albert Hall will see performances of new music written specially for The Proms by eight women and five male composers.
The historic development comes three years after The Proms set itself a target of achieving a 50/50 gender balance by 2022, a year ahead of schedule.
Last year – when the Proms was aired online, TV and radio without a live audience – it had 12 commissions by men, 11 by women and one by a non-binary composer.
This year’s landmark festival will feature pieces written by female composers such as Unsuk Chin, Elizabeth Ogonek, Britta Bystrom and Gity Razaz.
The move to balance commissions from male and female composers was criticised as “tokenism” by some when it was unveiled in 2018.
But The Proms this week defended the move, saying it would leave a welcome legacy of world class new classical music by women for future generations and help redress the imbalance of previous centuries, when women composers were a rarity.
David Pickard, the director of The Proms, told The Telegraph: “We have to grapple with the fact there’s not so many symphonic pieces written by women in the 18th and 19th century and we’re trying to redress that balance by commissioning pieces for The Proms along gender equal lines.
“We set ourselves a target that by 2022, 50 per cent of pieces would be from men and 50 per cent from women because it reflects our society. It will also leave a legacy of wonderful music by women which there has not been in the past.
“We started doing that in 2018 and now more women are composing pieces and we have reached our target. We managed to achieve a 50/50 split for the first time in 2019 and we’ve now exceeded it and we’re very proud of that.”
In a normal year around 30 new pieces are commissioned for The Proms. The festival aims to continue commissioning half of these from men and half from women.
The target is part of a commitment by 45 international music festivals to achieve a 50/50 split for their live act lineups and commissions by 2022.
Mr Pickard said classical music has to confront its own history, just as other cultural forms – such as art galleries, theatre and film – have had to in the wake of campaigns for more diversity and acknowledgement of racism and discrimination.
“It’s terribly important that every piece of art is given a context,” he said.
Previous work by Ms Razaz has directly addressed sexism and inequality, with her vocal piece She Sings shining a spotlight on the Iranian regime’s ban on women performing music in public. Her orchestral piece commissioned for this year’s Last Night of The Proms is called Mother.
When the quota was announced, Sally Cavender, the vice-chairman of Faber Music, said it was unnecessary because there has been a “huge recent expansion of opportunities” for female composers and “the playing field is relatively level in terms of opportunities and encouragement”.
Ms Cavender said in a letter to The Times: “I have never witnessed any discrimination against female composers; what I have seen is that there were formerly fewer of them.” [J4MB emphasis]
In a statement released on Saturday, The Proms said: “It is known that metrics enable change to happen. [J4MB emphasis. Translation – “It is known that preferencing women over men regardless of merit increases the number of women.”] This target has and will continue to enable us to discover exciting new voices. Programming is done by artistic merit, and we are rigorous about the decisions we make around excellence [J4MB emphasis. What a pile of crap.] and are constantly seeking out new voices to add to the musical landscape.”
Our last general election manifesto is here.
If everyone who read this gave us £5.00 – or even better, £5.00 or more, monthly – we could change the world. £5.00 monthly would entitle you to Bronze party membership, details here. Benefits include a dedicated and signed book by Mike Buchanan. Click below to make a difference. Thanks.
Nobody connected with J4MB has ever drawn any personal income from the party’s income streams. If you’d like to support Mike Buchanan financially, you can do so via his Patreon account or through Bitcoin, his account address is 1EfWxqDAtgJDCR3tVpvVj4fXSuUu4S9WJf . Thank you.