With Radio 3’s excellent focus on programming women composers since 2015, there has been an increasing awareness of the gaps in our knowledge of works written by women. Orchestras and ensembles have been trying to programme more works by women, with a commitment from orchestras such as Southbank Sinfonia to programme 20 pieces by women in 9 months.
However it is extremely difficult to obtain useful information, parts and recordings of many of these works, some of which are still unpublished, and rarely if ever performed. Most ensembles do not have time or money to spend long in researching such repertoire, and so it remains unplayed, despite goodwill.
The Women Composers Project will offer a focal point for researchers and institutions across the world. The project aims to change our understanding of the canon of classical music, and its overwhelmingly male appearance. It will allow access to a whole new repertoire of music by women, presented using innovative and state-of-the-art technologies, and accessible to everyone from school children to managers of professional orchestras.
We will be creating a research base that allows us to find other material that has hardly been used, and to make it accessible. We also aim to:
- Support programming across the BBC, led by Radio 3;
- Host live performances;
- Offer funding to recording of unrecorded works;
- Develop educational resources for schools;
- Digitise manuscript scores to make them accessible for performance and study;
- Host visiting scholars working on recovering the lives and work of female composers as part of the community of biographers at the Oxford Centre for Life-writing, Wolfson College, Oxford.
The project aims to investigate the forgotten identity of women composers, and to redress the balance. Our ultimate aim would be to erase the need for the distinction of ‘female’ composer entirely.