Today marks the 70th birthday of one of BBC radio’s most valuable broadcasts, Radio 3’s Composer of the Week.
Naturally, there has been much congratulating, celebrating and back-slapping. And mostly deservedly so – COTW is one of those broadcasts that you’re simply glad exists. When I first started exploring classical music as a young teenager, it provided a brilliant education. It’s a great, Reithian idea that just wouldn’t be commissioned today. So praise be that it’s still alive and kicking.
As part of their celebrations, the programme’s producers are inviting suggestions for a composer who hasn’t appeared in the previous 70 years. To help, they’ve published a list of every composer or group of composers who has been featured so far.
It’s quite an impressive list, and a testament to seven decades of broadcasting. However, I did a count and came up with the following:
nine twelve of the single composer broadcasts are on female composers.* Nine Twelve and a half if you include the “William Alwyn and Amy Beach” broadcast.
That doesn’t seem like enough, even for a programme whose emphasis – perhaps expectedly – is on the more mainstream end of the 17th–19th century repertoire. But still. If the producers are interested in redressing this balance just a little bit, given that this is 2013 and people like Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros and Kaija Saariaho exist, then perhaps I could direct them towards the following three playlists: 1, 2, 3.
If you have suggestions of your own, do send them to Composer of the Week.
*Admittedly a quick count by eye; it’s possible I may have missed one or two.
Update, 10 Aug, 20:30: Cassandra Miller has written a response to this post (and some of the issues around it in general). And, coincidentally, Annie Gosfield has blogged some ‘Confessions of a “Composeress”‘ for the NYT this week. Some possibly not unrelated stats on male/female ratios in UK music departments.
Update, 12:11: Sharp-eyed Robin ap Cynan (see comments) improves on my original count.
Update, 11:40: @StevenRajam tweets the following: