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Page 00000001 Computer Music Compositional Style Variation Between Genders and the Role of Education Karen Eliot-Kahn Barnard College of Columbia University karen @ columbia.edu Abstract I personally believe that there are differences in compositional techniques/approach between male and female composers. In this paper I would like to 1. point out some of the differences noticeable to me using personal experience and reference to other 'studies' and 2. make some theoretical guesses as to why this may be, mostly dealing in the field of education. 1. Introduction There are some common distinctions in the way men and women take on the project of writing a musical composition. We see this also in other art forms: visual art, poetry, dance, theater, etc. However these small differences are more noticeable to us when studying the art of computer composition, because of the technical knowledge that goes into the writing of such a piece. Here men tend to become more occupied with the originality of the theories behind their work and women become more involved in the abstract art. When one looks at male-to-female ratios in technical fields, we usually see a large majority of the sciences being domineered by males. We can trace this down to secondary school levels, where test scores tend to show that males have better math skills than females. Why do we see this? Perhaps it can be blamed on pre-school home education, television shows, or even the modern day school system. It may also come from the outlook of male and female roles in most societies that can be seen back to the beginnings of recorded history. 2. Why? For this paper I examined the following people: male computer music composers, female computer music composers, non-computer music composers, and experts in the field of education. I have also gone through educational resource material and studies dealing with gender in science and math. The first approach I took to examine differences in the subject matter was to e-mail a group of known female computer music/tape composers. Frances White gave me my favorite quote: "I do think that there probably ARE differences between men and women's music, but I have no idea how you get at it." I then made it my mission to to explore the differences and figure out why they are there. Of the female composers I interviewed, all of them were able to understand why I was doing such a study. Some even pointed me in the direction of studies done before, such as the one by Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle
Page 00000002 Turner. Dr. Hinkle-Turner pointed out that "little research and writing has been focused on the lives and works of women producing experimental and "electro-acoustic" music, particularly those active since 1950." She also says that "With the exception of Pauline Oliveros, women are generally not considered participants in the modern and post-modern experimental music movements.....The names of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Milton Babbitt, and Vladimir Ussachevsky are well known to music scholars, but Jean Eichelberger Ivey, Pril Smiley, Daria Semegen, and Alice Shields are not known even though these women have studied at the same places as these men and written music employing the same aesthetics and technology." She has since written a book on the subject called Crossing the Line: Women Composers and Technology in the United States. Her study on the importance of female composers didn't help me in the how or why aspect, but definitely gave me a reason to pursue my goals. Although I agree with Dr. Hinkle-Turner on the importance of recognizing female influence in the computer music world, I don't believe that their music employs the same "aesthetics". I believe that some of the stylistic differences lie in mathematical/scientific approaches that male composers take vs. the more 'personal' and expressionistic music about which females are more courageous. 3. Women vs. Math I asked the female composers who I sent e-mail to describe their math/science education and involvement. Frances White said that she didn't "really think of (herself) as being in a math/science related field." She thinks of herself as basically a composer. "I am not really interested in technology at all and I am pretty math-phobic." As far as her education was concerned "...it was typical of what you might expect, I avoided math/science stuff in high school and college." Then how did she become a computer music composer? "I was lucky enough to have some wonderful teachers in college who really helped me with computer music. I first started to learn computer music with Charles Dodge, and he was really supportive to me. I think he regarded technology as a means to an end, too, and that was an inspiration to me. Then I went to Princeton and worked with Paul Lansky. Paul was supportive, plus he helped me get over feeling intimidated by all those hot-shot engineering people." Kitty Brazeleon, another female composer, when asked about math and science said "Perhaps because I had no brother until I was twelve I was supported in those strengths wholeheartedly. I attended progressive schools for the most part and believe that the support derived there was less gender-discriminatory." Alicyn Warren said that her first contact with computers was "disastrous" but that she eventually forayed into electronic music. In teaching university level computer music she has "noticed that men and women do tend to have different styles when they approach (computers)." This brings us to the studies that examine the educational system and differences in female and male math and science education and approaches. According to the studies I have read, there is an "awareness that boys tend to dominate science-oriented activities (in elementary school) especially when they involve specialized equipment."  The study actually pinpoints the years when the differences start to show up: "Until fourth grade, mathematics achievement tends to be essentially the same for boys and girls. After fourth grade, when differences in achievement appear, they tend to be in boys' favor."  And the result is that "more boys than girls elect to continue their study of mathematics throughout high school and post high school education."  An investigation done in 1975 "illustrates that there is little doubt that women major in science much less frequently than college men."  "College males score higher on tests of mathematical abilities and also
Page 00000003 tend to major in science fields more than females."  I think that we have to examine evidence that there is a difference in the way females approach these fields of study. Whether it be learned or social, it is proven that there IS a difference in the amount and intensity of study. I believe that these inequalities directly relate to music compositional approach. 4. Female Style In one of the lectures in my music history class, we listened to six unidentified modern pieces as an exercise and we were asked to identify which ones were composed by female composers. In the discussion after listening, there were arguments over the validity of the exercise. However, most of the female students were able to identify the pieces written by female composers. Why was this? Those who guessed correctly even had a difficult time understanding and explaining their rationales. The most consistent theories deal with viewing composition as a mathematical process vs. an artistic one. Composers tend to use both, but female composers tend to be motivated more than the males in the aesthetic category. I think that we could apply some of the mathematical approach research here, and say that women just have a different way of approaching the mathematical sides of things. I think that this can be seen in all of music composition, but it becomes even more apparent when we try to examine computer music composition, a highly technical field, where there is a definite mathematical process. Before even starting to compose, a computer music composer must be fluent in the computer system being used and comfortable with the idea of computers. Next off, using most of the tools in computer music involves a mathematical way of thinking (imagine a wave shape...) that sometimes just can't be avoided. Composers even need to visualize pitches numerically. There are many hurdles thrown in for women when you look at it from the side of women being suppressed in mathematics and by technology. Alicyn Warren said in her email: "its important to say that composition as a whole -- not just computer composition -- is still primarily a man's world. Perhaps some women composers like working with technology because it gives them a sense of independence in a man's world." I feel that we can hear these differences in music. Not all, because there are exceptions to every rule. However, I feel that male composers tend to put more effort into trying to insert mathematical theory. I think they are also more comfortable with "hot-shot tech knowledge", as Frances White said. I think that women are more artistic and open, and use computer music in a more expressive way. Last semester at Columbia University's Computer Music Concert, two of the pieces written by females were actually story narratives. The program included many pieces, but these two stood out as expressionistic pieces, involving poems and filtering of voices. I think Kitty Brazelton had the best insight on this one. When talking about her work she said that "...when it comes to style and the present...I find myself less fearful about being emotionally direct in my music. Less fearful perhaps than some of the male composers around me. I don't mind not having all my tech knowledge in splendid order as long as I get the results that my music is persuasive in some overall way." Even Francis White mentioned the personal aspect of her composition: "I got involved with making computer music because I love making sound by hand. There is a kind of directness, and personal involvement in this for me- there is no level of abstraction." In 1993, Women in Science published an article called "Is There a 'Female' Style in Science?" The article said "that virtually all the female scientists contacted for this article...(agree that they) pursue their careers
Page 00000004 in characteristically female ways, probably as a result of their cultural conditioning."  "The accepted way of going about science have been defined by men. Women are afraid that if they discuss that they are doing science differently, it will be assumed that the science they are doing is not good."  "Furthermore, there is no way to evaluate the science that a "female style" creates -- whether it is better or worse than the science produced by the dominant male model."  I think we can take these theories on science style and apply them to computer music also and assume that there is a female style of composition, maybe so subtle that it is hard to define. However, I think we must study it and admit that it is there. The educational differences in sciences and mathematics are slowly being resolved as they are being recognized. I don't think that this will totally close the gap between male and female style. I think it might lead to an increase the number of female computer music composers. Kitty Brazelton pointed out that she feels more emotionally direct in her music, while my class found that they were able to identify female composers' music by listening to it only once. I think we can say that there are elements of 'female' music that are identifiable on an emotional and expressionistic level. There are definitely different approaches taken when composing computer music. I also think that there are differences in the end product, and further examination of such should be included in another paper. Acknowledgements I would like to thank the staff of the Columbia University Computer Music Center (especially Brad Garton), the Barnard College Center for Research on Women, the composers who wrote to me and talked to me, and my good friends who donated their time to helping me with ideas, editing and ftp uploading. References  Dr. Joyce Walker, Sunny Hansen, Barbara Flom. "Growing Smart: What's Working for Girls in School" University of Minnesota. (1987) ,  &  Elizabeth Fennema. "Sex Differences in Mathematics-Learning: Why???" University of Wisconsin-Madison. (1974)  &  Roy D. Goldman and Barbara Newlin Hewitt. "The Scholastic Aptitude Test "Explains" Why College Men Major in Science More Often Than College Women" University of California-Riverside. (1976) ,  &  Women in Science '93. "Is There a 'Female Style' In Science?" Vol. 260 (1983)