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Improvisers Listen #3:
Ute Wassermann

Ute Wassermann

This semester I am assisting Hans Tutschku with a class at Harvard University on improvisation with electronics. I asked several improvisers to choose pieces of music that are important to them and their practice.

For the third edition of this series, Ute Wassermann has kindly agreed to share some of her favourite music. Wassermann has achieved recognition as a vocal artist, composer, and sound artist, with her personal, highly characterised, nonverbal sonic language. In addition to a richly developed range of vocal colours, she masks her voice with bird calls, resonant objects, and develops sound installations. She appears regularly as an improviser in London and Berlin, and has also premièred works by composers such as Ana Maria Rodriguez, Michael Maierhof, and Chaya Czernowin.

Wassermann’s selections introduce diverse vocal worlds, intersections of voice and technology, and various improvisatory practices.

Demetrio Stratos, ‘Flautofonie ed altro’ (1978)

Derek Bailey, ‘Improvisation’ (1975)

Janis Joplin, ‘Ball and Chain’ (1967)

Laurie Anderson, ‘O Superman (For Massenet)’ (1981)

Orchèstre Baka Gbiné, yelli (2008)

Kathy Keknek & Janet Aglukkaq, application for the 2008 Arctic Winter Games (2007)

Thanks so much to Ute for providing these insights into her listening world. Below is an example of her own live performances and you can find more on her Vimeo page.

Previously: Richard Scott, Vijay Iyer

Improvisers Listen #2:
Vijay Iyer

Vijay Iyer

This semester I am assisting Hans Tutschku with a class at Harvard University on improvisation with electronics. I asked several improvisers to choose pieces of music that are important to them and their practice.

For the second edition of this series, Vijay Iyer has picked some of his favourite music with electronics. Iyer is a Grammy-nominated composer–pianist who has released 20 albums — most recently Break Stuff — and collaborated on many more. He was named DownBeat Magazine’s 2014 Pianist of the Year, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist. In 2014 he began a permanent appointment as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts in the Department of Music at Harvard University.

Iyer’s selections range from instrument + laptop duos to studio tracks, including the late David Wessel’s innovative “SLABS” performance interface.

Wadada Leo Smith & Ikue Mori, ‘Demai’ (2003)

David Wessel, ‘SLABS Touch Pads’ (2009)

George Lewis ft. Vijay Iyer, ‘Interactive Trio’ (2012)

Mike Ladd, ‘Planet 10’ (2000)

Craig Taborn ‘Junk Magic’ (2004)

Thanks so much to Vijay for providing these insights into his listening world. Below you can watch video of an improvisation with saxophonist Steve Coleman and you can hear much more on his website.

Previously: Richard Scott
Next: Ute Wassermann

Improvisers Listen #1:
Richard Scott

Richard Scott performing with the Buchla Lightning controller

This semester I am assisting Hans Tutschku with a class at Harvard University on improvisation with electronics. I asked several improvisers to choose pieces of music that are important to them and their practice.

First up is Richard Scott. Scott is a UK-born, Berlin-based composer and free improvising musician working with analogue modular synthesisers and alternative controllers, including pioneering work with the Lightning controller built by Don Buchla.

For our first instalment, Scott selected works by Cabaret Voltaire, Miles Davis, and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble.

Cabaret Voltaire, ‘Eddie’s Out’ (1981)

Miles Davis, ‘Pharaoh’s Dance’ (1970)

Spontaneous Music Ensemble, ‘Ten Minutes’ (1974)

Thanks so much to Richard for providing these insights into his listening world. Below is an example of his own live performances, or you can browse recordings on his Bandcamp page. Stay tuned for the next instalment!

Next: Vijay Iyer, Ute Wassermann

Gender Report 2015

Since 2011, I have made occasional forays into gender auditing as a way of paying attention to my position in the remarkably unequal field of contemporary music composition. My attempts were occasional — a couple of analyses of my immediate environments in recognition of International Women’s Day, some (perhaps brash) comments upon finding myself programmed on all-male concerts — and their irregularity was problematic.

What follows below is the result of restructuring this site. I have built a mechanism that allows me to quickly access up-to-date data for the concerts where my works are and have been performed — a reflection of the community as I participate in it. These are not exhaustive numbers.1 My own personal performance context does not necessarily mirror all of contemporary music.2 Gender inequality is far more complex than a tally of whose music is performed. Gender audits do little to help reveal the causes of inequality. However, I do believe that at the very least they are a reminder of the work still left to do, an aid in strategic “gender mainstreaming,” and for any doubters, proof of a very real imbalance.3

The data on this page includes events since 2007, running up until the time of posting. I don’t currently have the data to analyse how a composer’s age factors into this, but I’m working on it.

Some basic numbers

  • Number of works programmed Total: 361
  • Works by male composers: 297 (82.2%)
  • Works by female composers: 64 (17.7%)
Breakdown of works performed by composer gender
  • Number of concerts Total: 54
  • All-male programmes: 22 (40.7%)
All-male concert programmes
  • Works programmed Total: 6.6
  • Works by male composers: 5.4
  • Works by female composers: 1.1
The average concert programme

Career progression

It is often stated that there is a gradual filtering out of women at every stage of career progression: from school-age music studies, throughout academic pathways, and later in professional contexts. My data is limited, but I can compare the 4 years I was an undergraduate and masters student at the University of Manchester — when the vast majority of my performances were in student contexts and 24.7% of works performed were by female composers — with the period since then, for which that figure is just 14.6%. That amounts to a drop in representation of 40.8% in the 5 years since my Masters graduation.

An overview of all the concerts

Proportion of works by female composers for every concert
  • Just 2 concerts (of 54) have featured a programme where half or more of the works are by female composers.
  • On average just 17.7% of works played are by female composers.

The data

If you are code-minded and would like to play around with the event data, download the event data JSON-LD file. It contains data for every event in my archive, marked up with schema.org vocabularies.

An up-to-date summary of all the data, can always be found on the Gender Audit page.

  1. I have kept a complete archive of events, but have not necessarily kept full programme listings for every concert. I have tried to collect that information wherever it is still available online. For some of the measures shown below the sample is of course pretty small, and there are undoubtedly biases introduced by the fact that these concerts all feature at least one of my own works. 

  2. Although I would bet on it being reasonably representative. 

  3. Caroline Moser makes clear the challenges implicit in carrying out gender audits in ‘An Introduction to Gender Audit Methodology: Its Design and Implementation in DFID Malawi’, London: Overseas Development Institute, 2005. 

New recording of Tomorrow I will build a house here…

A recording of ensemble mosaik’s Bettina Junge and Mathis Mayr playing Tomorrow I will build a house here, if I can hold still back in October is now online:

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