Vienna, of all places, hasn’t hosted a major exhibition on the subject of Music, in any shape or form, in nearly twenty years.
Now, in this most timely project, one of its great art-halls is to focus on the significant role that women have played in the making of music throughout the centuries. At first sight, you might not know these personalities, who contributed significantly to European music-life – however after visiting our exhibition the striking experience will let you know what you have missed.
From five different perspectives, in five specially-designed rooms, this Exhibition will most artfully highlight the substantial contribution that women have made both in the fields of composition and music-making too. From Hildegard von Bingen to Olga Neuwirth, women’s hitherto unrecognised profile in the history of music will be seen in a wider political context now that efforts have been made, both in Europe and internationally, to create a more gender-balanced world.
Indeed Austria’s Foreign Ministry, for its part, published a book focusing on women’s music for the first time in 2009.
Though the Exhibition will naturally enough focus on Austrian female composers it will properly look as well at all the great women composers from past ages and other countries. Designed in concept to astonish and fascinate, the Exhibition will have interactive features and altogether it will be highly approachable. Following its opening in Vienna, our aim is for it to tour worldwide, both to music festivals and art institutions that present a feminine agenda.
Businesses and individuals who are entering a partnership with this exhibition, will greatly benefit from an increased global visibility and positive image:
The subject and the layout of the on-site exhibition offer a wide range of opportunities to include names of brands and businesses. The planned format of converting this exhibition into a traveling exhibition will also increase the global visibility of a brand. In addition, the exclusive, highly-frequented locations will attract a high number of visitors who will recognize and acknowledge the commitment for equality and diversity of the individual brand or business. The public support of this project also represents an investment in Corporate Social Responsibility and stands for openness towards different models of diversity programs.
MusicaFemina – The chapters oft he exhibitions
(A) Three introductory features
- Exploring female conducting in a sculpture
- Staging the darkness of female music history and the
„enlightenment“ of mapping music history including
- A timeline as a basic orientation
1) The Conductor’s Tree
Rather than leaves the growing tree sprouts the casts of hands of
contemporary female conductors.
Interestingly it is known, that in Ancient Egypt female singers beat
the rhythm. In the convents of Byzantium composing nuns
conducted and from Baroque times through till the 19th century
women led ensembles from the cembalo or the violin. And in the
20th century Nadja Boulanger or Imogen Holst led the way to
women conducting from the podium.
The first pair of hands was already sculptured: the hands of Simone
2) The Globe in the dark room
The walk into this space is a homage to the darkness, which has
always enveloped the history of female music creation.
A virtual map will lead us into the past as well as into the studios of
Projections of quotes referring to these female composers will
enlighten the theme and the room itself.
(3) The Portrait gallery and Time-line
Down the whole length of the Orangerie (100m) run two
complementary time-lines. The first contains portraits and short
biographies of the composers and the second will show the
corresponding dates explaining contemporary social and historical
The timeline shows two significant cuts:
- 1918 and the period after which women widely gained equal
rights and opened the way to female composers´ participation
in public music life.
- 1938 and the cut down of music life regarding women
composers in all respects.
4) Composing in the Ecclesiastical context
In Medieval and Renaissance times convents were effectively the
only place, where women were able to create music.
Within the secure walls of a convent women were given free raign
to play, study and compose. Before the Reformation about one third
of the daughters of aristocratic or patrician families were destined
to live out their lives in convents.
Songs and books and names come to us todayincluding names as
Hildegard von Bingen, Catarina Assandras, Äbtissin Erintrudes,
Vittoria Raffaella Aleotti, Isabella Leonarda etc. All of this can be
read about and listened to by kneeling at a church pew in a chapel
5) Composing in the Aristocratic context
Courtlife provided a protective space, within which music could
flourish and women could live as composers. Convent and
aristocratic life were interwoven.
At the court of Ferrara in Renaissance times for instance there was
the Concerto delle Donne created through the patronage of the
Medici and Gonzaga families.
It was here that Francesca Caccini was the first woman to compose
6) The Salon
Music making was central in a 19th century Salon, both in
aristocratic and Bourgeoisie society. The music rooms and garden
pavillions provided exquisite spaces for performances for
encounters, dialogue, networking and patronage.
Such were the rooms in which Alma Mahler, Louise Farrenc, Mel
Bonis or Lilly Boulanger, Louise Adolpha Le Beau, Amy Beach and
Ethel Smythe, Clara Schumann or Fanny Hensel created and
performed chamber and choral music. Here they gained their
knowledge in conducting and composing some even to the point of
supporting their male family members.
(7) The Room of the Muses
Within this room will hang 9 impressive, oversized metal sculptures
(their height: 3m-5m , their diameter :maximum 3 m ),
representing 9 very different types of composers.
The specially designed figures will incorporate an integrated soundhood
which the visitors can duck into.
There they can listen to audio portraits of example composers work
like “the scholar”, the “Femme fragile “”femme fatale“ ”the
8) The Room of the proscribed
The scores under the foot and the faceless silhouettes in this room
symbolize the elimination of freedom of expression in musical life
during the Nazi era.
For women staying in the Deutsches Reich the Reichsmusikkammer
played a key role in the fate of women musicians by excluding them
from “higher music”.
The majority of female composers went into exile, some of them
became pioniers in their host countries like Vally Weigl, many lost
their lives in concentration camps like Lilly Lieser or Elsa Bienenfeld
having to play in grotesque female orchestras before their death.
9) Room of the Film Music
Female composers play a major role in the world of film music today. This small cinema dedicated to them will have a screen, upon which will be shown examples of their work. International and national Film festivals will be contributing Showreels, from “Tricky women” to “Women Film Composers”.
10) Room of Contemporary Composers
A labyrinthine room, where TV screens will be mounted on stelas,
representing the diversity in contemporary female music creation
internationally and nationally. Each screen will present short
introduction and analysis of the most prominent movements in
Show reels will be contributed by institutions such as: phonofemme,
female pressure, Universities and Womens´music festivals,
Women´s music research institution and editions as well as national,
European and international Composers organizations.
This room also contains 2 of the sound sculptures (see: Room of the
An isolated room, where a woman at every time composes live. She
will be seen at work through a glass screen surrounded by her
instruments and her computer.
The finished compositions will be played in one of the sound
sculptures in the contemporary room (10).
This space can also be used for collegiate workshops.