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Recently, there has been a push to highlight the work of female composers across all genres of classical music. Briefly discuss the historical and on-going challenges faced by female composers to have their works regularly performed and/or published. Present four current female composers representing a variety of genres who have successfully broken these barriers. Discuss their signature work and provide your thoughts as to what sets their music apart.

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One of the great dangers in thinking about the work and careers of female composers, particularly in the present context of the #MeToo movement, is the danger of reading too much into life stories which may not have been touched by the blights of sexism and sexual discrimination. It is incredibly easy to don our pop-psychologist hats and try to read between the lines of the details of female composers’ lives. After all, doing so is a milder variant of the culture of outrage or umbrage, which has proliferated via social media in the last decade or so – it is all too easy to read into something said or done an intention or fact that does not exist in that act or piece of speech. However, on the other hand, how do we properly grapple with the vagaries of structural sexism? What makes structural sexual discrimination so difficult, like its first cousin, structural racism, is that it is so woven into our institutions and into our ways of thought and being that it is both so difficult to recognize and so easy to inadvertently downplay. There is thus a very risk-laden tightrope to be navigated in justly engaging in discourse with the stories of female composers: For example, how much should we be on the lookout for signs of the effects of structural sexism, even when none is reported by the composers themselves? Do we inadvertently downplay the achievements of composers whose lives have, self-reportedly, not been stymied by sexual discrimination in comparison with those whose lives have been so blighted?
Similarly, how much risk is there in both us as interlocutors and the composers themselves submitting to one of the most insidious manifestations of structural sexual discrimination, i.e. the pressure to downplay...

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