By: Montse Andreu

We are almost on the turn of the twenty-first century, and one would think that the so long fought for equality of the sexes should have reached the adequate levels with respect to the chances that women have to succeed in the field of electronic musics, and of alternative musics in general. Yet, if we take a quick look at the lists of women composers of electronic music and/or those who can be placed under the less than satisfactory label New Age, besides those who chose the field of New Music, experimental music or the multimedia interactive arts, when compared to the male production in the same fields, we see this is not so. As it seems, the alternative musics continue to be an almost exclusively male ground, and in rare occasions we can see some, more or less timid, female attempt to enter it. This does not mean that no women are there whatsoever, but only that they are little known by the general audience, and they do not always last in this field, since most of them end up either tending rather to the most commercial areas of pop, or are relegated to such minoritary, experimental options that they continue to be virtually unknown by the great public. Nevertheless, there are women who have devoted part (or all) of their careers to electronic, experimental composition, who have a great deal of talent and an exquisite sensibility and creativity, which has even allowed them to access important awards, reaching the top lists in several countries, and even a great commercial success in the amount of sales of their albums.


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Georgia Kelly

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Diamanda Galas

And, who are these women, who are the women in this "silent minority", whose names so often escape our minds? We can certainly name some who will surely be widely known by the readers: the versatile Laurie Anderson, who, having worked in the electronic music fields, is far more famous for her pop works; Wendy / Walter Carlos and her (formerly his) prolific career; Suzanne Ciani, who has been said to be "The Chopin of the nineties", nowadays more popular for her current work as a sensitive, romantic, skilled pianist, rather than her expertise in the technical skills and a wide experience with the electronic instruments that she so wonderfully showed in the first stages of her career; Constance Demby, the author of the Novus Magnificat, which sold more than a hundred thousand units in a record time after its release, who defines her music as "symphonic space contemporay classical music"; Enya, the delightful singer and composer of Celtic roots; Diamanda Galas, the controversial, countercultural, "accursed" artist, one of whose works was awarded the Ars Electronica 1986 prize during that festival in Austria; Georgia Kelly, an experienced harpist and composer whose music has relaxing, therapeutic effects on the listener; the American composer Pauline Oliveros, a pioneer in electronic experimentation in music, born in 1932; the also awarded woman composer in the Ars Electronica festival in 1989, Kaija Saariaho, of a Finnish origin, who has settled in France, a great specialist in electronic and computer music; Fiorella Terenzi, the gorgeous astronomer who became famous with her "music of the galaxies", which she obtained through her scientific work, in a skilled combination with her musical habilities... All these charismatic women are dealt with in detail, in several monographic articles within Amazing Sounds.

Yet, together with these artists who have become fairly well known all over the world, there are others who perhaps have not achieved fame in the same scale. And this is the objective I have here: to make some of these names that hide a considerable talent and a dedication often silenced by the media - perhaps because they are taken to be uncommercial, or perhaps because they have chosen very minoritary aspects in the field of music in our days - known to the interested readers. In successive chapters the musical trajectory of some of these women composers from different nationalities and styles is detailed, since it is my belief that they deserve to have a place in the annals of the history of music in our days. Given the diversity of styles that constitute the alternative musics and the difficulty to classify them according to labels, besides the fact that the latter are very relative indeed, and also as many of these women have entered different fields sometimes even fusing or merging styles, I have chosen to classify then in an alphabetical order, so as to create a sort of dictionary of women composers in the alternative musics.

Esperanza Abad, a singer born in Toledo (Spain), completed her musical studies at the Conservatorio de Música y Arte Dramático in Madrid, and later devoted her time to musical research. Co-founder of CANON and also of LIM, she specialized in the avantgarde musics, and she has performed with several avantgarde musicians both in Spain and abroad. She is the co-author, together with José Iges, of the composition Despedida que no despide, a sort of requiem written as a homage to Agustín Millares Sall, a poet from the Canary Islands, as well as Ritual, a composition in three parts written by herself for one of her own performances, a most remarkable event because of its open, aesthetic character, in which the composer relates in an imaginative, technically perfect way, voice, dramatization and electronics, with outstanding results.

Esperanza Abad has developed a wide task of research in the field of the vocal and musical forms of different trends. Among her performances mention must be made of "La Sangre Del Tiempo", "La Leyenda de los Baños de Argel", "Athelier Lirique del Rhin", "Le Dernier Combat de Tancredo et Clorinde", etc. As a singer she has performed a wide range of works from national as well as foreign authors, many of whom have dedicated their works to her. Esperanza Abad has likewise composed other works of New Music and has participated in numerous festivals in Spain and overseas. She has also developed a wide range of pedagogical activities in seminars and conferences. Her music has been released under different labels, among them RCA, EMEG-EDIGSA and RNE.

This Japanese composer has completed her musical education at the Tokyo Gakugei University, specializing in contemporary music. Among her works mention must be made of Marima (1972), and Michi, filed at The Resource Center for Japanese Music.

C anadian composer born in Toronto, she has received her musical education at the University of Southern California, Princeton University and the University of Toronto, tutored by such prestigious professors as John Weinzweig, James Hopkins, Frederick Leseman, Lothar Klein, Oskar Morawetz and Milton Babbit, specializing in electronic music, as she feels deeply attracted by unusual sounds. No wonder a great deal of her work has mostly been devoted to the electroacoustic sound, as the artist has chosen to explore the timbric possibilities that this has to offer to her musical creativity. Experimentation in this terrain has led her to combining her music with other media of artistic expression, which has meant for her the creation of diverse interactive works, and even the composition of an opera. Furthermore, Allik has participated in several theatrical productions. In her works, Allik intends to awaken the interest of the general audience in art. Among the several commissions and awards she has received from well known institutions, mention must be made of the following: Canada Council grants, Ontario Arts Council grants, a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, a Chalmers Foundation Award, the Federation of University Women Award and the Irving G. Mills Award. Currently a member of the Faculty at Queen's University School of Music, she is a professor of composition, musical theory and computer music there. Also, she is a member of several institutions, among them CAPAC and the Canadian League of Composers. Her works have been performed in Europe, the USA and Canada. Among them mention must be made of the following:

Music Theatre and Multi-media:


Orchestra with Soloist(s):







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