Women in music: the story continues

Since I last wrote about women in music on occasion of The Rising Tide exhibition, so much has happened. Alongside the many positive initiatives it is important to acknowledge that the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionally affected women and that as with so many things in life there will be new challenges to overcome. Today however I would like to focus on the small positive steps we are taking at our Music Collections to put women composers in the spotlight.

Soon to be catalogued sheet music by women composers from the Cambridge University Library Music Department’s collections

Not only do our recent Pendlebury Library acquisitions include materials of brilliant female composers, at the University Library Music Department we have in recent years made an ever increasing effort to ensure we focus on an inclusive and diverse approach towards purchasing newly printed music. We are still catching up after the pandemic with cataloguing our new arrivals, which include editions from a range of traditional as well as more recent and specialised music publishers. Furore Verlag for example was established 35 years ago and is exclusively focussed on publishing music and books written by and about women from various centuries. At the time of writing, 43 notated music titles published by Furore have been entered on our online catalogue iDiscover, with more to follow soon.

A selection of recent Furore Verlag acquisitions

Celebrating women composers is of course not limited to purchasing and cataloguing new publications. In our vast collections of manuscript and printed music, a significant number of titles have not yet been made available on our online catalogues. Following our current practice of prioritizing content of particular interest to teaching and research at the Music Faculty, we are currently going through our various hidden treasures to pull out a diverse selection of materials. If you are interested in a composer that you feel is of particular interest and currently under-represented in our online catalogues and packages of online resources for music you can always contact us so we can revisit our priority lists of retrospective cataloguing work. A recent request from the Music Faculty for example has encouraged us to extract scores from Florence Price, Lili Boulanger, Ruth Crawford-Seeger, Germaine Tailleferre, Rebecca Clarke, Elizabeth Maconchy and Priaulx Rainier from our uncatalogued collections. We have pulled out various bound volumes of songs and choral music, which contain several works each. The volume identified as “Boulanger &c.” on the spine (see image below) contains a selection of choral works by Lili Boulanger, Jules Massenet, Horatio Parker and Charles Marie Widor, whilst the volume with spine lettering “Hensel” consists of a selection of vocal duets by Fanny Hensel published by Furore Verlag. Since many shorter pieces have been bound together it could take us a week of cataloguing time for each of these volumes to be entered on the online catalogue. Once they have been fully catalogued and labelled the volumes will find a space on our open shelves and become borrowable from the library. Over the years library policies around preservation and binding have changed so any items not bound in the past will remain in their original unbound state in the context of preserving our musical heritage. This means that unbound sheet music titles will usually remain reference only and will be available for research within the library.

In addition to making more music titles available, we plan to continue to put women composers in the spotlight through our programme of exhibitions, blog posts and outreach events.


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