The Modern Woman: A Musical Tribute to Viennese and German Women in Music

By Rebecca Cole
Executive Staff

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Cole.

“The Modern Woman” was an analytical and artistic performance of many women’s work in the musical rebellion of Vienna. Dr. Kerry Ginger and Dr. Bernadette Lo orchestrated the concert while singing and playing the piano respectively.

Ginger began her research on the topic in the summer of 2020 and discovered that “women were actually much more active in the composition studios, conservatories, and concert halls than most people-even most musicians-hear about.” The women of Vienna and Berlin were participating and had “thriving musical lives” but were disadvantaged not only because of their gender but also by “political persecution and erasure.”

Lo states that, “For me personally, considering many women are still fighting gender inequality, domestic violence/emotional abuse and toxic objectification today, I feel it is very important that we provide an opportunity to introduce the beautiful music composed by these female composers to the current audience.” And that is exactly what these two did.

With the help of many student researchers, Ginger and Lo brought the music of these women to a new audience. When preparing the music, Ginger shared that, “it was a profound experience to read from several of the composers’ handwritten manuscripts, like I was forging a connection with them across time and distance.”

The concert was a combination of a lecture about each female musician and a beautiful performance of their works by the two women. The audience was not only able to experience the stunning voice of Ginger in English and German, as well as the skills of Lo on the piano, but also learned about the lives, experiences, and contributions of these powerful female musicians.

Ginger discusses the “memory gap” that exists regarding the contributions of these women. Even though their works were performed in noted concert halls, the recognition of what these women accomplished and their legacy is almost nonexistent. As if their work did not exist.

There are many reasons for this gap such as “a culture of misogyny surrounded these women, many of whom were among the earliest female graduates of a higher education establishment which excluded them…the ‘dispersal, destruction, and murder’ of the Nazi regime affected these women’s lives as well as records of their output… [and] gender politics in the very practice of modern musicology may affect our exposure to and evaluation of their work.”

The concert was a beautiful representation of not only the history and context within which these works were created, but also the lives and music of the women themselves.