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“Taking Off My Pants” by composer Kristin Kuster

The Season of My Denial and Evasion lasted nearly two decades — from the age of 18 to 36. During this season, I wore pants for premieres of my music, while performing as a pianist and teaching, for all important composerly things. I hated the “What’s it like to be a woman composer” question at pre-concert talks, on panels and in interviews. If I couldn’t evade this question, I rattled off something dismissive: How could I possibly know any different? That’s like asking me what if I had grown up in Alaska. I refused to enter any competitions exclusively for female composers or to have my music presented at women-only concerts.

I learned this attitude. I learned it from a handful of female composers 5 to 10 years my senior. They believed that talking about our gender in relation to our work would perpetuate the distinction between male and female composers, and therefore pave right over all the ground we had gained in our efforts to break through the gender normative white-male hegemony that is this field.

O.K. I agreed, and for years I perpetuated a non-perpetuation of gender distinction. Today, I vehemently disagree with the notion that if we stop talking about something, it ceases to exist. Today, I believe we must cast a spotlight on facts and evidence that illuminate the gender imbalance of composers with visibly active presences in our field.

Read more of Kristin Kuster‘s essay in the NYTimes HERE.


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