Happy Ethel Smyth’s Birthday!

We sang Ethel Smyth’s “March of the Women” at this year’s Women Composers Festival of Hartford, and it was awesome.

The song, written in 1911, is in public domain, but there weren’t any public domain editions available… so I made one! It’s on CPDL here: http://www2.cpdl.org/wiki/images/f/ff/March_of_the_women.pdf

Also, the edition that was readily available was Treble Clef Press’ 1995 edition that had notes that followed the worst tropes of  old fashioned sexist essentialist musicology. It used to be common for writing about women composers to focus on their weirdness, extraordinariness, other-ness. The notes in the TC edition were of this flavor, focusing on Smyth’s sexuality and eccentricity. I understand that they’re trying to write with some energy, and capture the attention of the likely singers for their works — young people uninterested in the politics of social justice who might need a spoonful of sugar to help it go down — but it irritates me to see that old-school implied other-ing of a composer whose music is really pretty conservative and mainstream.

So, in rebellion, I wrote notes that don’t mention Smyth’s eccentricity, don’t paint her as an outsider, and don’t nudge-nudge/wink-wink about her sexuality. I made them drier and more academic in tone than my usual writing. On purpose.

I also included an IPA transliteration of her name.

Happy Ethel /sma:Iɵ/’s birthday!

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