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The Changing Role of Women in Music during the Romantic Period (Essay Sample)


The Changing Role of Women in Music during the Romantic Period

The Changing Role of Women in Music during the Romantic Period
The romantic period was a unique moment in the mid-eighteenth and nineteenth century when Europe and the United States were experiencing revolution. Various happenings like wars prompted people to become critical of their normal lives, death, music, and art. At the same time, people began to challenge the established order of things. For example, romanticism began to agitate for women empowerment. Until this period, women were largely discriminated and regarded as lesser beings whose role was restricted to marriage and household duties. Women writers like Mary Wollstonecraft began to challenge this notion in her essay, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Published in 1792 (Smith, 620-640).
Apart from liberalization, music writers and other artists began to involve nature and cultures in their works. This marked a major shift in the representation of music, giving emphasis on romance and exoticism. All in all, women began to be involved more and more in music during the romantic period as perceptions began to change about the role of women in the society. This essay discusses the changing roles of women across the world during the romantic period.
The Body
Before the romantic era, women were restricted to household duties. However, the agitation by feminists around this period for an equal society prompted a major change. In music, women were not allowed to be composers or writers because they were regarded as possessing a weaker mental prowess than their male counterparts. As the romantic period wore on, more and more women began to take up composing as their roles in music developement. Others ventured into teaching music, singing and performing because the environment was friendlier than previous years. Women champions like Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel combined performing, playing the piano and composing music to become one of the pioneers to mark the changing roles of women in music (Adams, 300-305).
The contribution of women to music had been ignored before the romantic period. Only songs and other music works undertaken by men were documented by historians. This is because historians feared that empowering women through publicizing their works would destabilize marriages. Before this period, women were only recognized by their looks and success in marriages. With the increasing voices by feminists, researchers and historians began to recognize the contribution of women to music. As a result of this, women contributions like Nadezhda von Meck who financially supported Tchaikovsky to compose and record his music became documented (Adams, 200-276). Other women who organized musical salons, concerts and performances began to be recognized as instrumental agents of music development.
As the whole world experienced experimentation and revolution, women status in music was also getting elevated. Before the romantic period, women were only included in less demanding roles like painting and dancing. There were very few women leading the orchestra. The romantic period brought more freedom allowing women to take more responsibilities in music. This meant that they could afford to acquire sophisticated music instruments to decorate their performances. Generally, women involvement in the music industry enabled them to earn a living. This brought down their overdependence on men which also served to invoke respect from the society that had been discriminating for so long.
Music schools known as conservatories began to admit women. Additionally, they were encouraged to engage in all manner of roles in the music industry ranging from dancing to composing. This was a big change as education was considered a threat to marriages before the romantic period. Education was now treated as a genuine factor of creating passion, interest, prowess and fulfillment not just in marriages but also in music. Empowering the mind through music education rather than dressing invoked women to become more rigorous in pursuing their music dreams. More and more families could now afford and accept to let women indulge in whatever field of music they wished. As more women became professionals in music, the fallacy that this made them less attractive for marriage lost taste completely in the dynamic society of the time.
Women voices were more treasured in the romantic period and subsequent eras. Even before the romantic period, women were not banished completely from singing. However, this period empowered more women to be opera singers and soloists as careers. The fact that their vocals were now recognized as vital and unique in music paved the way for success by women performers. The music industry was considered a more attractive venture and better with female vocals. Besides creating a romantic mood in music, female voices brought serenity and deeper enjoyment to music listeners. This was actually treated as a new discovery at the time, a big mockery to female dignity. This was bizarre bearing in mind that women contribution to music had been so immense despite men dominance in the industry.
Various works by researchers credit the romantic period with the beginning of serious and fine works of music by women. Before this period, women were brushed aside as lacking the intellectual and physical strength to compose and deliver high-profile music. Some of the finest musicals ever recorded by women came after this period. This could have been down to empowerment, lack of documentation or both. This period also produced one of the finest talent female talents the music industry had seen before. Besides Fanny M. Hensel, other professional composers emerged. Josephine Lang started composing at the age of thirteen and had more than 150 of her works published. Despite harboring fears about her success in the music industry at the age of 20, Clara Wieck Schumann benefitted from the romantic era to produce fine, intellectual songs, piano works and concerts. Another artist, Pauline Viardot-Garcia saw her involvement with intellectuals and artists elevate her status and career in music (Adams, 178-236). These women were among many others who transformed the face of the music industry and paved way for others to excel.
The growth and expansion of the music industry created room for the accommodation of deserving women teachers and music patrons. Revolution during the romantic period also demanded high standards of composition. Women, empowered by the thriving feminism activities, maximized on this enabling environment to challenge their male counterparts in composing high quality music works (Wilkins, 180). They also posses...
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