Happy Women’s History Month! In celebrating this month, we should remember that the history of women in the arts marks a struggle against difficult, sometimes impossible odds. The novelist Virginia Woolf once said that all women are entitled to “a room of their own.” What she meant was that all women should have the space to express themselves. For so many centuries, this basic right was denied to them.
To understand this struggle, consider a scuplture designed by the artist Maya Lin. Lin was asked to highlight the role of women at Yale University. In tribute, she created a circular fountain. And in a spiral on the fountain are engraved numbers. The design begins with year 1701 (the year of the school’s founding). For one hundred and seventy-two years, the number of women admitted to the college is … zero. The fountain shows 172 copies of the number “0” spiraled in a looping circle, flowing under rippling water. Then, the numbers increase and increase. So as we see the triumph of women, the progression to freedom, we are reminded of the years of struggle behind it.
Thankfully, brave women broke though, and granted all of us greater access to the arts. And this month, we’ll be celebrating and honoring the achievements of women in stringed music, interviewing artists who are both locally and globally famous. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be rolling out a special collaboration with our Shar Music® YSOA ambassador Ezinma (star of the above video). Ezinma is one of our favorite people – and is herself a collaborator with the artist Beyoncé (among others). So keep an eye out in the future for our latest project with her…
We’d also like to highlight our recent interview with hip hop and R&B violinist Joy Black, In the video at the start of this blog, you can watch her violin cover of “My Chick Bad” (by Ludacris feat. Nicki Minaj). In addition, here are links to Shar Music Blog® examinations of the careers of Fanny Mendelssohn (sister to Felix, and a powerful composer and artist in her own right, creator of over 500 compositions), the virtuoso Rebecca Clarke (who had to contend with vicious rumors that a man was secretly responsible for all of her work), as well as Shar Music’s® very own Evelyn Avsharian.
And here, as part of our cavalcade of female-led videos, is music by Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds, plus violinist Dr. Nune Melik (both Erin and Nune will be featured this month in Shar Music® projects) – as well as a Beethoven String Quartet by our Shar Music® Young Strings of America ambassadors, the very talented ATLYS—
And we’ll close out this blog with music by Saint Hildegard of Bingen – German mystic, polymath, writer, and philosopher. She is one of the first recognized female composers in Western History – she created words and music for sixty-nine compositions that survive to this day. In addition to her other achievements, Hildegard also created her own unique written language – the key to which has been lost to history. Her language is called Lingua Ignota, which literally means “Unknown Language.”
An unspoken language is a good metaphor for our celebration of women in the arts. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it’s important to remember that so many women’s works have been lost, or were never allowed to exist in the first place. Like Hildegard’s Linga Ignota, they exist only as an unspoken language. As we celebrate the achievements of female musicians today, we should also remain conscious of the work that it took to arrive at this place.