Sociology of Gender and Music

In her Honours study of the gendered patterns in a school of music, sociologist Amy Loudin found that, when listening to music, male musicians were more likely to focus on technical issues. Yet when listening to pieces conducted by a woman, they were more likely to judge it based on their perception of her mood, and in so doing, they commented on her violation of gender norms. They said things like, “Well, she’s pissed about something” and “That was really aggressive.” Women’s gender was the focus of their interpretation and critique. One musician says: “I don’t want to say this in a bad way, but she’s a woman.”

The women focused on memory when interpreting music, evoking examples of remembering other experiences: “It reminded me of what would be playing in the opening credits of an old movie,” and “It reminds me of ‘Night on the Bald Mountain.’” Loudin also found that women were under-represented amongst faculty members and as clinicians, conductors and composers. The women who entered the highly masculine fields, such as percussion, felt like they were given feminine instruments, like the bells. Overall, women’s contribution was under-valued, however, they were featured in recital advertising in a sexualised way.

This is an absolutely wonderful example visual sociology! Made in collaboration with artist Courtney Leonard.

Image via Behance.