One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. The idea’s pretty simple: post a link to a classical work, and – in the body of the tweet – provide a little info about it.
For March, some of the participants decided to celebrate the role of women in classical music. We used an additional hashtag #WomensHistoryMonth to ensure a wider audience.
My goal was to make the case that “women composers” is hardly a late-20th-century phenomenon. Women have been writing music as long as there has been a notation for it. Here’s the list of women composers and their works I shared during #WomensHistoryMonth
Part 1: Early music
The Medieval Period (c.1100 – 1400)
Herrad of Landsberg (c. 1130-1195) – Veri floris sub figure
– Herrad was the abbess of Hoenburg Abbey in France. Her encyclopedia Hortus deliciarum is a classic medieval work.
Beatritz de Dia (fl. late 12th/early 13th centuries) – A chantar m’er de so q”ieu no voldria
– Beatritz was a trabaritiz (female troubadour), one of the first women to compose secular music (that we know of).
I didn’t post anything by Hildegard von Bingen – her music was well-represented by other participants.
The Renaissance (1400-1600)
Maddalena Casulana (c.1540–c.1590) – Hor che la vaga auror.
– Casulana was not only a composer but a lutenist and singer as well. She was the first female composer to have her music printed and published
Vittoria Aleotti (c.1575–after 1620) -Io v’amo vita mia
– Aleotti was an Augustinian nun. She was an organist as well as a composer. Many women composers and performers of the Renaissance were in orders. Since men were forbidden in nunneries, women took on musical roles for worship that were done by men in the greater world — singing, playing instruments and composing music.
Caterina Assandra (1580–1632) – O Quam Suavis
– Assandra was a Benedictine nun and organist (see above). Some of her works were published in her lifetime.
Francesca Caccini (1587–1640?) – Ciaccona
– One of the daughters of opera composer Giulio Caccini, Francesca wrote vocal and instrumental compositions. She’s also credited with composing the oldest known opera by a woman.
Settimia Caccini (1591–1638?) – Si miei tormenti
– Settimia was Francesca’s sister, and renowned in her lifetime as a singer. After her death, some of her works were published, showing that skilled musical composition was indeed a family trait.