Today, we feature past CSW-chair Brenda Ravenscroft, who has recently published her co-edited book with Laurel Parsons, Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers, Vol. 1. You can find more about her recent work at her book website.
Dr. Ravenscroft has also recently been appointed as Dean of the McGill Schulich School of Music. Please join us in congratulating her!
“I’m currently an Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, a position I’ve held for the past ten years. When I started at Queen’s in 1993 I taught music theory and analysis in the Dan School of Drama and Music (which falls within the Faculty of Arts and Science), but I now work full-time as an administrator in the Dean’s office.
As of July 2017 I am going to bring my music and administrative careers together when I take over as Dean of the Schulich School of Music at McGill University.
Three interests animate my research in music theory: my fascination with time, my love of poetry, and my passion for equity for women in music. I investigate these interests through analyzing post-tonal music to answer the question, how does it work? Through rhythmic analysis I discover how composers shape time in music that lacks the regular metric framework of tonal music, and how musical time interacts with the temporal unfolding of a poetic text. In addition to quantifying compositional structures and systems, I am interested in the perceptual and cognitive aspects of time. Much of my work focuses on the vocal music of Elliott Carter (1908–2012), the preeminent musical interpreter of modern American poetry, who employed a contrapuntal approach to texture and complex rhythmic organization to express his layered interpretation of the texts he set.
One of my most exciting recent projects is a four-volume series of analytical essays on music by women composers, which I’m working on collaboratively with my colleague Laurel Parsons. Laurel and I were graduate students together at the University of British Columbia in the late 1980s and, thirty years later, are now co-editors and contributors to the series. Female composers have been marginalized and overlooked throughout history, and, while women have made significant social and political advances since the early twentieth century, this has not been reflected in the musical world. Women composers are underrepresented in performances, in the classroom, and in scholarly research, particularly in music theory. Our book project aims to address this by making available detailed, technical analyses of compositions by women composers in order to stimulate new research into this overlooked repertoire, to enable music by women to enter the classroom, and to facilitate its inclusion in concert programs. The first volume, Concert Music 1960–2000, was published in March 2016 and will be followed by three volumes covering different time periods and genres.
I think that people often place limitations on what they believe can be achieved if one is a woman. I’ve never believed I am limited by being a woman, and a combination of hard work, courage, support, and good luck have led to wonderful opportunities in my professional life. I’d encourage everyone, regardless of their past experiences or their gender, to be attentive to the social and systemic barriers that limit women, and to be purposeful in questioning and dismantling them. If we no longer limit each other—or limit ourselves—we can all realize our potential.”