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Women are underrepresented in the Western classical music tradition. Music theorists primarily analyze music by male composers, and often completely ignore pieces of equivalent quality and usefulness by women. Due to the lack of detailed analyses of music by women, few examples are included in textbooks and anthologies. These prejudices and biases extend to many of the most commonly used analytical techniques. It is acknowledged in academia that, Schenkerian analysis has been applied primarily to music by white, male composers.

In 1882, a critic in the The Musical Times (a popular periodical at the time) wrote, “A woman who, when taking a pencil, pen or music-sheet, forgets what are the character and obligations of her sex, is a monster who excites disgust and repulsion…They are neither men nor women, but something which has no name and no part in life.” This disparaging comment about women composers was only published 141 years ago and shows a glimpse of the challenges women composers faced just a few generations ago. Furthermore, in the music composition world, attitudes towards women composers have not improved as much as they have in other fields.

For centuries, the field of music theory and music analysis has been focused on exploring music written by men as this field was historically controlled by men. Historically, musicologists have been hesitant to include music by women in anthologies and textbooks due to limited analysis of this music. This exclusion of music in textbooks has led to young musicians not being exposed to music by women during their educational careers. Often musicians form deep connections to the music they study and play during their adolescence and educational journeys, as they are forming their musical identities. As a result, many musicians choose to program music by men rather than women when they become established professional musicians, as people are often drawn to what is familiar and what they learned during their formative years.

As part of my ongoing efforts to advocate for the inclusion of works by women in the musical canon, I have been applying linear techniques, textual considerations, and rhythmic/metric analysis to vocal music. The works under consideration were composed by three composers that span across Western history: Maria dolce Maria by Francesca Caccini (1587 - after 1641 [death date unknown]), Liebst du um Schonheit by Clara Schumann (1819-1896), and Shake It Off by Taylor Swift (1989-). Francesca Caccini was the daughter of one of the founders of opera. She was a respected composer during her lifetime as was Clara Schumann (one of the leading concert pianists of her time). Taylor Swift is one of the leading female composers/songwriters of our time and recently became a billionaire.

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