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The role of women in the history of film music

He International Women's Day It is commemorated around the world every March 8, to raise awareness about the importance of empowering women in all settings, protecting their rights and ensuring they can achieve their full potential. In the same way, it serves to make visible the inequality and discrimination that still exists throughout the world, as well as to make their rights effective. Therefore, let's see which are the women composers of the most important soundtracks.

With the passage of time, women have managed to enter the world of cinema little by little, until films by directors such as Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, Ana Lily Amirpour, Claire Denis or Patty Jenkins, to name a few, have prevailed in awards competitions, on the billboard and in the public response in theaters.

The same has happened with female composers of soundtracks and film music. Some of the pioneers were Shirley Walker, which collaborated with John Carpenter and Francis Ford Coppola; Angela Morley, who in the 50s was already making film scores, or Wendy Carlos, a pioneer of electronic music, who caught the attention of Kubrick and is characterized by eclectic and strange music reminiscent of Beethoven, Purcell and Rossini. Deserves a special mention Hildur Guðnadóttir, Icelandic composer and cellist, who, in 2020, won a Golden Globe, a Film Critics Award, a Bafta Award and an Oscar Award for Best Film Score joker.

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The history of women in cinema

The actress and film director is usually considered Ida Lupino, as one of the great milestones in the beginnings of the seventh art industry. As independent as she is controversial, she is considered the mother of film noir. Despite having directed nine feature films, she maintained that directing was no place for a woman. Fortunately, I was very wrong.

He devoted himself to film noir at a time when the genre, like all of Hollywood, was a place made by and for men. He was a transgressive figure during the 40s and 50s for having his own production company, The Filmmakers, for its break with the aesthetics of the time and for its cinematographic forms.

Ida Lupino (@O_Thursday)
Image owned by @O_Thursday

First woman in cinema

But we would have to go back more than forty years to find the first woman in the history of cinema, Alice Guy-Blaché, who obtained this enormous merit in 1896, with La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy). She was not satisfied with being the first film director in the world, she competed in Hollywood as an independent producer and director and was ahead of her contemporaries and her time.

She directed, produced and supervised more than 600 films of all genres and was also the first to use gramophone recordings synchronized with the image. If this were not enough, it produced one of the first color films, it was the first to use special effects, use double exposure of the negative, retouching techniques, slow and fast motion and backward movement.

Shirley Walker: The first major film composer

Shirley Walker made history on January 6, 1992, when he took the podium to conduct the orchestra and record his soundtrack for the film John Carpenter Memoirs of an invisible man. As the booklet of the record edition highlights, she was the first woman to compose and record the score for a Hollywood blockbuster.

Walker began his film career as a keyboardist, playing synthesizers on Carmine Coppola's wonderful composition for Apocalypse Now. Later, thanks to the music producer Daniel Allan Carlin, he worked on the production of American Zoetrope, The black steed, for which he writes additional music to Carmine Coppola's songs. Both productions were candidates for the Golden Globe for best original score. Later, in the late 80s and early 90s, she worked as an orchestrator for Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer.

Shirley Walker (@jmamenn)
Image owned by @jmamenn

The importance of women in classical music

But cinema is not the only field related to music that has created great female names, therefore, it is necessary to analyze the greatest figures and the importance of women in classical music. We go back to the 19th century to find one of these great figures, Fanny Mendelssohn: composer and pianist of early Romanticism. His compositions include a piano trio, a piano quartet, an orchestral overture, four cantatas, more than 125 piano pieces, and more than 250 lieder, most of which were published posthumously. Although she was highly praised for her piano playing skills, she rarely gave public concerts.

In our journey through the achievements of women in classical music, we must travel even further, to the 16th century, a moment in which the exceptional figure of Francesca Caccini, a woman unusually gifted in music, prolific composer, singer, poet and lute and harp player. In 1625, he achieved one of his greatest successes with his opera The liberation of Ruggiero from the isola of Alcina, composed for the visit of Prince Ladislaus Sigismondo, becoming the first Italian opera performed outside its borders.

In this journey through feminine classicism, we also find Barbara Strozzi, considered the great lady of the baroque cantata. Born in Venice, she is one of the most interesting figures of the Italian Baroque. Among the more than one hundred pieces that make up the volumes that he published between 1644 and 1664, the arias, the ariettas and, especially, the secular cantatas stand out in number, a genre whose development and evolution Strozzi promoted in Venice in such a way that some scholars They consider her as one of the creators of it.

And if we take into account the contribution of women in our country to the history of classical music, we inevitably find ourselves with Marianne von Martínez, applauded in its time, but not considered with the deserved professional respect. Of German origin, she was admitted to the Bologna Philharmonic Academy in 1773, after composing symphonies, sonatas and religious pieces.

We can conclude with this historical review reaching the present day with the outstanding work of the orchestra director Emmanuelle Haïm. The Parisian born in 1962 is also a harpsichordist and has shown a particular interest in baroque music and in early music in general. In 2000, he formed his own baroque period ensemble, 'Le Concert d'Astrée', with which he has conducted and toured regularly. The orchestra performs both Rameau and Lully and Monteverdi, Purcell, Handel and Mozart, from Paris to New York and many festivals in France and abroad. In 2001 he signed an exclusive contract with Virgin Classics and great names in staging collaborate with him, such as Jean-Francois Sivadier, Jean-Louis Martinoty, Robert Wilson and Robert Carsen.

Emmanelle Haim (@VMDNRFI)
Emmanelle Haim (image property of @VMDNRFI).

Composers of relevant film soundtracks

In the universe of film composition, one of the great milestones was marked by Barbra Streisand, for being the first female composer to win an Oscar for best original song, for the topic Evergreen from the 1976 film A star has been born. The success of this song has led it to be part of the popular list of the 100 most representative songs of American cinema, made by the American Film Institute in 2004, in which it is ranked number 16.

Barbra Streisand (@JesAg_)
Image property of @JesAg_

On the other hand, it has been of great relevance in the cinematographic field in the work of the American composer Diane Eve Warren, for which the academy has announced that it will award the Honorary Oscar after 13 nominations. He has also won two Golden Globes, a Grammy, an Emmy and three Billboard Awards. She has also been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In addition to them, it is well deserved to highlight the figure of Angela Morley, a transgender woman who worked with the Phillips company making arrangements for numerous artists and at a very young age, began collaborating with Shirley Bassey and Dusty Springfield. In the 1950s he made several scores for film and at the end of the 1960s, after rejecting many proposals, he returned to the audiovisual medium. He made the soundtracks for Captain Nemo's City of Gold, Mirror of Spies and The eight bells.

Given the great variety of her recordings, she was chosen to adapt the original soundtrack of the musical The little Prince, directed by Stanley Donen. And he deserved a nomination for best musical score for his work on this film. A nomination that he would repeat shortly after with his work in Cinderella. She has the distinction of being the first transgender person to be recognized with an Academy Award nomination.

To close this first quartet of great cinematographic and musical relevance, it is necessary to analyze the figure of Nora Orlandi, known for being the first Italian film composer. He became popular in the 60s with his avant-garde works for the genre that stood out most in his country's cinema: spaghetti western.

Although his filmography barely reaches 13 titles and he ended his career by his own decision in 1973, his music has great recognition, even by director Quentin Tarantino, who used his theme Dies Irae of Mrs. Wardh's strange vice for musical pastiche Kill Bill Vol.2.

Other great composers who have received the Oscar Award for best soundtrack are the aforementioned Hildur Guðnadóttir, who received it for joker (2019), Rachel Portman, first woman to win the Oscar Award for Best Original Score, in 1996, for Emma; and Anne Dudley, who won the Oscar for Best Original Comedy Musical Score for The Full Monty. Today, one of the most recognized composers today is Pinar Toprak, a frequent collaborator of Hans Zimmer and the first woman to compose the music of the Marvel Universe, with her outstanding soundtrack for Captain Marvel.

Women have been part of cinema, as we have seen, since its birth, and this March 8 we have the opportunity to recognize the best film directors and composers of soundtracks, since the history of the seventh art and music, does not They make sense without them. One of these ways is to enjoy the concerts of the current Film Symphony Orchestra tour, in which we perform tribute to the aforementioned Pinar Toprak.

Pinar Toprak Women's Day
Pinar Toprak (image property of @SpitfireAudio).

Happy Working Women's Day from the FSO!

Today is a very special day for FSO, especially for all the women who make up this beautiful project. He March 8 is All Women's Day and we celebrate it with special strength and joy because our team is made up of dozens of warriors who are worth gold.

In fact, in the there are more women than men in the orchestra and they champion equality, we play the same instruments and learn the same scores. Behind the scenes there are also great women who make all this possible. For this reason, and as it cannot be otherwise, we all defend the same rights and opportunities for each member of FSO.

At FSO we believe in equality and that all people are equally valid and capable, which is why men and women earn the same and we shy away from those who do not share these ideas. Boys, girls, musicians... Music has no gender, but today it is a little more about women.

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