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8 Februar 2024

Vienna Insight: Wiener Festwochen launched initiative to showcase more women composers

The Wiener Festwochen unveiled the Academy Second Modernism, a global initiative aimed at amplifying the presence of female composers in the music industry. The project was introduced at a press conference held on February 6 at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York. The patron of the project is Nuria Schoenberg Nono, the daughter of Arnold Schönberg and widow of the composer Luigi Nono. The goal of the academy is to bring together composers and cultural institutions worldwide to change the structures of inequality in the music world. At the press conference in New York, Jana Beckmann, the music dramaturg of the Wiener Festwochen and project initiator of the Academy Second Modernism, emphasized the advocacy aspect of the initiative regarding equal rights and resources for women, as well as the decolonial perspectives on contemporary music.

Milo Rau, the new director of the Wiener Festwochen, stated that classical Viennese Modernism, with figures like Schönberg, Freud, and Klimt, was commendable but had its limitations. He pointed out that it largely remained Eurocentric, male-dominated, and elitist. Rau expressed that the aim of the Academy Second Modernism is to initiate a second modernity characterized by global inclusivity, fewer boundaries, and a more feminine perspective.

The ten participants selected for the Wiener Festwochen 2024 are Aida Shirazi, Brigitta Muntendorf, Bushra El Turk, Dilay Doganay, Du Yun, Feliz Anne Reyes Macahis, Marina Lukashevich, Mirela Ivicevic, Monthati Masebe, and Shasha Chen. Their biographies can be found at On the same page, scheduled events of the 'Akademie Zweite Moderne', such as in June on the academy's strategies of visibility, can be found as well as a video in which Nuria Schoenberg Nono talks about her patronage and memories of her father's students.

What begins in 2024 with ten women composers from around the world in Vienna will continue until 2028 with 50 women composers as members and ambassadors. In the press release, it's explained that the number 50 is a "reference to the fifty female students of composition taught by Arnold Schoenberg, who, in contrast to such famous colleagues as John Cage, Alban Berg and Anton Webern, have almost entirely sunk into oblivion."

Almost. When asked today the Copilot on Microsoft Bing to name prominent former students of Arnold Schönberg, the AI mentioned among others Dika Newlin as one of the students who shaped the musical landscape with her innovative work.

Images, from left: Aida Shirazi, photo: © Aida Shirazi. Brigitta Muntendorf, photo: © Frederike Wetzels; Bushra El Turk, photo: © Ben Mc Donnell; Dilay Doganay, photo: © Pin Chen Lu; Du Yun, photo: © Zhen Qin. Below, from left: Feliz Anne Reyes Macahis, photo © Marie Luise Calvero; Marina Lukashevich, photo: © Yury Lytko; Mirela Ivicevic, photo: © Rui Camilo fuer Ev S Stiftung; Monthati Masebe, photo: © Rudzani Makwarela; Shasha Chen, photo: © Mark Ballyk.

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