Eastern Kentucky University

Poster Title

Mars and Venus Go to the Symphony: A Look at the Gender Stereotypes of Orchestral Instruments

Institution

Eastern Kentucky University

Abstract

David Cronenberg once said, “All stereotypes turn out to be true.” While this idea might initially seem shocking, crude, and tasteless, with further inspection it might prove to be an extremely valuable philosophical idea. Might a further study of stereotypes enlighten us to concepts and ideas which have not yet been reached? Harold F. Abeles and Susan Yank Porter conducted the first major study to focus on the gender associations of musical instruments in 1978. This study looked at the gender stereotypes held by children, and how these stereotypes affected their instrument preference. Many researchers have expanded upon this work. They seek a plan (or perhaps a method) for placing students with instruments and preventing students from prematurely ending their musical careers. While this information might be incredibly valuable to young beginning musicians, could it also be useful to those at the professional level? After an eight month web-hosted survey, this research begins by identifying the gender associations of musical instruments found in the symphony orchestra. It continues on to identify trends within instrumental families, and analyze how these trends have been unknowingly utilized by musicians throughout time. This research will refer to the great master’s concepts of orchestration, composition, and performance to show gender related parallels and determine how professional musicians can use this information to generate a greater understanding of the music they write, study, and perform.

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Mars and Venus Go to the Symphony: A Look at the Gender Stereotypes of Orchestral Instruments

David Cronenberg once said, “All stereotypes turn out to be true.” While this idea might initially seem shocking, crude, and tasteless, with further inspection it might prove to be an extremely valuable philosophical idea. Might a further study of stereotypes enlighten us to concepts and ideas which have not yet been reached? Harold F. Abeles and Susan Yank Porter conducted the first major study to focus on the gender associations of musical instruments in 1978. This study looked at the gender stereotypes held by children, and how these stereotypes affected their instrument preference. Many researchers have expanded upon this work. They seek a plan (or perhaps a method) for placing students with instruments and preventing students from prematurely ending their musical careers. While this information might be incredibly valuable to young beginning musicians, could it also be useful to those at the professional level? After an eight month web-hosted survey, this research begins by identifying the gender associations of musical instruments found in the symphony orchestra. It continues on to identify trends within instrumental families, and analyze how these trends have been unknowingly utilized by musicians throughout time. This research will refer to the great master’s concepts of orchestration, composition, and performance to show gender related parallels and determine how professional musicians can use this information to generate a greater understanding of the music they write, study, and perform.