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Publication Detail
Gender and Music Composition: A study of music, and the gendering of meanings.
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
  • Authors:
    Sergeant DC, Himonides E
  • Publisher:
    Frontiers Research Foundation
  • Publication date:
  • Journal:
    Frontiers in Psychology
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
  • Editors:
    Biasutti M
  • Status:
  • Country:
  • Print ISSN:
  • Language:
  • Keywords:
    musical gender, gendered music composition, masculinity and music, femininity and music, perception of gendering, sex attribution, MASCFEM
  • Addresses:
    UCL Institute of Education
    University College London
    Culture, Communication and Media
    20 Bedford Way
    WC1H 0AL
    United Kingdom
This paper reports the findings from original empirical research that was designed in order to test three hypotheses. These hypotheses were formed as a result of critical analyses of popular literature in the sociology of gender and music. These hypotheses are: 1. The sex or gender of a composer is identifiable from the musical content of a composition; 2. Perception of gendering of music is related to the sex of the listener; 3. Musical sounds, or the organisation of sounds within a composition, infer sex or gender characteristics. An original empirical research framework was developed in order to test these hypotheses, mainly comprising a composer-sex attribution task for a bespoke listening sequence. The results suggest that gendered information is not represented in the gestures, structures and narratives of a musical composition; no codes are embedded in music by composers that might operate as hidden signifiers of gender; any gendered impressions experienced by a listener are imposed onto the incoming musical stimuli subjectively by that listener, contributed from a network of previously established gender schemata, operating at subliminal level, which rely on universal socially acquired stereotype perceptions of relative characteristics of men and women. This research therefore suggests that, contrary to some published claims, masculinity and femininity are mapped onto the music by the listener and are by no means inherent in the musical composition.
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