ComposHER: A concert celebrating the best new music to moving picture

Written by Alexandra Hamilton-Ayres

ComposHER is a new concert highlighting, showcasing and celebrating women composers for film, TV and video games. The first concert was held last month at EartH in London. The concert also aims to inspire the next generation of composers, tackling current inequality in the field of media composers.

London Contemporary Orchestra @ EartH (Hackney, London)

ComposHER was a fantastic full-house evening at EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney) spotlighting women media composers and highlighted the power of community within the media industry. A recent report in the New York Times, from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, showed that of the top 250 films at the domestic box office in 2018, only six percent were scored by women. Manners McDade Managing Director, Harriet Moss, the brains behind ComposHER, had been curating this event for two years, in conversation she said, “it just became something bigger as we realised how much this was needed and the importance of giving women composers a platform”. The balance is clearly something that needs addressing in the industry and how better to do this than an evening championing music by women composers with the work of twelve leading industry composers featuring the London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Hugh Brunt. The LCO put out an online call for orchestrators to take part which had one of their biggest ever responses supported by Arts Council England.

ComposHER presented work from a stellar line up: Claire M Singer, Alev Lenz, Nainita Desai, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, Jessica Curry, Anne Nikitin, Imogen Heap, Jessica Jones, Jocelyn Pook, Kate Simko, Amelia Warner and Carly Paradis alongside performances from SHE Choir, and singer EERA. The composers are all at different stages of their career and members of the Alliance for Women Film Composers and the Women Composers’ Forum. Jenna Fentimen (Manners McDade) founded the Women Composer’s Forum to “increasing inclusion and visibility in the industry” and provide a space for Women Composers in media to “support and connect”. LA-based Alliance for Women Film Composers with a similar mission represented by Thomas Mikusz emphasized the importance of inclusion and being open to everyone in the composer community. Both vowed on stage to work together “with the same mission” in mind. Edith Bowman (Soundtracking) and Chandler Poling (Alliance Women for Film Composers and White Bear PR) also took to the stage introducing some of the composers and highlighting the importance of giving women composers a spotlight in the industry. Also in general engaging with current music for media, which has never really had a platform like this to present cues and celebrate so many new works in one event. This event was significant for being the start of a fresh approach to presenting media music on stage. Some of the composers performed in their pieces, some played with click tracks, some with electronics, there was a real range of compositional style.

The role models are now out there for the public and to inspire future generations of composers and what feels like an unstoppable collaborative community, has breathed fresh life into the world of concert music. Composer Alev Lenz who performed her composition “Fall Into Me” from Netlix TV show Black Mirror, said “we are a community because we all made an effort with each other and as a result all feel confident to be part of this” so we can say “this is what we do” and was “proud of the work the composers have done too”. Composer Carly Paradis, who performed piano alongside the LCO and spectacular singer EERA present music from Netflix The Innocents and BBC Line of Duty, said it was “an honour to share the stage with so many incredible composers and musicians. It was the first time I performed some of my score music live”. Nainita Desai, composing for over two decades said it was the first time she had her music performed in concert live, presenting cues from the documentary Untamed Romaniaand upcoming game music for Telling Lies. Jessica Jones described the event as an “amazing opportunity”. All women working currently as media composers showing music they had worked on recently or that was up and coming, it was clear that the overwhelming feeling was one of care and support for each other. There were no egos involved in the evening, only serving to celebrate more the sense of togetherness this movement for gender equality has created.

Some of the amazing supporters of the event were Spitfire Audio, whose community manager Loren Sunderland has been working with the Spitfire Audio team to raise the visibility of women composers and has collaborated with the Women Composers’ Forum. Other supporters for ComposHER were ASCAP, P&G, Manners McDade, Production Music Awards, WMP Studios, Alliance for Women Film Composers, Women Composers’ Forum, Free the Bid,, SHE Choir, Art Council England, NFTS and the London Contemporary Orchestra.

More music by these brilliant composers can be found on BBC Sounds.

Find the Women Composers’ Forum on Facebook and the Alliance for Women Film Composers here.

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We are a carefully curated network of women with active roles in the music industry:

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