Looking For Women's Music At The Symphony? Good Luck!

Recent surveys show that less than 2 percent of music performed by American orchestras is by women composers. This year's Pulitzer Prize winner, Du Yun, speaks out on diversity in the concert hall.

Although more women have been winning Pulitzer Prizes for music lately, it's still next to impossible to hear works by female composers performed by America's symphony orchestras.

This year's Pulitzer winner, Du Yun, has a lot to say about the situation.

The last time I spoke with her it was April 10, she had just won the prize and was stepping out of her noisy hotel bar in Abu Dhabi to take the call. She was attending the 2017 Culture Summit which presented sessions such as "Globalization and the Other: Lessons from Refugees and The Dislocated."

A native of Shanghai currently based in New York, Du Yun says she's "very plugged into social change" and she's keen to discuss the entangled intersections of music and social issues around the world. She won the Pulitzer for Angel's Bone, an eclectic opera that mixes renaissance, punk and contemporary classical styles while telling a harrowing tale of human trafficking.

The conversation below – which has been edited for length and clarity – centers on the lack of women's music in America's symphony halls and follows a provocative essay by composer Mohammed Fairouz published earlier this week.

Tom Huizenga: Let me present to you a few numbers. In a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra survey

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR5 min readPolitics
Misery Grows At Syrian Camp Holding ISIS Family Members
In recent visits to the camp, NPR was told of babies dying of malnutrition, and found women collapsed by roadsides. "There's a lack of supplies and the numbers of patients are huge," a doctor says.
NPR5 min read
As Employment Rises, African American Transplants Ride Jobs Wave To The South
At a time of low unemployment for African Americans, educated, well-connected professionals are starting new lives in cities such as Charlotte, N.C.
NPR2 min read
American Man Achieves Dream By Reaching Mount Everest Summit, Then Dies
Donald Lynn Cash of Utah achieved his goal of climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents. A traffic jam on Mount Everest may have impeded efforts to carry him down the mountain before he died.