Power. A musicologist used the “power” word! So it is not reserved for the critics and theorists of painting and sculpture, the ilk of which I encountered in art school. A crumb of vindication for my use of the term, perhaps? But how was Tawa employing it?

When premiered in October 1896 and performed again in February 1898, reviews, all of them male, were not quite sure how to take it. They were upset by its energy and drive, which they considered typical of men and not appropriate to women. . . . Philip Hale in the Boston Journal . . . praised Beach’s talent . . . [but] criticized her for feeling she had to be virile at any cost. . . . Louis Elson, in the Boston Advertiser, . . . named her America’s foremost woman composer, but chided her for ‘heavy scoring’ and ‘determination to sound powerful’ (Tawa 212).

Beach’s c1897 response to critic Richard Aldrich, that men could not forgive her for being a woman, seemed particularly apt here. There was a difference between our art eras: while Beach was criticized for composing “powerfully,” in the 19th century, I had been assured that I would not survive as an artist if I did not paint powerfully in the 20th century.

As I listened to Beach’s larger works the first times, her “Gaelic Symphony” and “Eb Mass,” I was struck by how powerful they were, and, yes, associated that power with “manly.” My reaction to my own reaction was a determination to address in some way what is “manly” and to consider why shouldn’t women sound “manly?” Was it not sexist of me, too, to consider that her strong, powerful music passages were manly? And what was the fault that the critic and I found in her writing manly, okay, let’s stick with the term “powerful” music? Was our fault-finding legitimate or sexist? continues on page 8, Working Powerfully