Fatale, Fragile, and Furiosa: Redefining Female Tropes for a New Generation of Feminism in Jeanne Shaffer's Three Faces of Woman for Clarinet and Piano
Date of Graduation
Bachelor of Music
Committee Member/Second Reader
Committee Member/Third Reader
Among the discipline of music, the representation of women in music professions and the artform itself reveals great disparities between gender identities. In spite of this, musician and composer Jeanne Shaffer approaches the ongoing fight for women’s representation and equity in music. Shaffer’s piece “Three Faces of Woman” for clarinet and piano (1995) depicts three delineations of femininity that women are reduced to. Influenced by cultural minimalization of women, Shaffer’s piece uses different compositional genres as vehicles to illustrate these ever-present stereotypes and the unyielding need to combat them. The first movement presents the trope of the Femme Fatale; the seductive woman who knows her way around the block, but often leads people to their demise. Shaffer’s use of dotted rhythms and subtle syncopation within the Blues genre create an aural landscape that envelopes the listeners in the entrancing persona. Femme Fragile, written as berceuse, captures the domestic female identity of women. While the characteristic aspects of a lullaby are present, a compound meter with a rocking-like pulse, Shaffer further implements the symbolism of the fragile and domestic woman with timbral effects and an uncommon meter of 7/8, conveying the complexities of the tumultuous role. The final movement, the Feministe Furieuse, signifies a new dawn on the fight for women’s rights. The scherzo form and the Femme Furiosa trope suggest it to be a fiery yet dismissive explosion of rage, but Shaffer’s specific implementation of twisting a traditionally comedic and lighthearted form, infused with thematic materials from the prior movements, creates a much more hopeful approach. The intentionality in the intertwining of all three themes in the final movement prove to be a pivotal artistic contribution in not only women’s activism but in diversifying the traditional western canon.
music, women, feminism, tropes, clarinet
Harrison, O. (2023). Fatale, Fragile, and Furiosa: Redefining Female Tropes for a New Generation of Feminism in Jeanne Shaffer's Three Faces of Woman for Clarinet and Piano. Music Undergraduate Honors Theses Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/muscuht/6