When the first edition of Unsung
was published in 1980 Booklist
called it "a publishing event" and The Boston Globe
declared that "Unsung
is a book that relies on research more than rhetoric and, as such, gives long overdue recognition to the role of women in the development of American music." Unsung
became the classic text in the field; this second edition, revised and expanded, extends the book's authority to the present day by surveying a full 200 years of active women in American music.
Ammer has inserted new material throughout the book, rewritten and restructured portions of the text, and added two new chapters. She has added dozens of composers and performers, including women involved in ragtime and jazz from the late 1800s to the present. The book chronicles the long-overlooked achievements made between 1800 and 2000 by early musical pioneers, organists, composers in several different categories from traditional to avant garde, conductors, string and keyboard players, leaders of women's orchestras, innovators in jazz and other American idioms, opera composers and conductors, teachers, and musical patrons and advocates. (Singers are omitted in both editions, for they compete only with other women in their own voice parts. Rather the book concentrates on women composers, instrumentalists, conductors, orchestra and opera managers, and music educators.) Succinct biographical sketches show the influences on -- and influences of -- hundreds of musicians.
Since the publication of the first edition women musicians have made some important strides. Students and scholars are increasingly interested in researching and writing the history of women in music. The outlook for today's musicians has also changed. An increasing number of women perform in first-rank orchestras, a handful of women conductors have gained national attention, and individual instrumentalists have won recognition. Since 1983 three women have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their compositions, an award previously won only by men; similarly, in 1999 the Avery Fisher Prize was given to Sarah Chang, Pamela Frank, and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, the first time in 25 years that any woman has been so acknowledged. As a result, some have suggested that Unsung is no longer an appropriate title for this book. Still, Ammer maintains that given the perspective of two centuries, the achievements of women musicians are still largely overlooked.
6 x 9"
[A] fascinating contribution to a vital subject... written in leisurely narrative style. Besides using standard reference sources, [Ammer] has gleaned from living women composers material available nowhere else....Recommended for music collections; excellent reading for courses in women's studies.