Plectra Ensemble     Women's plucked ensemble  

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Historically women have played a marginal position within the music world and still today their production - with rare exceptions - is absent from both the study programs and the music room programs. For centuries it was forbidden for women to perform in public, in the '600s it was allowed only within the monasteries and theatres exclusively in the role of singer, women were allowed to devote themselves to music only in private, amateur roles, therefore the profession of musician has for a long time been alien to them.

Perhaps this is the reason why the work of those women who were able to devote themselves to composition, challenging conventions, raises in us today a lot of fascination and pushes us to research.

The plucked ensemble PLECTRA is born with a double purpose: the revaluation of the mandolin as a "noble" instrument and the recovery of an all round female musical expression.
An Intimate and at the same time brilliant instrument, suitable for studying music in the aristocratic salons as well as in the kitchens, the mandolin has always been the voice of a denied world of women that showed, since its first appearance, a special affinity with women.

The repertoire, appropriate to the writing for a plectrum ensemble even with the use of transcripts, ranging from the early writings of the '600s to present day, is searching to return space to a submerged musical identity in addition to being a stimulant for the creation of new compositions for mandolin.



Anthropological studies have shown that musical expression is a natural attitude of both men and women, and its development inextricably linked to local custom.
Stories dating back to 5000 BC indicate important roles of women in music with the musicians-priestesses who held power for many centuries (
Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Chaldean).
With the development of civilization, the role of women in music was revised and redefined until their
ousting following the advent of Christianity. In 318 the singing of women in church was forbidden, with the Council of Laodicea 367 the choirs in the Church were exclusively male prerogative, singing for women was relegated to convents as well as the musical terms used to describe the higher notes compared to the male range were changed from soprano to superior. The justifications for this exclusion include the dangerous charm of the female voice (and not just the voice) and the need to eradicate paganism of the ancient Goddesses and their "orgiastic" rituals.
It is only with the Renaissance that the female voice is reintroduced, with the development of popular music but especially with the flowering of the Arts in the courts, and above all the Court D'Este of
Ferrara. Musical education of women begins to be cultivated, the iconography is full of women who play the viola, flute, lute, harpsichord [1].
The conditions that allowed a woman into musical education and practice were entering into a convent, belonging to a higher class (courts, aristocratic salons), being the daughters of an artist (Antonia Bembo, Francesca Caccini) or shadowing the work of husbands, fathers and  famous brothers (Nannerl Mozart, Anna Magdalena Bach, Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, Alma Mahler, Elsa Respighi). The problem was not the musical “attitude” but the possibility to "access" a cultural context denied by the historic role of women in social "care" and the submission to a male culture.
The search for a female musical world leads always, painfully, to that male domination that preached the ineptitude and insignificance of women, who claimed her solitary destiny in the obligation of "yielding to, silencing her individuality in order to meet the expectations of others, submitting to the common destiny of women. " [2]
From the Middle Ages until the twentieth century we find in Western history, ideologies that deemed "inconvenient" for a woman to make or compose music. Women who have had the opportunity to have a truly profound musical education are rare exceptions. Generally women were allowed to dedicate themselves to music as amateurs and for a
long time the profession of musician, with the exception of the singer, has been denied: in all ages women musicians were never free to decide for themselves, but always in a context imposed on them by men. The thesis of the uniqueness of male musical genius and increasingly binding models of femininity have created a thousand prejudices about female artists and their alleged inadequacy leading to misogynistic beliefs.[3] Despite everything, the story gives us  women so stubborn to follow their musical trends against all odds.

Perhaps this is why the work of those women, who were able to devote themselves to composition, challenging all conventions, still arouses both fascination and pushes us to research.


[1] Drinker, Sophie - Solie, Ruth A. Music and women: the story of women in their relation to music Feminist Press 1995  

[2] Calabrese, Rita – Chiavetta, Eleonora  Della stessa madre, dello stesso padre  Luciana Tafuri, Ferrara 1996

[3] Gatti, Giuliana Donne e musica: creatività femminile tra pedagogia ed educazione musicale Università degli Studi di Verona, Facoltà di lettere e filosofia, 1998-1999