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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Price

The mystique of the test piece...

I've had a huge number of conversations recently about test pieces; why we play them, what they are for, what makes a good test piece, and most interestingly - why female composers seem not to write them!

As someone who identifies as a female composer (amongst other things), I couldn't come up with a decent answer to why, in the 15-odd years since completing my Masters in composition, I'd never so much as considered writing a test piece.

Is it the somewhat contrived nature of the medium? What about the risk-reward ratio (spending 100s if not 1000s of hours on a piece that might never be performed)? Then there's the anxiety surrounding the inevitability of at least some negative feedback (you can't please everyone!), a lack of self-belief, imposter syndrome, hatred of self-promotion - the list goes on!

The brass band movement is absolutely crying out for test pieces by female composers. As are the music panels themselves. Every time I speak to anyone on one of the major music panels and question them on why, yet again, the test piece selection is 100% male, 100% white, and often within a fairly narrow age demographic, I get the same response. If female composers submitted work for consideration, it would be considered!

So that's me told. And so I'm going to get on with writing some test pieces. I look forward to running sketches and ideas past some of you in the coming weeks and months!

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