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Two disciplines, one artist

Hannah Howard i røde klær på dirigentpodiet med armene opp.

Hannah Howard Andresen combines orchestra conducting with gender studies, making her a more innovative artist.

Andresen had just finished her bachelor's concert in conducting when she started a master's degree in gender studies at the University of Oslo.

She believes that interdisciplinary education creates entirely new horizons and opportunities for art, making us more open-minded musicians. She hopes to benefit from this in her work as a conductor.

"I want to contribute to less exclusion, and I believe that education is the most important factor in bringing about this change. That is one of the reasons why I chose to combine my studies in the way I did," she says.

HIstorically overlooked

This engagement was sparked when Andresen started at the Norwegian Academy of Music and learned more about how music history has been told in a certain way. She realized how many people have been excluded from the narrative and the importance of being critical of what is being retold.

"I found it incredibly exciting and important. Some of the strongest memories I have from the Academy are several lectures with Erlend Hovland in music history. I was very impressed with how he combined the academic perspective with the artistic," she says.

Andresen highlights a topic focused on Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6, which touched upon Gustav and Alma Mahler's marriage. Two composers, of whom the former has received considerably greater recognition both in his time and afterwards.

"Mahler's Symphony No. 6 has been one of the most significant symphonies for me in recent years. It sparked my interest in questions related to gender roles, their different opportunities in life, and stereotypes," says Andresen.

"It is a misconception to think that there are few female composers. There are many. Unfortunately, their contributions and achievements are often overlooked or erased from history. To solve this problem, it is important to be critical of how we talk about it."

Nothing changes if we do not know our history and actively change it together.

Hannah Howard Andresen, Conductor
Svarthvittbilde av Hannah Howard som smiler bredt.

Everything is interconnected

With a bachelor's degree in conducting from the Norwegian Academy of Music, one might think the path to a master's degree at the University of Oslo would be longer. However, with some planning and extra effort, it was possible.

"It is a completely unique system, and I encourage others to do the same," says Andresen.

Last year, she took 30 credits in gender studies at the University of Oslo as a single subject, which qualified her to start her master's degree. In parallel with this, she participated in the talent program "Dirigentforum" (Conductor Forum), which is part of Talent Norway's initiative "Dirigentløftet" (The Conductor's Lift).

After the summer, she will start her second master's degree in conducting.

"I believe that we should not have such strict boundaries between different disciplines because, in reality, everything is interconnected. I have taken several courses in philosophy that dealt with ethics and aesthetics and connected this to how I analyze orchestral works today. There are countless possibilities for different analyses in a score, and it is fantastic to develop this on different levels," she says.

She believes that this combination of disciplines has shaped her into a musician with a broader horizon.

"I have truly understood how much we can learn from each other across different fields and how important it is that we use each other. Pursuing a PhD where I continue to combine several disciplines would be exciting, but that is a wish for the future. Right now, my primary focus is working as a conductor."

Andresen during Festspillene 2022.

Belief in the future

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about gender and diversity, both at the Norwegian Academy of Music and in the music industry in general. Among other things, the underrepresentation of female orchestra conductors has been highlighted.

As a conductor and master's student in gender studies, Andresen highlights three things that can contribute to changing this:

"My first advice is the most important, and that is education. Education is what strengthens a society to the greatest extent. We have so much knowledge today, so let's use it!"

Additionally, it is essential to remember that changes do not happen on their own. One must actively work for it and be conscious of its history.

"The skewed gender distribution in many fields is not mysterious. Women have been excluded from history for as long as we have had documented texts. It is a myth that discussions about gender are 'modern.' People have been discussing gender for centuries. Even in the time of Aristotle and Plato, they were discussing gender. Therefore, it is about what we actively do today because these actions shape the quality we will have in the future. Nothing changes if we do not know our history and actively change it together," says Andresen.

Finally, she emphasizes the willingness to work for human and artistic freedom.

"Where there is a will, there is a way, and I truly believe that. I believe it is a human right to fight for human freedom and artistic freedom. With the resources of education, demystification, diversity, active action, and willpower, I am very optimistic about a bright future."

It is a misconception to think that there are few female composers. There are many.

Hannah Howard Andresen, Conductor

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