Carnegie Mellon University

One in Four, One in Eight

One in Four, One in Eight investigates hospitality in two main arenas: classical concert music’s general inhospitality toward women creators and issues that center women, and the societal expectation that a woman’s body be a hospitable place to create new life–which in turn illuminates society’s inhospitality toward those whose experience doesn’t follow a generally accepted path.

Music is often projected as a “universal”–something everyone likes (in the same way) and needs (in the same way). Artists like Lizzo and festivals like the Electric Daisy Carnival promote openness and welcome, but classical music has historically been closed off to all but a small slice of wealthy, educated, male, “elite.” Though there has been notable progress to relax these barriers in past decades, many mainstream ensembles remain woefully inhospitable to growth when it comes to expanding whose music is represented in their concert programming. This project is a direct push at the genre’s comfortable boundaries; One in Four, One in Eight insists on continuing conversations about how to make space for women composers in classical music, and to highlight issues and stories that are directly relevant to women as a way of opening the field to a more realistically representative community.

Concurrently, more people with uteruses are choosing to live child-free in recent years, but the United States remains preoccupied by a woman’s ability to procreate as a central criterion of social value. An overlapping group–those who want to have children, but cannot achieve this at all or without medical intervention–experience an additional complication of inhospitality, where a body is unable to host, and society is additionally unable to support those who are living through such an experience. This project takes its title from the statistic that one in four known pregnancies in the United States ends in loss, and one in eight people needs medical intervention to become pregnant. I often think of the (misaligned) statement, “your body was built for this,” which comes up in discussions of childbirth or motherhood, as if “this” was the only thing for which (my uterus and) I might be valued as a contributor to society. This project focuses less on a body’s inability to host in these cases, and instead, interrogates the ways in which society’s design is inhospitable to those experiencing such frictions.

At its core, the project interrogates where and how people include–and compartmentalize away–aspects of their personal lives in their creative work or professional practice, and the ways in which societies and communities have conditioned them to do so. The two areas of contemporary music and reproductive health feel disparate on a surface level; by positioning them in tandem, together they support modes of thinking differently about whose voice or what music counts, how a person or how music is valued, and the ways in which someone chooses to share or incorporate who they are into their public-facing life.