Who was the original “Crazy Jane”?
“Crazy Jane” is the name of an earthy character invented by the Irish poet W. B. Yeats and based on a real person that Yeats admired for her audacity, lust for life and satirical eye. She is a passionate old woman who flies in the face of convention and propriety to speak her mind about love, war, character and freedom. She shakes her fist at generals and bishops alike. She acts as a mouthpiece for unpopular truths and thus upholds the tradition of strong, mythical Celtic women in her own unorthodox way. The only reason she gets away with it (in early 20th century Ireland, anyway) is because, well…she’s crazy.
The women of Cascadia Composers adopted “Crazy Jane” as muse because her bold spirit and fearlessness in expressing herself can be an inspiration to women composers – a group that has been marginalized throughout Western musical history. Some of the older composers in our group grew up during a time when women were barred from playing in professional orchestras and what few female musicians, and especially composers and conductors, who had existed barely merited a footnote in traditional music education. While that atmosphere is increasingly a thing of the past, its traces linger. The image of “Crazy Jane” urges us on to take the risks necessary to create and share our music.
- Cynthia Gerdes and Jennifer Wright