Gendernetworks & Music

by | Jan 9, 2013 | TQU | 0 comments

Terre Thaemlitz

“yes, people have their own ideas of what “transgendered” means (including myself). promoters and audience members are sometimes disappointed if i do not appear in drag, etc. – but it is my interest to compicate notions of transgenderism and have people understand the transgendered body does not cease to exist when “invisible” or “out-of-drag.” (my opinion is that we are never out of drag.)”

READ INTERVIEW

What do you do?
i produce all aspects of my own projects (planning, development, audio, text, design, video, etc.), run a small record label, DJ, remix, sometimes collaborate… in a number of musical genres.

Please describe your political ideology/standpoint.
non-essentialist, pan-sexually queer, non-op transgendered… along those lines.

Does your political standpoint influence your music?
Through my politics, i view music as a discourse. that means i treat it as contextual. not universal. and i try to use music to convey a message.

Is there an international network that you consider important for your music?
it seems quite random. i do work “internationally” quite a bit, between europe and japan, but do not consider myself as part of a network. work invitations tend to come from individuals and groups which operate in local networks, and there are sometimes recurrent faces, but for the most part it seems the people who hire me are not networked to each other outside of sharing a common profession.

Are you an active part of that network? In what way?
yes, i work with those people, so i am a temporary part of their network.

Did you experience gender-related problems?
yes, people have their own ideas of what “transgendered” means (including myself). promoters and audience members are sometimes disappointed if i do not appear in drag, etc. – but it is my interest to compicate notions of transgenderism and have people understand the transgendered body does not cease to exist when “invisible” or “out-of-drag.” (my opinion is that we are never out of drag.) lately, it has been my job to be the “transgendered voice” on “women’s panels” discussing gender and electronic music… it can be a bit reductionist, and if the discussion takes a traditional feminist path i am ultimately considered yet another “male voice.” i sincerely doubt i will ever sit on a specifically “transgendered panel” about transgenderism and electronic music…

there is also a tendency for drunk “hippy-type” men (especially in germany) to heckle my speeches during concerts, denounce my politics, and denounce the need for any discussion of politics in a concert setting. (for example, “play music!” or “let’s just love one another!” or “we already know about transgenderism from television specials – this is all old to us!” – of course, none of those people had any exposure to transgendered people in everyday life, and probably never saw transgendered people “live” off-stage.) this kind of heckling is not so unexpected (some people just want to party), but i notice that they do not heckle men or women who are not transgendered-identified at the same events. i am not overstating when i say this has happened at almost every german computer-music performance of mine for the past 3 years or more, which really disappoints me. transgenderism is also an issue when travelling, affecting immigration, international entry, housing and street safety. hotel staff can be very unfriendly, and unfamiliar streets can sometimes be scary.

Julianna Bright (The Quails)

“I think our political thoughts are very present in our music. Something we discuss and think about a lot are the ‘politics of every day life.’ Especially in the United States, electoral politics can be very discouraging/alienating. And so how then do you make the idea of justice and compassionate legislation something that matters to people, something they will stand up for?”

READ INTERVIEW

What do you do?
I play the drums and sing.

Please describe your political ideology/standpoint.
Ideologically, I try to focus on peace and am politically motivated from this place as well. In San Francisco there is a very built-in, lefty community. It’s one of the reasons I stay here, in the end, and a place that is constantly inspiring and challenging me. One thing I am trying to do more of as I get older, however, is to sit down with people who don’t share my exact political or idealogical bent; trying to learn how to have peace and understanding with people I sometimes strongly disagree with.

Does your political standpoint influence your music?
I think our political thoughts are very present in our music. Something we discuss and think about a lot are the ‘politics of every day life.’ Especially in the United States, electoral politics can be very discouraging/alienating. And so how then do you make the idea of justice and compassionate legislation something that matters to people, something they will stand up for? This is a question we consider a lot when we play shows or when we write music.

Is there an international network that you find important for your music?
There must be some international network that would allow us (you, the interviewers and we, the interviewees) to find one another. I think as I mentioned above, I am strongly inspired by people who seek to make peace, who seek to end aggression in the world. There are a variety of international peace and human rights groups, that while I am not partnered with, I support and admire.

What do you think connects the members of this network?
I suppose it’s the belief that life is valuable. That compassion makes us better humans.

Are you an active part of that network? In what way?
I do consider myself a part of that, even if I don’t hold the membership card. I hope the music I participate in making, and community building the music occasionally provides a soundtrack for makes me a part of this network.

In what way do you think globalization influences those international networks?
Well, things like the web are obviously helpful in connecting people with similar opinions to yours. But I don’t know that I necessarily have anything new to bring to the discussion on globalization.

Did you experience gender-related problems?
Gender specific problems relating to globalization? Again, I don’t know that I have anything revelatory to tell two students of gender studies on this topic, but it seems to me part of the renewed fundamentalism in the world and the implicit subjugation of women that comes with it is in reaction to the freedoms globalization has promised. And in poorer countries certainly, there is a push to limit the freedom and opportunity of women, to pull them out of the work force if nothing else. Personally, I don’t feel like I have anything to complain about compared to a woman in Afghanistan or a woman in Nigeria, for instance, who could be put to death for committing adultery. Compared to them my gripes about women still being largely looked over as musicians seems silly.

Kevin Blechdom

“its absolutely confusing i think… because i don’t see any separation for my life and my music and my political opinion… so its hopefully all there… i try to approach creative stuff from a direct place somewhere inside my heart so i guess its no different than where my political opinions come from… i mean i don’t think of them as separated activities… its not like one fuels the other… they’re just all mixed up.”

READ INTERVIEW

What do you do?

I play solo singing songs, playing banjo and keyboards, and programming my computer before and during the show….. currently exploring stand up comedy with computers.

Please describe your political ideology/standpoint.

hmmmm, don’t know how to answer this, except that i feel very strongly about certain things triggerred hopefully by my own gut intuition and analysis of situations and feelings…. and it’s strongly linked to the context of the situation and the people involved and i think its very important to allow for many multiple interpretations of any event or situation and to practice empathy and sympathy towards other peoples’ contexts and histories and motivations leading up to any event or situation… so that all reactions are valuable, possible, and acceptable… as long as they are honest… but what the fuck is honest…. all this said i also feel certain things in the world need to change, because they cause me internal pain and i see others suffering needlessly and that is unfortunate and power is dangerous and misused often and can spin out of control….

How does your political standpoint influence your music?

its absolutely confusing i think… because i don’t see any separation for my life and my music and my political opinion… so its hopefully all there… i try to approach creative stuff from a direct place somewhere inside my heart so i guess its no different than where my political opinions come from… i mean i don’t think of them as separated activities… its not like one fuels the other… they’re just all mixed up….

Is there an international network that you find important for your music?

friends and family… for sure!!!! people who i understand and people who understand me… friends of friends of friends of friends, people who listen and think and wonder… people who are open to hearing new stuff.

What do you think connects the members of this network?

eye contact… cell phones, concert listings, email, E.S.P., parties, words, sounds, smells, roads, sex, hugs, breathing, umbilical cords, time spent in the same place, shared memories, stories

Are you an active part of that network? In what way?

yes. because i try to be active in relationships, friendships, meaningful situations, and by putting effort into these networks i am a part of it…

In what way do you think globalization influences those international networks?

don’t know what kind of rate you are talking about – or globalization in terms if friendship networks is a bit of a weird approach, but i guess technology is aiding communication tremendously, with email and cell phones, people are actually maintaining closer friendships without needing to be physically in the same space… although being physically in the same space is still the most satisfying communication i’ve experienced.

Did you experience gender-related problems?

yeah, women don’t have as much power… in some ways they have more power… it’s always a generalization to talk about gender issues, so i generalize when i say this…. but i’m shocked repeatedly at how many women are not willing speak up and think for themselves and how often they allow their male counterparts to make important decisions for them and think for them…. and that they are willing to stay in situations that are abusive and energy-sucking for fear of being alone or unsupported…. im sick of seeing women who are dependent on relationships and are not self-empowered and aren’t thinking for themselves… and it creates a pattern that i have to keep fighting because people assume ill be that way since i am a woman… what fresh air it is to find people who don’t assume this and give a respectful first impression, assuming each individual to have equal capability allow equal space to think and live and they listen… this is nice.

Jean Smith (Mecca Normal)

“Mecca Normal is celebrating 20 years since our first performance. Longevity has become a political issue. We continue to challenge ourselves. We are calling our touring art show a “play” — the theme of the play is the presentation of political ideas within art (music, writing, theatre, etc) — bringing political vision into public sphere in the form of art.”

READ INTERVIEW

What do you do?
I am the lyricist and singer. Sometimes I play guitar. I do booking and publicity. Along with guitar player David Lester, I come up with interesting new ways to evolve. Recently we have added an art show and lecture to our performance events.

Please describe your political ideology/standpoint?
Feminist and anarchist. Positive, determined to inspire people towards creative self-expression.

Does your political standpoint influence your music?
Mecca Normal is celebrating 20 years since our first performance. Longevity has become a political issue. We continue to challenge ourselves. We are calling our touring art show a “play” — the theme of the play is the presentation of political ideas within art (music, writing, theatre, etc) — bringing political vision into public sphere in the form of art. Sometimes it feels like there is a pressure from society — an expectation — to stop making music and art because we are in our mid-forties. This is what we do. It only gets more interesting.

Is there an international network that you find important for your music?
Our network is made up of individuals from a variety of backgrounds. An association to Riot Grrrl is sometimes helpful in making things happen… in other situtaions we work with literary connections including small press publishers… we like to add contrast to regular rock shows and we search out places to play music in art galleries and exhibit our art work at rock shows! After 20 years, there are still ways to be playful the staus quo.

What do you think connects the members of this network?
Internet lists, bands that tour, interviews in magazines, traveling art shows (Drawing Resistance in North America), community-run art spaces and a network of small clubs — bands who play these places have a translated status around North America. If a band plays such-and-such club or opens for the so-and-sos then they are worth checking out.

Are you an active part of that network? In what way?
I sometimes feel isolated, but I suspect that some people see me as being part of something that they feel isolated from. So I assume that many people, no matter how connected and well-known they seem to be, probably feel outside of the action. I feel I can contact venues, bands and labels and ask for some assistance or information related to getting shows across North America. Information, requests and opportunities are being circulated on a variety of email lists.

In what way do you think globalization influences those international networks?
I have a sense that as a community of cultural activists — musicians, writers, publishers, labels, gallery curators are aware of globalization and are involved in understanding and monitoring shifts as they occur.

Did you experience gender-related problems?
In my guitar work with other musicians I find that my experimental playing is often credited to the men in my projects. I write novels, lyrics, and articles on underground culture. I am a visual artist. I play guitar. I sing in a moderately successful band. I feel there is a underlying level of negativity surrounding the quality of my creative output based on the fact that I’m a woman. There is resistance to taking my work as seriously as a man’s would be taken.

I have rarely been referred to as funny, sexy or attractive — I have been labeled with the singular role of angry feminist. Men consider me intimidating because I am successful and attractive. Men seem to need to feel more powerful and succesful than women. I am a threat to those standards. Women seek out powerful and creative men; these qualities are magnetic and desirable in men. In women they are scary and odd.

Lynn Breedlove (Tribe 8)

“my music is a vehicle for my political views. punkrock homohop is modern folk music.”

READ INTERVIEW

What do you do?
yell my own lyrics.

Please describe your political ideology/standpoint?
queer anarchist.

Does your political standpoint influence your music?
my music is a vehicle for my political views. punkrock homohop is modern folk music

Is there an international network that you find important for your music?
punkrock queer anarchists

What do you think connects the members of this network?
the internet, cds, tours.

Are you an active part of that network? In what way?
we’ve toured Europe twice, played europride 2000 at a squat in rome

In what way do you think globalization influences those international networks?
the internet helps us cheaply communicate.

Did you experience gender-related problems?
i am more noticable at borders and by authorities in general based on my butch dyke punkrock appearance.

Lindy Morrison (The Go-Betweens)

“when I was younger I continually experienced discrimination as a woman in music, too many to discuss.”

READ INTERVIEW

What do you do?
Drummer

Please describe your political ideology/standpoint?
Left of centre

Does your political standpoint influence your music?
I am an artist because of my politics, it is a job that doesn’t exploit others.

Is there an international network that you find important for your music?
Those people who like the same music as myself and have the same general idealogy of compassion and tolerance for the disadvantaged

What do you think connects the members of this network?
Music

In what way do you think globalization influences those international networks?
Yes particularly the WPPT and WIPO which have developed copyright standards and especially Performers Copyright

Did you experience gender-related problems?
Yes when I was younger I continually experienced discrimination as a woman in music, too many to discuss.

Sara Jaffe (Erase Errata)

“Well, i don’t write lyrics, but it influences the kinds of venues we play, who we play with, the labels we put our music out with, how we present ourselves to the world…”

READ INTERVIEW

What do you do?
I play guitar.

Please describe your political ideology/standpoint.
I don’t really put a label to it.

Does your political standpoint influence your music?
Well, i don’t write lyrics, but it influences the kinds of venues we play, who we play with, the labels we put our music out with, how we present ourselves to the world–and also the kinds of music itself, as it is experimental and not succumbing to the status quo.

Is there an international network that you find important for your music?
yes, we have made musical connections with people all over the world.

In what way do you think influences globalization those international networks?
To a certain extent, I’m sure that globalisation has enabled the expansion of some of these networks – creating a context and infrastructure for international communication – but in the big picture, in terms of the exploitation, inconsideration, and violence that it has wrought, i think it stands in opposition to underground networks.

Did you experience gender-related problems?
gender-specific problems to what? in being in my band? mainly only with people having a really limited view of what it can mean to be a woman musician…

Greg Saunier (Deerhoof)

“It would be impossible for my politcal opinion to not influence my music or anything else I do. Even if I don’t always want to make “political” music, my music and my politics come from the same person, the same feelings, beliefs, thoughts. Sometimes we do songs with politically relevant lyrics, such as an anti-war song. Other times we do songs that use symbolism to suggest an anti-war opinion without really stating it. But always our music is meant to express freedom from dogmatism, inclusion of a wide range of ideas, and equality of those who participate.”

READ INTERVIEW

What do you do?
I do many things – sing, play drums, play other instruments, write music, record, mix, produce, drive, do interviews, run the website.

Please describe your political ideology/standpoint.
It’s difficult to turn my thoughts into one ideology. I don’t think I have any ideology actually. I do not follow one system of thought or one political party. Each problem or situation is unique and may require a unique response or solution. At the same time, I am registered with the Green Party and usually my ideas connect with theirs, i.e. left-wing, anti-war, limitation of corporate power, etc.

Does your political standpoint influence your music?
It would be impossible for my politcal opinion to not influence my music or anything else I do. Even if I don’t always want to make “political” music, my music and my politics come from the same person, the same feelings, beliefs, thoughts. Sometimes we do songs with politically relevant lyrics, such as an anti-war song. Other times we do songs that use symbolism to suggest an anti-war opinion without really stating it. But always our music is meant to express freedom from dogmatism, inclusion of a wide range of ideas, and equality of those who participate.

Is there an international network that you find important for your music?
We tour in Europe, UK and Japan and so we have many connections to people around the world. I don’t know if I would call it a “network” because that makes it sound like an organized group. But we like to think that anyone can connect to Deerhoof anywhere, at any time. And when we are playing for people, we aren’t really thinking about the fact that they are “international” or “domestic”, because every person in different and it doesn’t have so much to do with what political borders they live inside of.

What do you think connects the members of this network?
Anything could be the connection. In our case, usually the thing that different people have in common is that they like Deerhoof, but besides that they might be very different from each other. We have 3-year-old fans and 70-year-old fans, musican fans and non-musician fans, radical fans and conservative fans. We try to connect to them all.

Are you an active part of that network? In what way?
We would not refuse a connection to almost anyone, but we don’t usually like to be a part of any organized group or scene.

In what way do you think globalization influences those international networks?
When I think of globalisation, I usually think of exploiting third-world populations for cheap labor. We usually play only in the powerful countries that do the exploiting, not in the third-world countries. However, this is basically because very bands from the powerful countries ever tour in the third world, so it is difficult to know how to start booking a tour like that, and of course in a poor country it would be much more difficult to to make money from playing, even though it would still be neccesary to spend money to get there. But I guess globalization also refers to the spread of one idea, be it aesthetic, philosophical, religious or economic, from powerful countries to the rest of the world.

It is important to us to remain independent from any such idea, even if it comes from our own country. For instance in music, the aesthetic of the dominant culture may be forcing every culture in the world to conform to it, so that all music sounds more alike, or all music is to be judged by the same standards or the same criteria. I’m not really sure that music around the world is really sounding more and more alike actually, because it deep down it is impossible to control people’s creativity, or control their dreams. Even if music sounds more alike on the surface, it may still be very different at its core. As for all music being judged by the same standards, this may be happening, but in Deerhoof we always try to problematize this judgement. We try to confuse the listener’s ability to judge the music by any pre-concieved criteria, partly by attempting to make unfamiliar music, and partly by mixing together musical materials that would separately signal that it is “high art” and “low art”.

Did you experience gender-related problems?
In our case it is difficult to separate gender problems and race problems, because the one woman in our band is also the one non-American. (Satomi is from Japan.) Usually we are fine, but sometimes we are forced to interact with people who take a condescending attitude towards her, by not taking her seriously or by giving her unwanted advice. Luckily this doesn’t usually happen to us – our fans seem to be about 50% female. Within the band, gender is not a big problem, although sometimes I think Satomi would enjoy having another woman (or another Japanese person) around when we are on tour.

Aliccia Berg Bollig (Slumber Party)

“My political opinion encourages me to play music so that I might selfishly feel a degree of separation from “regular life“. It gives me a sense of freedom from desires and wants, that I observe others to have. Those desires and wants that seem unattainable and unworthy of much of a struggle. Also, rightly or wrongly, my politics and music, as I’ve described their relationship in my life, give me a sense of purpose, and at times licence to feel “beyond it all”.”

READ INTERVIEW

What do you do?
I started a band called Slumber Party in Detroit in 1999.

Please describe your political ideology/standpoint?
I am distrusting of governments and politics in general. Governments lie. And many people willingly and ignorantly lie for them. Living in the United States, and in Detroit specifically, and before that originally from rural Minnesota, I cannot help but be aware and ashamed and confused by the varying degrees of poverty and wealth and the strange distribution of opportunities.

Does your political standpoint influence your music?
My political opinion encourages me to play music so that I might selfishly feel a degree of separation from “regular life“. It gives me a sense of freedom from desires and wants that I observe others to have. Those desires and wants that seem unattainable and unworthy of much of a struggle. Also, rightly or wrongly, my politics and music, as I’ve described their relationship in my life, give me a sense of purpose, and at times license to feel “beyond it all”. It is also this sort of mind frame that keeps me from being very ambitious where one might be with music in its industry. I distrust the industry, do not want to be hindered by it and am reluctant to offer a great deal of respect for many people involved in the music industry, including musicians.

My politics do not come out in the lyrics obviously, but rather infiltrate as a function of my attitude and approach to creating and performing. Like the approach to nearly everything in my life. My morals and my convictions. The fact that I have convictions. Having said that, I must also point out that I take my music expression seriously, and everybody elses I guess, too, but I keep a sense of humor about music and surely recognize the borders and limitations of its range of relevance.

Is there an international network that you find important for your music?
There is no formal international network, which is necessarily important to my music. If there is one that I am compatible with, I am unaware of it. And I would love to be a part of it. But if it were organized and effective in some light, it would probably be corrupted — power corrupts. Although, if McDonalds can globalize why not scrappy musicians? I am, however, sincerely influenced by artists and scientists and statesmen who have been described to do some wonderful things …some just smart and some uniquely contributing to the “betterment of humanity”. Globally and locally. Even maybe only, importantly, touching their close family members‘ lives. I loosely consider those that I have in mind to be part of an international network — each of us can come up with individuals to nominate, famous and not famous, spanning time and disciplines.

Did you experience gender-related problems?
Gender politics is an issue that I must deal with and must also ignore in order to deal with it. Every woman struggles with priorities. There is it seems to me a struggle for women, mostly when we are emboldened to be less shy and young, to be accepted by men particularly even mostly disregarding women who it appears have little influence in society anyway.

We set out looking for equality, respect and success legitimately — trying to be as good as, honing our skills and our temperaments and disciplining our thinking like any human being who strives for accomplishment with a degree of quality or excellence. However, we are often easily confused when we feel the need to address and measure topical matters. What a women is inclined to think about and cherish is not always what a man would deem interesting or appropriate. Women and men are cruel and ignorant to disregard or ignorantly regard matters that are often more in the thoughts of women than men. It is it seems a catch 22: with little respect or consideration given to a range of ideas and styles for the reason that they have come from people traditionally due little respect — women. There are many songs about getting the girl or boy and getting laid. Laura Nyro never had a chance when she wrote and sang about children. There are exceptions I am sure, and aware of some of them. But it is an issue that is still disturbingly prevalent in the music industry. I’ve even seen reviews of guitar playing on records that sounded like chants on the grade school playground: “you hit like a girl.” Women play a role in keeping the spirit of this alive. At some point in each of our lives I think many of us have judged girls negatively for being girls. I’m discussing bourgeoning educated thoughtfully provoking striving females. Judging ourselves for being girls.

Men and boys, women and girls are all at times naive and inexperienced and unknowing and unwise. But these are adjectives that more often generally raise a feminine personae in our minds. Anne Sexton said in 1962, “The best compliment a female poet could receive is she writes like a man.” Whatever had influenced her to say that was reconsidered or debunked in her mind as she in 1969 changed her opinion, “As long as it can be said about a woman writer, “she writes like a man” and that woman takes it as a compliment, we are in trouble.” At the start of this response I mentioned that I must ignore it — the issue of gender politics — I must to some degree like all other obstacles and distractions and bothers to get anything done. For myself.

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