Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Random Thought

One of the excuses that seems to be levied at the female gender for why women aren't DJs is that they're not focused enough. Frank Owen mentioned this in his 1997 article in the Village Voice, that women aren't as singularly focused as men. This thought was really troubling to me, not only as a researcher, but also as a woman. I mean, I'm doing two masters degrees myself, and can't decide what I want to do with my life... I've always had a "problem" being singularly focused, and I've beat myself up over it before.

I think this idea that people have to only be good at one thing is a holdover from the fascination with virtuosity during the nineteenth century. I think that's why the guilt about liking to do a lot of different things has really hit home for me; especially as a flute player, I'm worried that I'll never "make it" as a musician if I'm not focused enough.

This doesn't seem to be the case. We had a masterclass last night, and I was noticing how well-rounded the guest artist was. Not only was she a fantastic flute player, but she also plays racquetball, has a good voice, and is a professional artist (read: painter). She has commissioned a lot of new music, and it's obviously her passion. This caused something really obvious to click in my head; Sylvia said that she felt like she had to be versatile as a woman in the field. I wonder if part of the idea that women are "less focused" is because women must be more versatile to get jobs, whether in flute performance or as DJs? I'm not really sure if I'm on to anything here, but it was a sort of uncomfortable click for me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Chicago rocks!

I realized that I haven't updated in a really long time... I've been down to Chicago twice, and both times were fantastic! I got a lot of information from Miss Sylvia, my consultant who is a resident at the Sound-bar. Meeting her was really incredible, partly because she's so passionate about what she does, and partly because she is so kind, in the most basic sense of the word. She was open and honest when we talked, and very straightforward. She told me about her life, her artistic goals, and her ideas... I really appreciated her candor. It was in the top five first conversations I've ever had with anyone, I think, and I definitely recorded an hour and a half of it (we talked for probably close to three hours).

One of the things that I thought was interesting was her passion about enabling the dancers. I asked her to describe her DJing aesthetic in three words, and she said "creative artistic medium," as in, she sees herself as a translator, or a go-between, or a channel between the raw music and the raw dance. She allows the dancers to express themselves through her expression of herself. It was something I couldn't have guessed before the interview.

So much of what she said was so insightful that my part on the recording sounded kind of dumb... basically all I said was "whoa, cool... awesome. That's really neat." But what else was there to say?

I was afraid there wouldn't be enough to write on, in this project... now I'm afraid there might be too much. Women's aesthetic in this culture is striking and beautiful, and Sylvia's ideas about the fusion of music and movement are very thought provoking.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Emailing

The head of my thesis committee is really, really great, and I think my conversation with him yesterday is narrowing my direction a little bit more. His insight was that, when investigating oppression, it's easiest to find if you look for the ways in which people fight back. I thought that was really interesting; it made me think (at his suggestion) about the DJ collectives through which I've found the women that I'd contacted. So, I went to the library and checked out a couple of books (including "You Better Work!": Underground Dance Music in New York City), read for the rest of the afternoon, and started hunting around some more when the lights went on.

What I realized in the shower this morning (which is, for some reason, where I always have epiphanies) is that I'd only actually Googled "women DJs." Not "lady DJs" or "girl DJs" or any of the other synonyms for women that exist. So I did that tonight, and came up with a bunch of hits, including a boot camp in Philadelphia for women who want to learn to DJ.

I haven't heard back from anyone since this last batch of emails, but I've got my fingers crossed. We'll see what happens in the next week.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Today I wrote my draft of my research proposal to use for my Ethno seminar. I was pretty proud of it, all things considered, even though I felt like I didn't spend enough time on it. I drew up a pretty inclusive budget, and, in the process of pretending to sound like I knew was I was getting into, I think I realized that I might actually have an idea.

I heard back from a couple more women this weekend. I like these women so much from our contact so far that I'm really excited about starting the interviews.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thesis Season

It's been a long and painful trip through the realm of Picking a Thesis Topic. I'm just getting started in the ethnomusicology world (am actually finishing up my performance masters this year), and I have so many things I want to learn more about. My experience with large, musicology-related papers has been that, as I eke out the final few pages, I come across something that could probably turn the paper into a dissertation, and would probably keep me interested until the dissertation was done. That having been said, I was having a tough time committing to a thesis topic; it felt a little like marriage.

I did some work last year on "minimalism" (the catch-all name for the work of Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley) and its relationship with techno. I ended up digging more on the minimalism side, as I'm a little bit of a Steve Reich freak. While I've heard (and vastly enjoyed, and danced to) a lot of techno in my day, I didn't know much about it when I started the project. I felt like I didn't know much when I finished the project, either. I wanted to dig up more. So when I found a passing remark in an article on the religious nature of the rave culture about the number of women DJs being comparatively small, I got sucked in.

I'm very much looking forward to this year. Hopefully I will learn a lot about an area of techno that is rarely discussed.