Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Where precisely

Matos wrote in asking for some clarification of my last post:

Darbyshire [sic], Pauline Oliveros (who ran the Mills College dept of electronic music), Laurie Anderson, Bebe Barron, Clara Rockmore, Roberta Beyer, Maryanne Amacher, Laurie Spiegel . . . wait, where precisely are women being written out of old-school electronic music history again?

I guess my concern isn't for "electronic music history," which inevitably includes all the big names he mentioned, but for the broader stories of women's involvement in music that are in told in popular press, film and television. Here I'm thinking especially of those media that are targeted towards little girls. These stories tend to focus on women as solo vocalists prior to about 1975 to the point of leaving out many important bands, to say nothing of drummers, producers, engineers, etc. Technicians are usually tremendously upstaged. So as a girl growing up in the U.S. today, you learn about women musicians, but only up to a point. You eventually deduce from mainstream sources (and the lack thereof) that women's participation was conditional, and absorb tacit assumptions such as "there weren't any women drummers before the 1980s, there weren't any female record producers in the early days, there were no all-girl garage rock bands," etc. Clearly, if you are a music critic or historian you are going to know these things aren't true. But if you're a 12 year-old and your only exposure to music history is, say, MTV and VH1, you're never going to hear about Delia Derbyshire and Pauline Oliveros and the Luv'd Ones and Mo Tucker and all the women who one way or another did musical things before mainstream history says it was culturally and realistically "possible" for them (you'll hear about the Velvet Underground, sure, but what major Velvets documentary has ever devoted serious time to Tucker?) Hopefully, if you're a precocious and resourceful 12 year-old you're going to get on the internet and find out about these people, but even then you're going to have to know what you're looking for and the digging is going to be hard and slow-going.

Any more thoughts, Matos et al.? Keep the dialogue going!

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