Switch ContentsGender and Electronic Music...

By Hannah Bosma

In her paper at the ICMC'95, Andra McCartney focused on women composers. She interviewed many Canadian women composers, and gave an overview of the specific experiences and practices of these women composers. This approach focuses on the differences women make. McCartney not only reports negative experiences of women with sexism in electronic music practice. She also shows interesting positive specific feminine practices of electronic music (including teaching etc.).

My paper at the ICMC'95 was not focused on (female or male) composers, but on the music itself. The subject of this paper was computer compositions with voice sounds, and the question was: Do male and female voices have different roles in this type of music? The answer was: yes. First of all, there are a lot of compositions for live singing female vocalist and tape or computer, but almost no compositions for live singing male vocalist and tape/computer. Furthermore, female voices in computer music often sing non-verbal, melismatic vocal lines, whereas, male voices in computer music tend to speak more. This is a similar gender pattern as had been found in film (Silverman 1988) and nineteenth- century opera (Poizat, Dame 1994). This paper was concerned with representations of gender in computer compositions.

Instead of focusing on composers or compositions, one can also focus on listeners. This approach is developed by Dame (1994), but she doesn't apply it to electronic music. Women can, as 'resisting listeners', create different interpretations and different reception practices of musical pieces.

A focus on performers would also be possible. I tried to developed this a little in my papers for the ICMC'95 and ICMC'96.

Probably, there are many other ways to study women's or gender issues in electronic music, and I would like to invite anyone whose work in this field I haven't mentioned, to contact me.

Last but not least, I think that an important omission in the research regarding gender issues in electronic music so far, is the topic of men in electronic music. Why are so many men involved in electronic music? How is electronic music related to masculinity? Can we find traces or representations of masculinity or reactions to masculinity in electronic compositions or in hard- and software used in electronic music? Many more questions can be thought of. Exploring these topics would give us more insight in electronic music and its practices. But personally, I first want to focus on female voices in electronic music. Since electronic music is so much a man's world, it seems a good idea to me to pay special attention to female aspects. But gender issues are related to femininity and masculinity, to women and men. Focusing on masculinity seems to me a very interesting issue for future research. Furthermore, what is needed urgently, I think, is that men in electronic music also reflect on their roles, on masculinity and on gender.


More information/references