Monday, December 16, 2013

no woman has ever played enough

in response to the statement:
“I don’t see gender in music.”

Some people don’t understand why I have stopped going to shows that have bands with all cis-men. Sometimes it’s not just one band but an entire evening lined up with 4 bands made up of entirely white cis-male musicians.
I will not support such a show.
I will not sit in the audience and listen to men taking up space while all the women watch.
I don’t have even 30 mins. of my precious time to sit and listen to ONLY men anymore.
They have been speaking and playing for centuries while women and queer artists have been oppressed and silenced into the audience role. 

people ask me about my house concerts. 
why I try to primarily book women and queer musicians/artists.
“isn’t that too extreme??”
“aren’t there nice, effeminate male musicians out there?”


it’s not about being nice or even about being effeminate (whatever you mean by that).

By curating a performance series, I get to create a safe and alternative space for people to be heard that are rarely given the chance.
there are ENOUGH venues in the world where male musicians can play---where the person booking doesn’t even realize there are only men in the bill.
In Finland this past October, I was invited to their version of the grammies with a friend who worked in the music business. I watched furiously as band after band performed, waiting for just one of the musicians to be female.
just one.

My friend introduced me to the organizer of the event, who happened to be a woman. I asked her why there were no female musicians in the extensive program.

She said, she just didn’t realize.



I’ve been playing the piano since I was THREE and in highschool, undergrad, and grad-school I was in a male-dominated music culture. HALF OF MY LIFE 
I played primarily with cis-men in jazz bands and combos.
At first not realizing...
and then thinking I was special to be one of the few women in the scene.

that it was because I was not an average woman, I was super-talented and bright, and that’s why I was lucky to be let into their world.
Their world---which seemed like the ONLY world out there if I loved music, jazz and improvising.
I remember getting a best soloist award at a jazz festival in highschool and feeling so honored to be one of the few women receiving one.
I was different!
I was loveable!
All eyes were on me, because I was one of the only women able to play as well as men.



I have compassion for younger me.
How is anyone at all to come out of Patriarchy and Sexism unscathed?
How is anyone ever to come out?
We only become aware, but we cannot be free anytime soon from its prison.
and those oppressed will perpetuate the madness of its cycle.

then there's the line:
 “well I just don’t know any women musicians”
I say:
If you just look at your phone contacts
there will be all men musicians.
If you read your show invites
they will be from male musicians promoting more male musicians.
If you go out to see shows, the scene will most often be dominated by men.

If you want to help uproot the deep-seated tentacles of sexism and patriarchy, it’s going to take a LOT of effort.
You’ll have to make it a point to go see shows that have women musicians, talk to them, get their number, try playing with them.
I can’t tell you how many facebook groups and email lists I’m on that focus on connecting and promoting women musicians.
There are a LOT of women musicians.
this is NEW YORK CITY.
you can find whatever you need here.
Take the extra effort and research to find women and queer musicians to play with.
Besides the many many thousands of all male bands, the next infuriating thing to me is that of a woman leader along side only male musicians. 
I have COUNTLESS friends and associates to whom this is the case.
If we build a band with only male musicians we are perpetuating oppression ourselves.
Yes, different situations and gigs have the need for different formations of bands.
Having been a professional musician for 12 years I get this.
Sometimes the right band for the gig is three other guys and me.
if you consistently ONLY play with guys, and there are so many women I know to whom this applies.
just for a moment.
and look around.
is this the form of music that we want to represent to the world?
1 woman supported by her 6 strong men?
1 beautiful singer up front in sexy garb while the other men hold down the groove?
I’ve heard of numerous situations where a woman band leader specifically said she didn’t want any other women in her band.
The fear is, then, the attention and lust of the audience to the 1 special and radiant woman up front will be detracted from.
Sometimes the women don’t admit that much.
They just say that actually, these men....
all these men are actually my favorite musicians.


It’s not easy to find musicians with whom you share chemistry.
I know this WELL.
Which is why you have to have session after session and take the time to explore other connections.

After highschool I started to become more and more aware of how sexism was seeping into every song I played.
if not in the lyrics
if not in the gender ratio of the band...
then in other ways
like when I would play with guys and they wouldn’t even listen to me.
Yes, a musician that doesn’t listen well is clearly a bad musician---but I would notice that the guys would take the space to listen to eachother. just what I had to play was not worthy of attention.
I went to this one improvised music show of voice, sax, and drums.
It was a special event bringing together musicians that never played with eachother before.
The male saxophonist and drummer DROWNED out the female vocalist---didn’t listen to any of her ideas and only reacted to eachother.
how can you call yourself an experimental musician,
an improviser,
a composer,
if all you are doing is REPEATING the same patterns of oppression that have existed for centuries???
If you really want to innovate through music and art,
then look at who you’re playing WITH
and who you’re playing FOR.
Is it the privileged circle of white cis-men that pervade the music scenes in cities all over?
then please.
EXPAND your community.
for I’m not coming to any of your shows anymore if there are no women included.
and I’m pretty sure other people will start noticing what’s missing too, and your audience will eventually turn into all white cis-men.

I remember breaking down in grad school while getting a masters in composition, crying to my boyfriend of the time, that it was so hard to be 1 of SIX women in the entire jazz department.
In all honesty, at times there were still remnants of feeling like the special, selected woman that was privileged to be in the man’s world.
The same rush that I get when I enter the chess store in the Village and challenge a guy to play, proceeding to beat him before he overcame his shock that I even knew how the pieces moved.
or the time in Costa Rica when there were all guys playing pick-up soccer. I asked if I could play with them---they laughed, but finally consented...and then I dribbled around each and every one of them until I shot the ball past the last one standing, into the goal.

 I laughed, and left.
Growing up as a tomboy, I’ve always been set on proving that I can do activities that usually only guys are seen to do.
but do you know how many times I almost quit playing music because I was just SO TIRED of fighting to prove that I was just as good as men?
When I was around 28, I decided that my music was not going to be about PROVING I was as talented and smart as male musicians.
I didn’t have to write terribly complex metered music in order for everyone to know that I had practiced every possible polyrhythm everyday for hours. 
Not that I don’t value all of my practice.
but so much of the practice was coming from a need to prove myself worthy. 
I realized that I didn’t have to perform complex music in order to be a worthy person and equal in men’s eyes.
I could just be me.
I could express my pain and experience through a song.
I realized then that I no longer cared if men found me their equal.
Since then I’ve surrounded myself with amazing, brilliant women musicians and artists. 
Yes, I play with male musicians too! But I make it a point to seek out women.

You don’t see gender in music?


I wish there was a tiny speck of a dot in the world that wasn’t completely smothered by Patriarchy and Sexism.
If you do not see gender and sexism in music, then it is because you are being blinded by the very hands of patriarchy itself.

Once after a concert featuring predominantly all women musicians there was an explosive jam afterwards and everyone started dancing.
it was so much fun!


the woman that was playing and sounding amazing was asked by a male musician if he could borrow her instrument to play some songs. I've seen this happen again and again.
I guess this is the nature of a jam---everyone takes turns.
I get it. 
I get it.

but we women have been in the audience for centuries watching and listening to YOU.

no woman has ever played enough.

do not take our instruments away from us.

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