by: Geoff Shelton
This column highlights important stories, music and more from the global, female-identified and non-binary communities in music.
In an effort to ensure that the future of music production is gender-balanced, these organizations represent just a few of a new crop of programs popping up across the globe with independent musicians, producers and DJ’s taking it upon themselves to create safe spaces for women and women-identifying young people and adults to learn the essentials of beat making, producing and mixing.
Beats by Girlz – Minnesota/LA/Boston/NYC/Chicago
BBG was created in 2011 by producer/songwriter (and current Associate Professor at The Berklee College of Music) Erin Barra-Jean. It is “designed to empower young women in music technology by providing them with guidance, access, tools and role-support to develop their interest in music production, composition and engineering.” BBG offers free curriculums and support for communities to develop their own local chapters. Check them out here.
Girls Make Beats – Miami/LA
Founded in 2012 by recording engineer Tiffany Miranda. GMB provides classes to girls from ages 8-17 in everything from Ableton to Serato to Pro Tools. Through corporate sponsorships (GMB recently received support from Spotify), GMB has been able to provide scholarships for some of its courses. Sign up here. And check out their soundcloud page to hear some of the hot tracks their students have produced in class.
Producer Girls – UK/Scotland
Launched in 2016, London-based producer/DJ E.M.M.A. created this independent school with fellow DJ/Producers Ikonika, Nightwave, Dexplicit and P Jam. PG offers free one-day workshops on and off throughout the year, aimed primarily at women over the age of 18, in various locations in the UK and Scotland (Manchester, Brighton, Glasgow, etc.). Offering their students free software from FL studio and Ableton, they provide a basic introduction to beat making and music production to get their students off the ground and running. Find out more here.
These albums find three musicians firmly rooted in their artistry. Their unique creations offer strength and affirmation to all musicians to find the confidence they may need to embrace their authenticity and offer it without filter.
Christina Vantzou – No. 4 (Kranky)
Composer and filmmaker Christina Vantzou’s latest release features a mix of orchestral instrumentation and choral music with varying degrees of processing that inspired me to look up the historical roots of the word “ambient”. The latin prefix “ambi-” means “both” or “around” while the suffix “-ent” relates to the present participle of a verb, like “-ing” in English, which forms an action verb into a state of be-ing. Understanding this, it becomes clear how her music seems to exist simultaneously within and around its listener, while the electrorganic textures create a sense of time perhaps reflective of its Borgesian influences. Which is to say that upon each listen to the full album, one can travel down several different paths, and yet remain still. Stream/Purchase on Bandcamp.
Meshell Ndegeocello – Ventriloquism (Naïve)
Perhaps its redundant to recommend that people check out the latest release from this virtuosic powerhouse of an artist, but in the off-chance that some of Tom Tom’s readers are not aware (no judgment), let’s just fix that directly. Meshell’s latest is a collection of covers of some of the most well-known Pop, Soul and R&B jams from the 80’s and 90’s. It is a feat that very few artists could ever have the gall to attempt and speaks volumes as to the level of respect this artist commands. Whether you know the originals or not makes no difference in ones ability to appreciate this album. Her interpretations of these pieces are reflective of her jazz artistry, taking a standard and exploring its inner musical depths, finding hidden terrain behind the pop façades. Get out your hiking gear and explore. Proceeds of album sales go to benefit the ACLU. Stream on Spotify or purchase where available.
Callie Ryan – HEALTH (Outside Insight)
Self-described as “a tender meditation on loss and the resulting desire for comfort…” HEALTH is an intimate experience that lures you in with raw vocals, warm synths and sparse samples over off-kilter beats, reminiscent of a system breaking down (or perhaps just starting up). Created after a father’s cancer scare and a terrible car accident that broke her collarbone, Callie offers her hand to hold as she recovers and subsequently falls in love. It is a record that is extraordinary in its ability to find balance between universal emotions and familiar song structures while creating an altogether unique and almost extra-terrestrial new pop landscape. Stream/Purchase on Bandcamp.
These historically important books shine light on a wide array of topics within feminist music history, musicology and gender studies that we continue to negotiate and discuss, keeping them evergreen and poignant to this day.
Music & Women – Sophie Drinker
Frustrated at the lack of quality compositions for her women’s choir and the dearth of works composed by women, Sophie Drinker spent her next 20 years researching and uncovering the stories and information that she would come to publish in 1948 in this revolutionary book. Surveying women’s musical production around the globe from pre-history to the early 20th century, Mrs. Drinker creates a fascinating argument against the patriarchal construction of musical history and for the inherent musical capacity of all humans and the power and necessecity of the feminine creative voice in music. Purchase direct from Feminist Press.
Feminine Endings – Susan McClary
A paradigm shifting book, Feminine Endings was published in 1991 and met with harsh criticism in both musicology and feminist circles alike, upon its release. Now, 27 years later, it is considered a classic text with its deconstructions of the gendered aspects of musical theory, music metaphors and sexuality in musical narratives; with fresh perspectives (at the time) on the work of female musicians including Laurie Anderson, Diamanda Galas and Madonna. Purchase direct from UMN here.
Music and Gender – Edited by: Pirkko Moisala and Beverley Diamond
This collection of essays published in 2000 is a clear descendent of the other two books listed here. Topics range from the fluidity of gender in new sociomusical contexts, the gendered power dynamics inherent within new musical technologies and the relationships between musical performance and gender identity in different countries and communities across the globe. Purchase direct from UI here.