With an eclectic mix of producers and musicians becoming popular in recent years, the electronic music industry seems to be representative of a wide array of people. However, the industry is lacking in an extremely important aspect: representation of female-identifying artists. An electronic music production workshop that hopes to address this problem in an environment that caters specifically to women is coming to Vassar on Friday, April 25 from 3 to 5 pm in Rocky 112.
The music workshop, “Pink Noises,” will focus on both music production and songwriting in a setting that will only be open to female-identifying students in order to provide a safe space to explore creativity. This workshop is unique in its mission of addressing the underrepresentation of women in electronic music and its method of bringing music education to Vassar with well-known musicians and producers.
“Pink Noises” is the brainchild of Vassar student Joanna Kloppenburg ’14, who sees the importance of making the music scene more accepting of female artists.
Kloppenburg said she hopes that the workshop will be able to aid the fight for gender equality in the music industry.
“I hope this workshop will help more women, even the women who didn’t get to take the workshop but are aware of it, to consider electronic music production as a creative outlet. I also hope that the artists, who will be teaching a workshop for the first time, will consider facilitating more workshops for women in the future.” She went on, speculating that the workshop may also be a space for larger reflection on the industry’s marginalization of women.
“Perhaps it will also allow those are involved in the genre in any way to reconsider what kinds of sexism and inequalities may be embedded in its [the industry’s] structure, as they may not be obviously apparent to everyone,” she said.
The workshop will include classes taught by highly respected female electronic music producers and musicians. Gordon Schmidt ’17 wrote in an email, “The first workshop is taught by Cherushii and Aurora Halal, two extremely talented contemporary electronic musicians and producers, who will focus on mixing and production using both hardware and software recording techniques (Ableton and MIDI). Maria Minerva, a renowned electronic musician from Estonia, will teach a songwriting workshop that will focus on the development of an autonomous female voice through electronic music.”
The fact that the electronic music industry is male-dominated gives the world an interesting view of female producers and musicians.
Schmidt wrote, “If you were to ask Aurora Halal to describe her music, ‘female’ is not the first word that she would use. And yet in most music publications and press releases, Halal and other contemporary electronic musicians are always referred to as ‘female producers.’ Yet you would never find Rolling Stone magazine referring to Skrillex as a ‘male producer.’ That’s because electronic musicians are considered male by default.”
These artists are working to change this aspect of the electronic music industry and spreading awareness through this workshop is a step towards creating a more inclusive environment for all musicians and producers.
Schmidt wrote, “Gender inequality is rampant in every single part of the music industry. However, the tide is changing. I really believe that gender equality in music is a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if.’ Workshops like these are part of an increasingly powerful network of people who are devoted to providing a better platform for the female voice in electronic music.”
There are many different reasons for the persistence of gender inequality in the music industry, and some of the worst offenses apply specifically to the electronic music scene.
In an emailed statement, Lars Odland ’17, who has a WVKR radio show, wrote, “In practically every segment of music production or creation women are underrepresented, and as such, I think it becomes much easier for genres like electronic, that have a mostly male listenership (or at least, the perception is that mostly men listen to this type of music), to continue to only cater to male listeners.”
In spite of the sexism that is present in the music industry, the producers and musicians coming to Vassar have overcome many obstacles and have become successful artists.
Kloppenburg wrote in an email, “Maria Minerva has never restrained herself to one particular genre of music, which demonstrates a deep curiosity and respect for varying musical histories. She also often incorporates feminist text into her music and has often stated that her music is catered more for women than from men, that it is an attempt to open more women up to underground electronic music.”
Along with Minerva, two other electronic artists, Cherushii and Aurora Halal, will be teaching a workshop collaboratively. Kloppenburg wrote, “Cherushii also demonstrates a vast knowledge of electronic music’s history, and devotes part of her career to education of this history through her radio show, ‘Midnight Express.’ Aurora Halal is involved in many sectors of the creative arts: she is a video artist, directing both conceptual videos and music videos.”
Although female voices are present in many electronic songs, they are only clips of other songs created by women, so it can be problematic when these clips are sampled by men in other sectors of the music industry.
Kloppenburg wrote, “[Electronic] music, especially house and techno, is often created by sampling both musical and vocal segments from other songs. Female voices are more heavily sampled by men, and it is men who are mainly cutting and reappropriating these female voices outside of their contexts, which very often transforms these voices into sexualized or vulnerable objects, as opposed to an expression of independent female desire.”