Posts tagged: songwriting

The Crustracean: Album Blabber

A personal note from Julia.



Beer, or coffee? Beer, or coffee? Coffee? Beer? Cigarette? A resounding yes to all 3 but I’ll go with the caffeine for now, as it’s now 12 AM and I’m madly and incoherently rushing to finish edits for my new album by Saturday. I mean, tomorrow. I mean, today. Yes, I am the one brewing coffee at midnight on a Friday to work on something for which I shall never be paid.

Enter the crustracean.

Some of you may be scratching your heads when you hear this release. I’ve been known for, and touting, my tendency to hand-craft meticulous and detailed (and perhaps overworked) scores. But after releasing LS/HA (as well as recent life-altering events), I needed a break from what I’ve dubbed my “esoteric mess”, I needed a change, and I needed to experiment with letting go of my usual tools. I also felt a pressing need to produce what I could pompously call Culturally Relevant Dance Music - which has been a part of musical history since the dawn of time, which I desperately wanted to create, and which my former albums have been nowhere near. So I label The Crustracean as a “rebound” album, in different senses of the word.

Does this new direction mean that I am catering to popular demands for a throbbing, super-regular bass drum n’ beat? I hope not. Does it mean that this is the goal my future work will ultimately move toward? Definitely No, Maybe. It’s just been a bit of an experiment. Humor, dance, motion, and fun are emotions that music can easily express, and I hope I have scratched the surface in my attempt to get these affects across. I had fun writing it, fo sho. Also, now I can rightfully turn up my conservatory-browned nose at “boring” “repetitive” pop music because I can finally say “I could do that drunk and with my eyes closed” and it will be true.

One thing related to my process which might explain some shady, questionable issues of timing: I refuse to use drum machines or any other digital sequencing life-lines. I am not cool, I don’t own Ableton, so there. I prefer to play and record by hand - I find that even though I probably spend more hours editing my hand-made drum tracks than I would if I just sequenced them, I get a more “live” feel by using my keyboard instead of a grid. Every single sound wave looks different this way, I can hint at dynamics and accents by playing live, controlling parameters with my fingers, and the whole process of decision making is much more organic. In my defense, I will say that my trusty laptop is on its way out of this world, and likes to insert jitter into sound files in lieu of death rattle. I’ve spent countless dreadful hours zooming in to each and every single beat in this goddamn album, and moving things one-ten-thousandth of a second around so that they can be in their correct places. But hair pulling aside, I’d rather have moments of not-near-perfection than beats which imply that HAL is the earth’s greatest drummer of all time, period.

This entire album was recorded and written improvisatorily over the course of three weeks (aforementioned edits, however, have consumed the past 3 months). All synths were lazily constructed or borrowed from Reaktor presets. Subject matter deals with the culture of dating, as experienced through emotional ranges from repulsion to obsession. I aimed for a presentation of female sexual power, using very culturally prevalent words/ways but ultimately (hopefully) describing a new approach towards the whole shebang (giggle). And you won’t miss the moments of good old fashioned girly “dear diary” narration, gleamed from horrific experience.

I have borrowed quotes from advertising, women’s magazine articles, and pornography etc for the misconstrued lyrics (as in “I know how you like it”, which takes a common representation of a woman’s bedroom status and turns it on its head when a woman herself utters it). You may also hear subtle reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (roll your eyes, but it’s awesome) or Of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping. I think the time is ripe for music portraying sexuality in an aggressive and flawed way, and have been very influenced by Kevin Barnes’s embracing of the unusual in sex-music subject matter, but have felt a lack of this attitude in “mainstream” music created by women. The past few months have been a public smorgasbord for media and political coverage of women’s issues, particularly with regards to our sexual lives. How can we hope to reclaim what is rightfully ours (sexual equality), when at the same time, we are shown only one version of a sexual role (submission)?

So in a way, The Crustracean is an exercise in character creation, as I let myself explore what it would be like to express ideas and ideals about female sexuality - I wanted to do so in a so-called “masculine”, “dominating” way. Yay, gender stereotypes. And thanks to all the boys that spent excruciating evenings with me, being thwarted in their attempts to buy me drinks, and providing me with fodder that I could refer to in my artistic work. I did not intend to use you, initially. Sorry. If it’s any consolation, I’ll never date again. Or call you.

Feminist ravings aside, what else can I tell you about this album? The title is fun, isn’t it? Unlike most people, I had a childhood fascination with lobsters. For some reason, when other little girls liked drawing princesses and hearts, I would spend hours attempting to draw lobsters. And make any adult within a 20-foot radius draw me lobsters, whenever possible. I think I grew out of this phase at around age 5, but lobsters will always hold a special place in my heart. When my dog chewed on my favorite stuffed animal, Larry the Lobster, I’ll admit I may have shed a tear or two or three. Unfortunately, wearing these costumes


would make playing instruments quite difficult. You’re off the hook (har har), bandmates.


Anyways. Adding the repugnant letter “r” to the word crustacean seemed like an easy enough task, as the album sprang forth from my frustration with my lame self, with gender norms in dating, and with the crap-storm that this past year has been. Maybe I identify with lobsters because they are, after all, protected and isolated from the world by their conveniently located outer shells. They have mean claws so nobody can mess with them. A frustrated lobster, alone in this world, safe until some rich motherfucker picks you, special and unique you, for their next Tuesday night $50 dinner, while you are happily swimming in murky muck at the bottom of the ocean or fish tank. This is a fine, relevant existence, says I. Also, lobsters do not really age, supposedly, and I refer to my own tendency to refuse to become a functioning adult even at 26. 

Oh, and just so you know, I have been completely celibate throughout this entire process, a fact laden with irony which does not escape me. Not that I’d be ashamed of coming across as some sex-crazed man-eater (or ancient lobster), but in all honesty, that’s not who I am, I don’t think. Obviously I’m much too awkward and pretentious for that shit.

Luna: Myths and Legends

I plan to release some album notes for the upcoming Lone Sum / Hermit Age, which will discuss the elements which unify this project. One of the most prominent features of the album is the allusion to and inspiration drawn from various female figures in mythology.

The past year of my life has been difficult in many respects, one of these being recurring insomnia. During my sleepless nights, I spend a lot (I mean, a lot) of time reading myths and histories regarding all kinds of women. I find myself very interested in mythology in general, because in some respects underlying remnants of ancient folklore and legend and historical accounts influence current cultural beliefs. To my horror, but not surprise, much of what I encountered dealt with either rape, or marriage. The portrayal of women seems to always be a cautionary tale- our inherent strengths are acknowledged, but in the end it is our beauty and domesticity which are celebrated. A lot of female mythological creatures end up “getting what’s coming to them”, and must begrudgingly accept their fate.

When I finally started writing music again, I found that some of the stories I had frantically devoured were at the forefront of my mind. Here is the beginning of collection (by no means is it comprehensive) of notes for your perusal. I’ve tried to edit down to bare essentials, and I’ll be the first to admit that using Wikipedia as a reference is lame. My primary concern is to get this silly album finished as soon as possible, not to write a book about mythology. But I’m hoping you can get a sense of these stories in my music, and wanted to gather various information which is personally relevant to me into one place. This blog entry pertains to one of LS/HA songs in particular, Luna.

Luna, or Selene - goddess of the moon, goddess of “lunacy”



We all know about delicious Luna bars. But how much do you know about the moon goddess herself, Selene? Selene (or Luna) is the sister of Helios, the sun god. By day, she washes herself in “the earth’s waters”, then dons a golden crown. This crown, and her radiant, immortal head, illuminate the earth during her nightly journey across the sky.

This much you might be familiar with. However, the reason that Selene feels so inclined to make such a long journey might be a surprise. It is, of course, because of love.


"Apollonius of Rhodes…refers to Selene, "daughter of Titan", who "madly" loved a mortal, the handsome hunter or shepherd—or, in the version Pausanias knew, a king— of Elis, named Endymion, from Asia Minor. In other Greek references to the myth, he was so handsome that Selene asked Zeus to grant him eternal sleep so that he would stay forever young and thus would never leave her…Endymion made the decision to live forever in sleep. Every night, Selene slipped down behind Mount Latmus near Miletus to visit him."


Oh, women. Always afraid that their sexy man is going to leave them (If I could speak these words aloud, you’d hear a voice drenched in thick sarcasm). In this case, Luna’s love for Endymion is replaced by fear. The fact that he is mortal, and will inevitably die and thus be lost, is not so stressed. What is important to me is that Selene is terrified of being alone. Another thing about this myth which interests me is the fact that Selene is content to have her man be sleeping all the time. She goes to visit him, but then what? Stares at him longingly while he sonorously snores? It is better, apparently, to have this kind of unfulfilled relationship than to be alone and single. It is even a relationship worth dolling herself up for every evening.

I guess I’m not the only one who finds this a little bit…looney (did you know that the very word “looney” probable originated from the name Luna?). By the 5th century AD, Greek epics portrayed Selene as the goddess of lunacy:


“… the frenzied reckless fury of distracting Selene joining in displayed many a phantom shape to maddened Pentheus [who became lunatic or Moon-struck], and made the dread son of Ekhion forget his earlier intent, while she deafened his confused ears with the bray of her divine avenging trumpet, and she terrified the man.”

(women in love are so terrifying, aren’t they, when they get all needy)

I became infatuated with the idea of Selene after wanting to scream at the moon for quite some time. During my worst nights, I would find myself (a little more than) compulsively waiting until sunlight, when it would be “safe” to sleep (nutso, I know, but that’s PTSD for ya). The opening phrase for Luna (the song) popped into my head one evening while I was staring at her artless and brazen majesty.

In contrast to the legend of Luna, I also became enraptured by the Goddess of Fortune. I saw Luna’s tale as a myth about “feminine” fear and weakness, and Fortuna (who favors the brave) as a myth about the necessary hatred of women who are strong personalities.

Tyche, or Fortuna - goddess of luck or fortune



Fortuna Muliebria was traditionally attributed to the well-being and luck of women, “especially married women”. Paradoxically, she was invoked by mortal women in a very vocal and commanding way, as described in various sources.


"According to the legend, worship of Fortuna Muliebris was instituted at a time when Rome was under attack in the 5th century BCE by Cnaeus Marcius Coriolanus, a descendant of Ancus Marcius, an early King. Once a hero of Rome, he later led an army of Volscians against the city, and refused all the pleadings of the senators and the priests to stop the attack. Until, that is, the matrons (married women) of Rome, along with his mother, Veturia, and his wife and their two young children came to plead with him. They managed to convince him to call it off, and on the spot where Veturia talked him out of it, he dedicated a temple to Fortuna Muliebris in honor of the women."


How interesting. I love that this goddess actually inspired women of ancient times to band together and work towards achieving peace. But again, the implications of the female myth seemed a bit scary to men, and Fortune became described as “fickle” and “flighty”. In modern times, we probably associate her with men rushing off into battle, mustering up their courage, and asking she who favors the brave to grant them luck. Or we curse the wheel of fortune for bringing us our bad times.


"O Fortune, who dost bestow the throne’s high boon with mocking hand, in dangerous and doubtful state thou settest the too exalted. Never have sceptres obtained calm peace or certain tenure; care on care weighs them down, and ever do fresh storms vex their souls. …great kingdoms sink of their own weight, and Fortune gives way ‘neath the burden of herself. Sails swollen with favouring breezes fear blasts too strongly theirs; the tower which rears its head to the very clouds is beaten by rainy Auster…. Whatever Fortune has raised on high, she lifts but to bring low. Modest estate has longer life; then happy he whoe’er, content with the common lot, with safe breeze hugs the shore, and, fearing to trust his skiff to the wider sea, with unambitious oar keeps close to land."
-Seneca

"goddess who admits by her unsteady wheel her own fickleness; she always has its apex beneath her swaying foot."
-Ovid


As Christianity rose in popularity, the first beloved Platonist Christian and body-hater, St. Augustine (see my book review of Misogyny by Jack Holland (http://tmblr.co/ZJSksvI4oPDv)), used Fortune as a metaphor for the undiscerning passions of the physical world:


"How, therefore, is she good, who without discernment comes to both the good and to the bad? …It profits one nothing to worship her if she is truly fortune… let the bad worship her…this supposed deity".

-Augustine


Once again, female legends are morphed into tales about the crazy actions of women. Fortune, by showing strength and granting her favors wherever she wants, independently, is vilified.

The stories of Luna and Fortuna seem linked to me, and I wanted to discuss how both of their mythologies depict females or femininity as aspects of insanity (negative). I decided to align myself with Fortune, even though she had delivered unto me such bad luck. Musically, the track Luna is structured to reflect the 8 phases of the moon cycle. There are four main sections of music, and four transitional phases, mirroring a waxing and waning effect.

You can hear a preview version of Luna here:

http://maryofegypt.bandcamp.com/track/luna-unmastered

References:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selene
http://www.thaliatook.com/OGOD/muliebris.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortuna
http://www.myastrologybook.com/Artemis-Diana-Selene-Phoebe-Luna-Hecate.htm
http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Tykhe.html

Cimarron: first notes on electronica

Patience, time, and thickskinnedness: these are the things I find myself needing when working towards completion of an electronic project.

What makes an electronic track different from an acoustic or through-composed one? When I write for acoustic instruments, I have an idea in mind of the exact notes that they will play, and I know what each instrument sounds like. I’m not going to have an audio-mental image of a violin part that sounds like a flute. In my conceptualization, the violin will sound like what it is, a violin. I can write that information down (done and done). But what about mental conception of electronic parts?

"The 80s are over." "Techno is dead, when will the hipsters get over it?"


These are comments I hear very often from respected musician friends regarding current artistic projects which utilize electronic sounds or techno drumbeats. I would agree that yes, the sound of a MIDI drum sequencer sometimes conjures up images of aerobic leggings and bouffant hairstyles. But as a “formally” trained musician, I was introduced to the first electronic pioneers of the early 20th century. Whether you recall the rhyme of the ancient theremin, with its Doctor Who humming, or the early synths-only-via-stockhausen, or just plain old clubbing music (thanks, Europe), one cannot escape having at least been exposed to nearly a century of mechanical wonders.

I would argue that nearly every modern musician (and music-enthusiast (and first world human)) has “digested” the sound of many, many different kinds of electronic music. Just look at Sufjan, who flip-flopped successfully from weirdo [electronics-only] to [songwriting] to [orchestral instrumentation] then back again to [wierdo-electronics + songwriting + orchestral instumentation]. Just listen to Newsom’s crazy overdubbed vocals on her (debut) album version of Peach, Plum, Pear (“And I was blue!”) (overdubbed vocals PLUS harpsichord, as is only possible in these modern times). Our brains hold a seemingly infinite number of timbres and textures after decade upon decade of computer enhanced music.

Musings aside, it is quite difficult to get non-existing technology to match what strange warblings and pumpings and textures as might be inside your brain. It’s almost like practicing piano (gasp!).

Here are some notes from sketches of one of my upcoming electronic-ish tracks:

"Where are my DAMN church bells?"

and

"Crescendi in droves".

Sometimes when I write I can’t decipher which acoustic instrument fits my idea. Or I’m hearing textures that I don’t think or know of in the acoustic realm (gimme a break I’m a new writer). But I’m hearing specific things, most likely what I’ve been exposed to (I will not shy from seeming influenced; we are all products of our influences in many ways). In these cases, I struggle for hours to make or recreate or tweak sounds which I am hearing internally.

I tried notating Cimarron. It ended up being a lameass chord chart with various lines and markings on it. As in “<” and “>” and whatnot. Secret, lovely mysteries of a score could not capture the subtleties of delay patches and reverbs and layered found sounds. Either the score could not contain them or I could not find a way to notate them beyond a weak graphic representation.

So instead, I turn to my ear. Electronic tracks (beyond simple sequencing to a grid/midi controlling) require careful, nearly mind numbing re-listening, over and over and over again until you find your brain contains nothing but whirrs and swooooshes. It reminds me of painting- starting with a sketch and filling in layers, highlights, clues about perspective. You have to really get into it, and you have to step back at the same time. In this way, my electronics become much more improvisatory. They deal with texture and color in an immediate way (which, I’m sure, many musicians have gone before me) that cannot be captured in the mind’s eye until completion.

Maybe the careful alignment of sounds and their implied intensities is just me trying to put everything in this world in a proper place, I worried. So for Cimarron, I decided to go “off the grid” and work against a very rubato piano recording.

(Rubato: expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist)

For me, there is nothing so eye-gougingly-frustrating or so sickly-sweet-satisfying as making progress on an electronic piece. I love acoustic instruments, I work with them, I play them, I study them, but the process of making textures out of thin air is very seductive. Most likely my upbringing and influences shine most brightly in these songs, but I am not afraid of reflecting the past via synthetic bell and bass drum.

(yeah I know this is a pretentious post but you gotta take your work seriously yo)

"Go With Yourself" - Apple is Back



I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the controversial lady of self-expression, Fiona Apple, has booked a 2012 tour.

"Fiona Apple announces 2012 tourdates. She’s the one who plays the harp, right?
'It’s been a while since we’ve seen or heard from Fiona Apple. Of course, this is most likely because of the multiple legal battles with Sir Paul McCartney, the ghost of René Magritte, and that apple-eating pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean, in which she’s been embroiled for the past seven years concerning her rights to, variously, eat apples, take press photos with apples, and have Apple as a last name.”
http://www.tinymixtapes.com/news/fiona-apple-announces-2012-tourdates-shes-one-who-plays-harp-right

As a tween, I spent hours learning every single song from Tidal by ear and playing/performing them with my young angsty girlfriends. As a senior in high school, I arranged “Never is a Promise" for piano and three violas for a school coffeehouse performance. However, in the now seven years since Apple’s last studio releases, she seems to have faded into a strange sort of well-known obscurity, as well as migrated outside of my developing (snobbish) musical tastes. I was probably unduly influenced by the eye-rolling that seemed to accompany any mention of her name:

"Tempestuous.
Mercurial.
Brat.
Self-absorbed.
Drama queen.
Recluse.
Crazy.”

http://therottenlittlegirls.com/2008/08/04/woman-of-the-month-fiona-apple/

We all remember this moment, right?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSLwYrPbuts

(Why can’t the girl just shut up and be happy?)

It has become impossible not to associate Apple’s musical achievements with her aggressive Grammy speech. Somehow, as a developing classical musician, being an avid fan of hers became something a bit less than OK (if it ever was OK)-Apple’s music was for whiny girly teenagers, of course, and any love or discussion of the woman was relegated to close friendships and closet “music I don’t think I should like” revelations.

However, news of her possible return (as well as news of a possible 4th album) has had me thinking about my mental attitude towards Apple during the past few years. Re: my post “sad sack or sexappeal” about recent female artists in the public eye, I have been wanting to shout “Adele has nothing on Fiona!” for the past month. Here is a woman who is in charge of her own material, who speaks her mind, and who, somehow, became a chart-topper. Why shouldn’t I embrace her as a personal hero?

Something very interesting happened to women in commercial music at just about the same time as Apple was releasing her debut and second albums. If you all will join me in thinking back to the glorious 90s, which women in pop music are you most likely to recall? Probably Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. Here, alongside Apple’s self-written sad music, were the catchy tunes “sung” by women (asking us to please hit them one more time) who didn’t have anything to do creatively except perhaps choose a hue of platinum blonde with which to color their locks. Among my musician friends, there is heavy lamentation of the decline of the music industry after the mid-90s, for both male and female artists.

And here, I posit, is what went wrong: Nobody at the top of the ladder in music business wanted to admit that someone who made their career by saying “Something is terribly wrong with this world” could make them money (Nirvana also springs to mind). In fact, I think this scared a lot of powerful people (remember when Extraordinary Machine was held back from release by Sony (and, apparently, by Fiona herself)). So instead they brought us an onslaught of skin-showing singing-only divas which continues bombarding us to this day (think Katy Perry or Lady Gaga).

'I wanted to write a happy song. I didn't know how.'
-Fiona Apple

Yeah, it’s scary. That people support a woman who is so vocal about how terrible the industry and the masochistic culture are. That people connect with an artist’s inner lamentations on such a deep level, and that that artist happens to be a woman. After giving it much thought, I do not believe we can or should separate Apple from her cultural persona - as internal and as soul-searching as her music is, as a public figure she asks all of us to soul-search about the state of the external world. And to be ourselves.

"If I respect myself and believe in what I’m doing, no one can touch me."

There you have it, artists, musicians, writers, and lay peoples. We are being encouraged to respect and believe in ourselves. No wonder Apple has been relegated to such a quiet state - self respect doesn’t sell lipstick.

(this post is dedicated to my sister, Grace)

The sadsack or the sexappeal?

My goodness, it’s certainly been a big month for female musicians in the public eye! I’m admittedly a bit behind the times (haste makes waste) with all theze crazy newzez, but criminy, what a load of subliminal stuff to digest. Two, not just one, but two female singers have been making headlines lately. One of them for dying and one of them for being good even though she’s a woman and not anorexic (don’t crucify me for these fightin’ words). 

Let’s start with Whitney, God bless her:

"Women in pop culture are particularly framed with this “poor little prima donna who destroyed her talent” garbage. When great male musicians die, it’s unusual to have their substance issues splayed forth in the obit headline… why was Billie Holliday’s love affair with heroin so tragic, but Miles Davis and John Coltrane … not so much? Why is Sinead O’Conner a nutcase but Van Halen is just a darling bunch of naughty rockers? Why is Madonna’s mental state on the front page every day, but not Justin Beiber’s?" (http://susiebright.blogs.com/susie_brights_journal_/2012/02/whitney-houstons-death-is-probably-not-what-you-think-it-is-.html)


I could perhaps dismiss these outspoken comments by holding up someone like Michael Jackson as a counter-example, I know, but she’s onto something. Susie has some interesting things to say, but perhaps short little newsblurbs sum it up the best:


"Whitney Houston, who reigned as pop music‘s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage […] has died."
http://thefeministwire.com/2012/02/whitney-houston-is-dead-at-48/


Read: Erratic behavior? Don’t act crazy, it will kill you, woman! Or if you do act erratic, be regal and majestic too, somehow! And this from a feminist website!


But take heart, my fellow songbirds. There is a woman out there you can look up to, one who’s not so crazy or old:


"…I was heartened by the appearance of Adele, the young blue-eyed soul singer from East London who won Best New Artist at the Grammys earlier this year. I love her. She seems young and brash and fun and mouthy and unapologetic about her body (I love that the article mentions that she went to an In-and-Out Burger after the Grammys and wanted to get two milkshakes, one for each award she received)…Also, she should be in Vogue. The girl is gorgeous. Not gorgeous for a big girl. Gorgeous. Period. She’s got some face and she’s got some figure."
http://feministmusicgeek.com/tag/adele/


See, she can do anything men can do! She can have her milkshakes and drink them too! (Note the use of the word “young” twice in nearly adjacent paragraphs as a means of laudation).


The feminist(?)musicgeek encourages her readers to support and applaud female artists in the mainstream: “My mom might have acquired a taste for Joanna Newsom when I played ‘Sawdust and Diamonds' for her, but what’s not to love about these ladies?” then goes on to write an epic FOUR paragraphs about Adele's weight. Yes, it is true that she is a beautiful woman, but what male artists are being sticked-up-for-via-discussion in regards to their appearance?

These (appearance and weight) are topics which dwell outside of the auditory experience and which of a modern feminist should steer clear. We can knowingly and sarcastically blog about the “sad white boy” phenomena (don’t get upset, I’m only quoting former said blog (see link)) as long as we, at the same time, say “it’s good to support this mainstream artist because she’s a woman (we are so heartened to see you getting famous!) and we need to support her” and “hey let’s remind everyone that women are still beautiful even if they are at a healthy weight’ or in other cases “look at this looney bird in a swan dress”. Until we (women, ourselves!) stop even continuing this discussion, how can ladies in music even hope to move forward?
I guarantee you that not nearly as many “male” or “mostly-male” bands/artists have had article after article written about these silly things. Why don’t we write, instead, about the music itself? In this way perhaps we can come closer to a more complete auditory/intellectual/emotional evaluation of ALL music.

Shortly after Adele was so graced at the Grammys, I heard a somehow exasperating piece on NPR about why her music was so “emotionally intensive”: the “power of appoggiatura” (dictionary.com translation of that funny italian word: a grace note performed before a note of the melody and falling on the beat). Apparently during the chorus of one of her most beloved songs, Adele deftly dips her voice down a half step for about a millisecond (not, in this case, before the melodic note but in the middle of it, ahem). It is in this interval, according to science, that her superhuman strength lies.  I must confess the explicatory audio clip didn’t really do it for me. And here is my problem. Yes, Adele has an effing fantastic voice. It’s lovely. She deserves to be recognized. But there she is on top of the world - without doing the writing all on her own.

It’s very, very common for female singers to have “help” in writing their chart-topping hits, if they even have anything to do with the compositional process. Especially the top sellers. But which male artists who win awards and are lauded for their sad-music “breakthroughs” (think Bon Iver or Radiohead) get there without writing their own darn music? As a highly trained classical pianist (I work at a university and have a degree from a top conservatory) I know that most anyone with physical/mental predisposition and loads and loads of hours of effort can cultivate their performance ability on instrument or voice. But what about self expression and creativity? Oh no, ladies. These are the ways of men. Why don’t you let them write heartbreaking songs that you can then lend your sexy voice to afterwards?

"Most female songwriters I know tend to be ‘top-liners’, writing the melody and lyrics to a song, while men still dominate the track and production (as is the case with Lily Allen and her collaborator Greg Kurstin)."

"Even though around 20% of the UK’s contemporary classical composers are female, this is not reflected at the Proms or at any other major concert series or festival. Of all the works performed by the LSO between 1997 and 2002, 1.3% were written by women. Of those that were written in the last 50 years, 6.5% were by women."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2010/may/24/women-behind-music

I am not saying that women who are gifted with voices like Adele’s or Whitney’s should step down from the spotlight or stop treating the world to their crooning skills. That would be akin to saying composers should stop writing operas or symphonies because they can’t perform the material themselves. Not very feasible or practical or desirable. But maybe we should start differentiating between Performers and Creators, not between men and women. Instead of focusing on the fact that musicians are of a certain sex (and all the extra-curricular discussion this entails), why don’t we focus on the creative efforts that go into their work? Maybe we’ll encourage more women to follow a musical career path. Maybe the LSO would program some more estrogen-y stuff, if it was being judged solely by virtue of its musical quality.

For now, I won’t even go into the implied issues (regarding expression and self-censorship and social roles and psychology) that the low number of women in creative music represents. That’s kind of what this whole blogging thing is all about.