Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound
I was about fifteen years old when PinkNoises.com started up. I was very involved in riot grrrl music, so perhaps it's no surprise that I liked a website specifically dedicated to women in electronic music. The writer of this content—as well as the rest of the Pink Noises website—was Tara Rodgers. After years of performing and researching, she came out with a book by the same name.
Much like her website, Pink Noises encourages the creativity and capabilities of women in electronic music. Tara interviewed twenty-four different female artists; a diverse collection of electronic musicians, sound artists, composers, DJs, remixers, and performance artists. The end result is a book heavily, wonderfully saturated with facts, ideas, and experiences.
The DIY section was my particular favorite because it was the first time I had seen a music tutorial specifically written for amateur female artists. This section was full of information and resources, while being simple and direct. Creativity and experimentation were emphasized. Not only was I capable of creating my own music, but was also encouraged to.
On the flip side, I wish this book came with a CD featuring one song from each artist interviewed. However, there are lists of female artists and websites at the end of the book. Also, I felt my eyes glazing over some of the interviews. Though I admired women who were rich with technical knowledge and musical theory, I need to revisit their ideas when I have more musical experience. There is a helpful glossary of terms in the back of the book for those of us still learning.
Other interviews struck chords in me that had never been validated before. For instance, noticing that I shared a similar, basic upbringing of music as they did; we loved music growing up, took a few years of an instrument in school, joined a band, quit the band. Many of these women experienced sexism and unreliability of other performers while in rock bands. I kept seeing interviewees mention that electronic music is a great way to be creative without having to suffer misogyny or flakiness of others.
Creativity without bad attitudes? Sounds like a dream come true! Well, it is for the most part. Unfortunately, we still have the sexism of the electronic music industry to deal with. For example, most people probably envision a man wearing headphones and a hooded sweatshirt when they hear the phrase "electronic musician." This is a shame; Pink Noises clearly demonstrates women of all stripes as electronic musicians, many of whom have been creating for decades.
While some of the interviewed musicians reported positive community and good resources, others felt the blow of not having their work taken seriously or being excluded from electronic music magazines, events, and other outlets. It's no wonder that many female electronic musicians take up androgynous names or wear masks while performing. Both of these factors help demonstrate the artist's personal identity to their audience. However, I feel as though some female artists may also be conjuring Joan of Arc in order to be taken seriously.
In the book's introduction, Rodgers touches base on the history of electronic music. She notes that electronic music's beginnings stem from war. She writes that "amplification and recording technologies emerged directly from wartime expenditures or were funded for their potential military applications." The earliest electronic music piece, "The Art of Noises" (1913), is a "bold celebration" of "machines, modern industry, and war." Even the terminology of electronic music refers to war; "executes" a programming "command," DJs "battle," computer "crash."
Considering an industry with early war associations and plagued with sexism today, it's no wonder that there are so few women involved. Pink Noises succeeds in immortalizing a talented, diverse collection of female artists, as well as encouraging women to get involved in creating for themselves.