I actually want to posit this to the crowd. I won't delete the comment because I've been thinking about this all day and a discussion might clear up some things.
I'm really of two minds of this whole thing. I generally think all efforts to set up a performance for musicians are good things in and of themselves, especially when we get people who don't normally perform in this particular context. The sentiment and intent behind the all-girl rock show is noble and laudatory; I've been part of the audience at the event before.. But I cannot shake this nagging idea (whether it's misguided or not is your call) that a specifically all-female event unintentionally reinforces the concept of women in this particular musical situation as a novelty by separation.
I realize that this particular concept may be entirely overriden and made moot by the fact that people who would not normally perform or volunteer to perform would do so at a show like this. I'm also aware that this may not even be an issue at all to some of you. I'm not offering any solutions; all I have are questions.
Regardless, I'll probably attend the event if I can because I like to support musicians in general; I'm sure I have friends performing. But I want to hear responses on this.
I cannot shake this nagging idea (whether it's misguided or not is your call) that a specifically all-female event unintentionally reinforces the concept of women in this particular musical situation as a novelty by separation.
That's a tough question. I think that for now, I'd say no, for the same reason that I'm okay with affirmative action now.
Here's another tough question: Is it better for the all-girl rock show to continue like it is now, because it's better than not having anything at all? Or do we need to tear it down in order to build something better -- namely, a show that's preceded by a year-long effort to coordinate female musicians on campus and help them with starting bands, booking shows, playing instruments, writing songs, and learning all the logistical things that they might want to know?
I picked the latter. Tonight I did my best to follow up my destructive original post with a constructive email to the rock show mailing list, in which I laid out a tentative plan for the shape that that year-long effort might take. But I'm afraid that I might have lost a lot of inertia, and a lot of friends, in the tearing-down phase.
I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, no matter when I brought it up, but the show is in a few days, so my timing really stank.
2004-04-28 07:38 am (UTC)
I've been thinking about your comments about this for a while. I think what people are missing here is that things that have a lot of hard work in them can still suck. It is possible to recognize someone's hard work while not neccessarily applauding the results. When I was at Grinnell, multiple Grinnell theatre performances were truly horrible--but in the name of support, people would give them a standing ovation anyway. It is good to be supportive of other students, but there has to be some room for (constructive) criticism. No group that I was ever a part of was immune to such criticism. The S&B is certainly not immune to this criticism, and lord knows they are probably the most professional student-run group on the whole campus. So I'm not so sure why the all-girls rock show should be either. If the all-girls rock show was supposed to help women's rock on campus, then it's clear that it has failed--the only all-girls band that I know of dissolved after my (and Lindsey's) first year. Doesn't sound like progress in my book.
For your part, Lindsey, I'm glad you're using less inflammatory wording...anyone who knows you knows that it wasn't your intention to hurt people, but it was somewhat inevitable over an electronic medium and with the people involved. Good luck.
I think what people are missing here is that things that have a lot of hard work in them can still suck. It is possible to recognize someone's hard work while not neccessarily applauding the results.
Good call. That was probably what caused a lot of the hard feelings, yeah. I know that I've sunk a lot of time and effort into things that have still ended up sucking, and I felt worse when people criticized those things than I felt when people criticized things I did that I thought were good, but took less time and effort. So I definitely see where I hit a nerve. Whenever I talk to the show organizers in person (hopefully that'll happen -- my wrists hurt from all this typing I've been doing), I'll apologize to them for not recognizing the work they have done, because it is something.
For your part, Lindsey, I'm glad you're using less inflammatory wording...
*sheepish* Yeah, I'm trying to tone it down ... I made a point of not using profanity in anything I wrote, but I'm obviously capable of being caustic without using profanity, so it didn't really help.
P.S. I figured out who you are! Muahahah! =)
2004-04-28 08:06 am (UTC)
a continuation of yesterday's comment
Continuing in the same vein as my comment on the last post, I will just say that I had five different directors at Grinnell, while performing in 3 different music groups (Collegium, Orchestra, Band) and the one that I liked the best, the one that taught me the most, was DD (lindsey knows who I am referring to) who yelled at us, critiqued us severely, pushed us beyond what we thought we could do, and never let us get by with anything just because we were not a conservatory school. I had another director (who I won't name) who was a sweetheart and always told us how wonderful we were. I learned so much more from DD than I did from him. And when DD told us, at the end of a piece, "Gee, that wasn't too bad" I felt on top of the world. For me, nothing gets done if you mince words. But maybe that is just me.
2004-04-28 08:48 am (UTC)
Re: a continuation of yesterday's comment
Anderbug has got it exactly. I remember DD as well, and when he said something was good, you could count on it. I've got something of a problem with the practice of giving a standing ovation for every theatre performance as well, and no, I'm not saying we should go all La Scala (or Titular Head, for that matter) and bring tomatoes to the performance for winging at actors who displease us. Just that maybe the standing o's should be reserved for when you think something is really, really good.
2004-04-28 09:47 am (UTC)
Re: a continuation of yesterday's comment
I remember underwhelm
wrote a journal entry about a year ago about the whole standing ovation thing. He was saying that standing ovations should be reserved for the ten best performances of your life, or something along those lines. He also said that frequent standing ovations were a Midwestern phenomenon (not just Grinnell). I haven't been to enough concerts and shows outside the Midwest to have any evidence either way, but my uneducated guess is that he's right.
Ah, DD. I miss him. *sigh*
2004-04-28 09:56 am (UTC)
Re: a continuation of yesterday's comment
Where'd he go to, anyway? I graduated in '01 and have pretty much lost track of the music department since then.
2004-04-28 10:00 am (UTC)
Re: a continuation of yesterday's comment
Still living in Grinnell and dating someone who works for the music department. I see him around once in a while. Not really sure how he occupies his time, but he was in the gamelan ensemble for a while.
I may qualify that claim after our trip to New York. The audience that saw us for free gave us a standing ovation, the one that paid did not. So there appears to be a new variable to consider.
Either way, I still say that devaluing the standing ovation is sad.
2004-05-02 10:52 am (UTC)
Re: a continuation of yesterday's comment
Not entirely... I've heard people complaining about it all over. I think maybe not at shows I've been to in San Francisco, but I think that's mostly because they're trying to prove that they're too sophisticated and blase to give a standing ovation to much of anything.
Relatedly, what about the encore at rock shows? Where it's become completely standard to encore just about everyone? I find that a little weird.
2004-04-29 12:03 pm (UTC)
RE: Standing Ovations
One of the guys I am going to be working with next fall wrote a paper about what causes audiences to give a standing ovation. Suppose you create a distribution where on the horizontal axis you rank how much each person likes the group...with people who detest the band on one extreme and those who are willing to throw themselves in front of a train for tickets on the other. It turns out that it is not the average level of audience appreciation that matters, but rather the number of people on the extremes--in other words, how thick the "tails" of the distribution are. So suppose the band were to play for two audiences: one with a fairly large number of likers/haters and one where everyone liked the band at the average level of the first group. As a whole, both groups like the band equally. But the first will be more likely to give a standing ovation than the second. Pretty cool, eh?
Hmm. Well, that kinda makes sense to me because the ones who really, really love the band are of course going to stand, and then there's social pressure for everyone else to stand, even the ones who hate the band. (Though I have to wonder why the people who hate the band would be at the show at all ... maybe the people in the former group drag them along? I dunno.) At the show where nobody really loves or really hates the band, there won't be anyone to initiate the standing.
2004-04-29 05:24 pm (UTC)
what music is about
I, too, am a veteran of the first all-girls rock show. I went to the organizational meeting. I may even have been the person who said I only played covers. I also played open-mikes, and it took everything I had to get myself up there in Bobs and in front of all those people on Cleveland Beach. Why was it so hard? Probably because I thought everything was thinking the stuff that you have been writing here in your journal.
Your comments on the all-girls rock show remind me about everything I used to hate about the Grinnell music scene. I'd go to open mikes looking for inspiration and a community of people to share music with. But instead it was all about individuals getting up there and singing to hear themselves sing, playing three songs and then asking if anyone minded if they played four. Or even playing four songs or exceeding the 10 minutes anyway. Nobody listened to each other. It seemed to me that it was all about showing off your shit, about sizing everyone else up. My impression about the open mikes was that pretty much everyone playing thought that he or she was better than everyone else--so much so that people who thought they were good actually stopped GOING to the open mikes at all and chose to perform at their own concerts.
That's what I liked about the all-girls rock show. It's true, there weren't very many women singer-songwriter types at Grinnell when I was there. I can think of me and two other girls with guitars who consistently put themselves out there and you with your piano (in the folky, unplugged genre). What I liked about the show was that it was all about fun. It was all about getting together and making music, in a disorganized way, whatever. Did you not come to all the meetings where we prepared those songs we sang together? We had these two songs--The Kid and Poor Me--something like 10-part harmony. It was pretty cool. I don't think we got to sing them at the show because it got rained out. When I got together with those people I finally felt plugged into a community instead of feeling so alone among the open-mikers.
Also, why the cover elitism? I play covers because the songs I choose to cover are meaningful to me. And there is art in covers--thinking about how you want to make the song your own. I write songs, too, but I'm not as prolific as you, and I don't feel comfortable sharing my songs with people who are going to judge me and not going to listen to what I have to say. Also, didn't you used to cover "my back pages" nearly everytime you played? I thought you did a really good job with it, by the way.
Since I graduated I've been playing open mikes in the Boston area and that is where I have truly found my musical niche. It's not the same at every place I play, but there's this one that is so amazing. What struck me was how different it is than Grinnell's open mike--people actually listen to each other. Nobody audibly carries on conversations when you're playing. People come up and hug you after. It's not just packed with your friends who leave right after you play. It's about sharing music and having fun and using music to talk to each other.
Which brings me back to the all-girls rock show. Sure it may be disorganized. But it is about having fun and making music--or at least it was that first year. So what's the big deal if people want to get up and sing their favorite Bob Dylan/Dar Williams/Smashing Pumpkins song? So what if people want to get up there with a fiddle and a tamborine even if they just knocked their heads together two hours before? So what if the transitions between acts are a little slow? I had fun--did you?
Don't be such a diva.
Hey, thanks for writing. You make a lot of good points and I'd like to respond to more of them, if I had less homework to get through tonight.
About open mics: I actually remember the Bob's open mics being really cool my first year, but I didn't start playing in them until I thought I was good enough, which I think would have been December or so (around when I wrote "The Song Nobody Knows"). I played in several over that spring and the next fall, then stopped going around the middle of second year. However, my reason for stopping was not that I thought I was too good, it was that it was too hard to get my instrument there and back. Before I got my keyboard, I brought the piano down in the elevator from Main Lounge, but that was a really bad way to go. You couldn't get it onto the Bob's stage, it was difficult to get it over the two steps into Bob's, and it went way out of tune when I moved it, plus FM said they wanted me to stop removing it from Main Lounge, so I stopped. When I finally got the keyboard between first and second year, I thought that would solve the problem, but it was almost as difficult. It weighs 50 pounds, and I was weaker then, and I used to get bruises on my arms from trying to carry it all the way down the loggia from Loose. Sometimes I got people to help me with it, but it sucked to have to be a burden on them, and not be self-sufficient. So what I finally decided was that it wasn't worth moving the thing around if I would only be playing it for a maximum of 10 minutes anyway, and that it would only be worth the trouble if I could play for a longer period of time. That's why I stopped playing at the open mikes.
I can see why it might be considered "diva" behavior for me to decide that it was too much trouble to play at the open mics, and instead want to have solo shows. But it was nothing to do with my personality and everything to do with how un-portable my keyboard was. Let me tell you, I spent a lot of time wishing I played the guitar or something portable.
I think you have a good point about open mics being fertile ground for ego-tripping. I think it's awesome that you've found the Boston open mics are not like that, and that makes me happy because (now that I'm a little more mobile with my keyboard) I'd like to play at open mics more after I graduate, and it's good to know that there are places out there with great open mics.
What I liked about the show was that it was all about fun. It was all about getting together and making music, in a disorganized way, whatever. Did you not come to all the meetings where we prepared those songs we sang together? We had these two songs--The Kid and Poor Me--something like 10-part harmony. It was pretty cool. I don't think we got to sing them at the show because it got rained out. When I got together with those people I finally felt plugged into a community instead of feeling so alone among the open-mikers.
I don't remember the singing at meetings -- I must have not gone to those meetings, probably because of my frustration after the first one. I appreciate that you found community at the meetings, that's really cool. But my experience was opposite. I felt pretty alone at the meetings. I want to emphasize that I didn't think I was too good for the people at the meeting. To the contrary, I was bad and inexperienced and I was in need of help to get better. But I wasn't getting it from them at all. And I think the disorganization bothered me because organization was one of the precise things that I needed help with -- so, no, for me neither the meetings nor the show itself were much fun. Now, maybe the rock show just isn't supposed to be for people like me, and I should never have gotten involved -- but in that case, the show shouldn't bill itself as inclusive and taking all comers.
Also, why the cover elitism?
Covers can be great. I like playing covers, and I like hearing people play covers, but I think that a concert that consists mostly of covers and single-song sets is not a concert that showcases Grinnell women musicians at their best.