Fiona Soe Paing

Fiona Soe Paing

A question I have been asked a few times in interviews recently has been - "There are not very many women electronic producers around - why do you think this is?" How I think I should have replied is "Ask me about my production methods instead...." ..... Rather than answering with that, though, I have usually heaved a big sigh before replying with the answer - "Dwelling on the negative only perpetuates it - rather than bemoaning the shortage of female producers, let's celebrate the fact that there actually are armies of us - it's just that we're not visible in mainstream media due to lack of coverage. Lack of coverage leads to lack of role models - go to most electronic music sites, or websites of electronic labels, and you'll mostly find a sea of images of blokes looking earnest, so women are not getting any messages that this is something that could possibly be for them....and for the main female electronic producers who do get coverage, rather than emphasising their musicality or production skills , the focus has tended to be on how out-there, kooky and off-the wall they are, again giving out the message that this is not normally something a woman would do.

Having given a brief answer to their question as above, I've then directed the questioner to the Female Pressure network, which was founded in 1998 by the Vienna based artist Electric Indigo in response to complaints about the alleged lack of female electronic artists and producers. The Female Pressure database was set up to be a technological answer to the recurring question that many of the members, myself included, had been asked - "Why are there so few female activists in the electronic music scene?" The database, as of August 2016, contained over 1800 members in 69 countries, made up of female electronic artists and producers, as well as DJ's and audio-visual artists. So it's obviously not that we don't exist - it's more that women's activities in the electronic music scene are less recognised and more easily forgotten. With the main issue being lack of visibility rather than lack of quantity, women creating electronic music need to be up there in the mainstream, rather than staying marginalised and invisible still.

It was the issue of being sidelined and invisible that has kept the fact largely undocumented, that women have made a massive contribution to the development of electronic music. Many of the female electronic pioneers remained unknown for years, being overshadowed by their male colleagues. Without the electronic pioneer Daphne Oram we would never have known what the Tardis sounds like...Daphne was a sound engineer at The BBC, and due to her repeated requests to set up a studio to create experimental electronic music, The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was set up in 1958 to create sound effects for radio plays. The Radiophonic Workshop was later to become most well known for the creation of one of the most famous pieces of electronic music in history, The Dr Who theme tune, co-created by one of Daphne's colleagues, the more well known Delia Derbyshire. Well before Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, there were female electronic music pioneers way back in the 1930's, with Clara Rockmore touring the USA and packing out concert halls with her playing the new electronic instrument the theremin. Later on, another lesser known electronic pioneer was Wendy Carlos, who in the early 1960's was responsible for the development of the relatively new and unknown Moog synthesiser, designed by her colleague Robert Moog. Carlos then went on to become more well known for composing film soundtracks, including A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. Then the list goes on, from the free jazz futuristic synth oscillations of Annette Peacock in the early 70's to the hypnotic meditative drones of Pauline Oliveros and Laurie Spiegel in the early 80's. A more famous electronic producer active in the 80's, and still active today, was the multi discipline artist Laurie Anderson, who's most known work "O Superman" became a crossover pop hit in 1981. These and many more undiscovered female producers paved the way for the future of electronic music, and without their immense contribution, the electronic music landscape today would look very very different indeed....

For info on the Female Pressure network and to search their database of over 1800 female electronic artists, go to www.femalepressure.net

Note: The track, 'Daymoon Sun' from my 'Alien Lullabies' album contains samples created by Daphne Oram using the Oramics drawn sound technique which she invented - samples used with kind permission of the Daphne Oram Trust.