Looking at the history of avant garde music (be it electronic, minimal, music concrete, sound art of whatever else in the genre…) it seems the female contribution in that particular creative sector is highly visible (or shall I say audible?). At first instance I can think of so many female heroes and luminaries which have not only dabbled in the genre but helped defined it - Pauline Oliveros, Marianne Amacher, Daphne Oram, Eliane Radigue, Delia Darbyshire down to Cosey Fanni Tutti, Ikue Mori and Laurie Anderson to latter-day examples like Diamanda Galas and Gudrun Gut - and inspired a generation of us to follow in their footsteps. On the other hand, I’m aware of the statistical realities of female under-representation within the experimental music industry and I feel an ever growing impetus to discuss the role of women in future music.
Despite the accessibility of technological innovations that have helped both the development and exposure of artists all over the globe, the reality remains that women continue to work in environments of biases. We not only need a resource that provides access to countless examples of inspiring careers by diverse female artists but we urgently need a platform that provides dialogues revolving around many of the persistent inequalities women face - and I can’t help to think that the conversation needs to include men. Men's absence from the debate has dramatic consequences, making it overwhelmingly negative. Have you ever asked yourself why the majority of men stay out of the equality debate? If the women's movement produced articulate women to narrate their agenda then where are the men fighting our corners?
It’s unacceptable that women make up half of the world’s population and yet are still considered a minority (in arts, sports, politics, boardrooms etc…) so I would like to make a call for a shift in our approach challenging inequalities. We need to be viewed alongside male contemporaries as equal, valid and influential and it is imperative that we have their support in order to do this. As artists, we need to have an all-inclusive approach to our practices, we need to engage with male contemporaries and inspire collaborative works - we need to tackle the issues from the inside and create a real sense of collaboration. I don’t want the work of female experimental artists to be viewed as isolated from their male peers, and our work should certainly not be seen as exceptional because of it’s rarity. We need to establish alternative avenues of visibility within the music industry so as to display our work and include ourselves fully in the plot - only then will we be in a position to empower a new generation of Fanni Tuttis.
Elsie Martins wrote this feature exclusively for Female First.