Monday December 17th
I interviewed my 93 year old Granny today, Eileen Cole, for Radio 4's Listening Project. It was amazing. She is such a resilient woman, with so much to say about her past, which she can remember in extraordinary detail. One thing I would like to share is Granny telling me about taking a cup of tea up to her father, Sidney Walker (who was a silent film pianist and violinist) every morning while he lay bedridden with TB for a year, never again to get to his feet, dying at home from the disease at the young age of 44; and her father saying it was his 'little cup of gold'. I just find this so heartbreakingly poignant. So beautiful, and so sad.
Today I am also publishing the first post -in what I hope will be a series, featuring women musicians/composers/ radio presenters talking about and sharing their experiences- by eminent composer/musician/blogger/music educator Kerry Andrew.
My question to the people I approached was this: 'As female musicians/composers/radio presenters, how do you feel your experiences as women have contributed to or influenced -if at all- your music, creativity and career choices today?'
I have had a largely positive reaction from people I've approached, who in the main are potentially happy to share their experiences. Some people have raised some interesting questions that have really made me think about the role of gender in music though- is it right to highlight it or not? Is this kind of question highlighting differences rather than focusing on the shared experiences of ALL musicians? Some people responded by saying they would love to be involved but were not sure anyone would be interested in what they might have to say.. well for a start I would be!! Even more so because they feel this way!
Following some of this feedback, I have therefore decided to also ask the same question of male musicians in the future, to hear from a male perspective. My aim is not to be divisive- I just thought it would be really interesting to hear and share what female musicians/composers (particularly as I am one myself!) have to say about their experiences, from their own unique perspectives, and decided on this angle.
Here is Kerry's response:
"First off, I don't feel that I have ever received anything in the way of prejudice personally as a composer or performer. I have never had anyone stand in the way of my success and feel that I've been able to make choices based on my skills.
However, it is noticeable that there is a lack of female music-makers (creators in any genre, instrumentalists in pop and jazz) which I feel is simply something to be aware of, particularly in encouraging younger women to be successful in the industry (See my Guardian article www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/08/why-so-few-female-composers)
I don't feel that being a girl particularly influences my music or my creativity. Once you get into this topic, you need to start talking about transgender musicians! Where does their music sit if there's such a thing as 'male' and 'female' music?
I dislike the media looking for 'female' angle. simply because they don't look for 'male' ones. I hated that 'feminine' and 'motherly' comment in Jazzwise about you Laura, although I know you don't feel the same way. I feel that denigrates you as a musician first and foremost. They'd never say that about a male musician, that he led the band in a 'fatherly' way so why say so for ladies?
I think my article says plenty about what I think.."
Kerry Andrew is a freelance composer/performer and music educator based in London. She specialises in experimental vocal music and music theatre with a twist of pop, jazz., folk, world music and everything in betweem. She is a published choral composer with two large-scale choral releases on Boreas Music. Her choral and experimental work has been heard on BBC Radio 3, BBD Radio 4, 6Music, ClassicFM and national news channels. She won a British Composer Award in 2010 and is 2010-12's Composer in Residence at Handel House Museum. Kerry performs with award-winning experimental vocal trio Juice, chamber jazz/classical, rock collective DOLLYman, prog-jazz crew Metamorphic and as alt-folk soloist You Are Wolf.