Thoughts on Femininity and music (and writing)

The October 2011 issue of Jazz Times has a couple of articles that (at least in part) deal with the issue of gender diversity, or lack thereof, in the jazz sphere. Nate Chinen‘s column addresses the lack of female jazz critics. In writing about why this lack of female jazz critics should bother us, he says, “You should care because our discourse lacks an illuminating perspective.” The issue also includes David R. Adler‘s piece entitled “Understanding Nicholas Payton.” Talking about the all female reed section in his TSO, Nick says that he is “…trying to develop a band that is more inclusive of different types of energies. Also, I think the feminine energy brings a different sensibility to the group, and it balances out the yang energy, which is cool.”

I agree strongly with these sentiments, not because I have two daughters and want them to feel comfortable becoming critics or musicians or whatever else they might like to become (although that is also true), but because as Nate and Nick each point out, the feminine perspective is different and important and good.

Last year I took part in a group called New Generation that was organized by Georg Graewe. We did two nights of shows in Dortmund, Germany. There were 12 of us in the group, although we broke down into smaller units as part of each show, and 7 of the 12 of us were women. It was the first time that I can recall I had ever been in the sexual minority in a musical situation. I have been in the racial minority in many musical situations, but never had I been in a group with fewer men than women. It was great. The energy was absolutely different than had the group been all men, and different in a positive way. It is hard to be specific about how the musical and social vibes were different, but they definitely were, and I think all of our musical, and critical, experiences would be well served to have a better balance of masculine and feminine energy.