Friday, September 03, 2010

diversity, music, and art

Yesterday, I posted my internet meme post of 15 albums in 15 minutes. Yeah, i don't normally do these things, but I needed a mental break from conferences and class prep. Hey, at least I didn't tag anyone...which is important, because I hate coercion...unless I'm getting paid to do it.

Anyway, within a stupidly brief amount of time, a friend of mine pointed out (on some social networking site...apparently, she's too good to comment here) that I had a very "dudely" list. Yes, it's true...there were utterly no female artists on it at all.

After I saw this comment, I had to go off to my lit class. We had a bit of discussion on the general concept of heroes in general. When I asked what the first thing that came into my students' minds was with the word "hero," the answer was, of course, super heroes (hey, an area of specialty!). So we made a list and talked about what being a superhero (and, by extension, heroes in general) meant. After class, one student came up to me and asked if we were indeed going to talk about how heroes seem to be male and white. I assured her that yes, it was all part of my maniacal plan.

Of course, when I started driving home, the two incidents coalesced. When thinking about my lit course's readings, I did think about the general variety I tried to include (working class, Latino, different genres, and so forth)...but it still wasn't as diverse as I would've liked...there is only two black authors, for instance, but as this was my first time teaching this class, I had to pick from people I knew. I was constrained by my own experience.

Then, I started thinking of my albums. Of course, Aimee Mann (most likely I'm With Stupid) should've made the list. Caitlin Cary, if I had more time to think, would've also been in serious consideration. But what other female artists? No one came to mind. I also realized my list was very, very white. Yes, Living Colour would've rectified this (and, as they were one of my most important high school bands, they would've earned their place)...and Hendrix of course was a serious contender. And I love Motown, Sam & Dave, and Taj Mahal, but greatest hits albums and box sets seemed cheating. But there was no other Latino artists, for instance.

For music, there's a certain narrative at work which determines the music I've experienced. I started off with heavy metal (the British variety more than the American/glam-inspired variety), as I was particularly drawn to the virtuosity and power of the guitar-playing (undoubtedly because of my personal inadequate feelings of my own masculinity, or something like that). Yet metal is also a fairly non-diverse genre, so there just weren't a lot of non-white male options to chose from even if I would've thought of artist diversity at the time. At any rate, Vixen did nothing for me.

When I started to wane on the "shock value" and the "play it close to the genre conventions" aspect of much of the later metal I heard, I moved to Something about the Johnny Cash-meets-Replacements sounded more "real" to me (whatever that means) while still stressing the power and crunch of a guitar. But was it more diverse? Well, there were a few women, but that was about it. I then moved to greasy bar rawk, but it was pretty much, in terms of diversity, the same thing.

I like to think that when it comes to music, I'm not really constrained anymore by genre conventions, by labels, or any of that...but unfortunately, I still tend to move within predictable music styles. Yes, I'm more diverse than I ever have been in terms of the artists to whom I listen, but my friends can still easily point out "Mike Music." And unfortunately, what counts as MikeMusic is still mostly performed by a narrow group of people.

I know I should be diverse. I know I'm missing out by not following a wider variety of artists, and I do want to expand what I experience. However, in the music, I'm constrained by my tastes, and I just need to hear the power of a G chord. Diversity is a definite requirement of the lit class, so as well as wanting to include a variety of writers, I know I must do so. Music is different, though, because while I know I want diversity, I'm also unable to give up the sound of a raunchy guitar.

I only see one solution: a government grant to increase the diversity of rawk performers by getting a guitar and a distortion pedal into every child's hands! A Marshall in every bedroom! Loud noises as a government mission!


Anonymous said...


Awesome post, just want to say thanks for the share

Anonymous said...

Hi, very interesting post, greetings from Greece!