Jenny Holzer: Don’t Allow the Lucid Moment to Dissolve (2007)
Sometimes we need people’s warmth and empathy to feel whole. I often meditate on the wisdom of others when I’m lost or stuck or struggling with an idea, an action, or a decision. As a list person, I tend to write them down and pin them to the wall by my desk at home. In particular, I’m grateful for affirmative sentiments like:
“Be confident, you’re great”–something a student wrote on an evaluation
“The first thing that happens is that your best gets better, but what really matters is when your worst gets better.”–Louis C.K.
“Imposter syndrome is actually only something that afflicts people who are good at what they do.”–Ann Friedman
And did you hear Laurie Anderson’s rad acceptance speech when Lou Reed was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? In particular, I was struck by the rules they lived by together:
The first one is don’t be afraid of anyone. Now can you imagine living your life so that you are afraid of no one? And second is get a really good bullshit detector and learn how to use it.
And third is be really really tender.
It’s in this spirit that this playlist was assembled. The musicians’ words and voices soothe and guide me during times of reflection and uncertainty. I also remember the ways some of these songs were originally delivered. For example, the lead track first appeared on a treasured mix CD from a good friend. May they bring you comfort and clarity too.
When this episode was originally broadcast on WSUM, the St. Louis grand jury had just decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown. So it was my effort to pay tribute to Brown, as well as celebrate the brave and tireless efforts of protesters in Ferguson. Since that time, we’ve witnessed racism extinguish the lives of Tony Robinson and Freddie Gray, among too many others. Just last week, Dylann Roof’s terrorism against Charleston’s AME Church resulted in the deaths of Depayne Middleton Doctor; Cynthia Hurd; Susie Jackson; Ethel Lance; Rev. Clementa Pinckney; Tywanza Sanders; Rev. Dr. Daniels Simmons, Sr.; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton; and Myra Thompson. We cannot bring these people back, but we can stand against social injustice with our words, actions, and deeds. It is in that spirit that these songs are reassembled.
It’s Monday and we’re all back to the grind. This playlist explores work as a dominant theme in popular music from several different angles. Fun fact: it originated from an independent study I did on gender and labor when I was preparing for preliminary exams!
Foremost, this set is concerned with the cultural value gender ascribes to labor. These songs also consider the role that affect plays in shaping workplace practices and environments, the pride people place in their work, the ways in which workers have to advocate for themselves within a capitalist system, concern over fatigue and exploitation, insistence upon equitable labor and a fulfilling personal life separate from workplace pressures, and even how the process of becoming is treated as work.
This playlist is inspired by and dedicated to the inimitable Joan Harris, Mad Men‘s most valuable player. The introduction–which explains Harris’ journey as a character–contains spoilers. If you’d like to hear me talk about Joan’s feminist evolution, yay! If not, skip ahead to 7:43 for the tunes.
I’m pretty obsessed with covers. It’s always interesting to hear how recording artists approach other people’s songs. Will they perform them “faithfully”? Will they adapt them to reflect other musical genres? Do they seem to disagree wildly with the source material or sing from the perspective of another character? And, particularly if we’re talking about female musicians, what do they do with that most curious grammatical unit–the gendered pronoun–if they’re covering songs first recorded by men? Will they change “she” to “he” if they’re addressing a lover? Will they queer a song by keeping the pronouns “pure”? Remember how Tori Amos went all Cindy Sherman with the album art for Strange Little Girls and posed for portraits based on her ideas about the female characters in the male artists’ songs she was interpreting? This playlist is assembled in that spirit.
Jane Lane: Starry Night (2000)
Image: Leo Villareal, Big Bang (2008)
In May 2014, I began hosting a weekly radio program on 91.7 WSUM called “Feminist Music Geek Presents…” The show is, in many respects, an extension of this blog. It prioritizes women and girls’ historical and contemporary contributions in popular music across a range of genres. Each episode is organized by theme. As a result, it became clear as I started programming FMGP that playlists allow music fans the opportunity to recontextualize recordings as expressions of critique or dissent. So I think of my sets as arguments and conversations between artists who may not have intended to be in dialogue with each other, but whose individual recordings can be reassembled thematically or intertextually.
FMGP is on hiatus until next fall. Over the course of the summer, I will be archiving episodes for streaming here. I’ll try to post at least once a week, though I hope I can upload all 41 of FMGP’s playlists so that listeners can enjoy them before the show returns to the airwaves in September.
I’m starting with the show’s inaugural episode. I chose “spectrum” as its theme for a few reasons. First, my idea of happiness is a box of crayons. On the first day of Kindergarten I told my classmates that my favorite colors were magenta and chartreuse–my parents ran a print shop–and that is still very much the case. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was a big Rainbow Brite fan as a kid. I particularly identified with Shy Violet and wanted to be BFFs with Lala Orange and Indigo. Second, Madison had come out of a long, monochromatic winter of whites, greys, and browns and the city was in bloom. Third, I wanted to acknowledge what a spectrum of color means conceptually to my fellow queer brothers and sisters. Finally, the term was a useful metaphor for the show’s interest in placing women’s voices in a continuum rather than confine them to reductive binary distinctions of similarity and difference. ROYGBIV, y’all.