Music and Mental Health

By Emma Gilham

The effects of COVID-19 have shaken the world. It is easier than ever to fall into a spiral of pessimism and apathy. While we shouldn’t hold ourselves to the same standards as we hold ourselves during a non-pandemic, it is disorienting to look in the mirror and not recognize who is looking back. The World Health Organization reports, women are at a higher risk of having mental disorders. Not to mention, “The high prevalence of sexual violence to which women are exposed and the correspondingly high rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following such violence, renders women the largest single group of people affected by this disorder.” With that in mind, the isolation we are experiencing due to COVID-19 may escalate risk factors or amplify existing psychological struggles. Listening to music has always been a path to inspiration, solace, and focus for me. In fact, listening to music can be beneficial in multiple psychological aspects. Research has suggested that it could improve cognitive performance, decrease symptoms of depression, improve sleeping patterns, and help manage pain. To clarify, I am not saying listening to music will cure mental illnesses or replace any form of professional treatment. However, music could help bring relaxation and reminders of strength to day-to-day tasks.

Have you been needing to clean for the past week, but haven’t had any motivation? Throw on your favorite grooves and get going! Do you need workout inspiration? Look for tracks with 125-140 beats per minute! Are you feeling down? A 2014 study found “overall sad music can evoke positive feelings such as peacefulness, harmony, and kindness.” Go ahead and blast those sad songs, and maybe get a good cry in. You might just come out of it, in a better mood. As we’ve all heard a million times since April, “This is a trying time for all of us.” Don’t forget the simple joys that could help each day be a little better. My personal quarantine favorites by womxn are listed below:

 

Songs

· Gold Dust Woman -Fleetwood Mac

· I Put A Spell on You – Nina Simone

· Savage (Remix) -Megan Thee Stallion (ft. Beyoncé)

· Midnight Sky -Miley Cyrus

· Here You Come Again -Dolly Parton

· Still -Seinabo Sey

· Heart of Glass -Blondie

· Flowers- WILLOW

Albums

· It Was Good Until It Wasn’t -Kehlani

· Folklore -Taylor Swift

· ANTI -Rihanna

· Rare -Selena Gomez

· Cheap Queen -King Princess

· Chilombo -Jhene Aiko

· The Seven Deadly Sins – Shreya

Beyoncé Slays the Country Music Awards

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60aCpaG2S6E[/youtube]

By: Korrien Hopkins

A moment a silence for Beyoncé’s performance at the 2016 Country Music Awards…

Beyoncé and the Dixie Chick’s collaboration was the highlight of the 50th CMA show. They performed a song from Beyoncé new visual album Lemonade and the song is called “Daddy Lesson.”  She expresses how it was growing up with daddy lessons in the perspective of a young girl. The girl seems to have grown up tough after her father was hard on her. He didn’t want anyone to take advantage of her.

As you may know Beyoncé showing up to any award show now days is rare. So, for her to go and blow us all away at the CMA was amazing. Some may be aware that Beyoncé is a Texas native. Her pulling off a country song at the CMA wasn’t all that surprising.  I mean she’s Beyoncé what can’t she do? Some would disagree, there was even controversy over whether she is qualified to perform a country song. But we will let the haters hate, and continue to be great. I mean, no one would down play a great an Eminem performance and say he’s not qualified. Society limits women’s “qualifications” anyways. So, my advice to every woman is to go do what you want and slay while doing it.

 

Esperanza Spalding: Breaking One Boundary at a Time

By Logan Snook

Bassist. Vocalist. Composer. Grammy Award winner (beating out Justin Bieber, I might add). Human rights activist. Esperanza Spalding has been taking names and defying odds for most of her life. After fighting the public school system for years, Spalding dropped out of high school and enrolled at Portland State University at the age of 16, where she earned her B.A. degree in only three years.

She is the youngest-ever faculty member at Berklee College of Music in Boston, hired at the age of 20. In 2006, the year following her appointment at Berklee College of Music, Spalding debuted her first album, Junjo, has been blowing up the music scene ever since. Spalding has used her music and figure in popular music to call attention to human rights violations occurring in our society, and serves as a strong, driven model for women.

Working in an industry that has a strong history of male dominance, Spalding has tossed out any preconceived notions of what a “woman’s role” should be in jazz music. Gender roles have a long and influential history in music and jazz, deterring women away from playing more masculine instruments and keeping them in more traditional and non-authoritative positions. This is a fight Spalding has taken by the horns. Spalding uses her drive, passion, and commitment to her art form to break away from the constraints placed on women in jazz music. In response to being asked about working in a male dominant field, Spalding has responded, “I don’t know how it feels to be anything else but me. I’ve never been something else that I remember in this lifetime.  I just blaze ahead, focused on what I’m focused on.”

Spalding was recently in the headlines for performing at Live at the White House 2016, A Celebration of American Creativity 2016. No stranger to performing for the POTUS, Spalding performed an upbeat and inspirational take on “Sunny Side of the Street” – a song traditional sung as a message for hope.

Want to see what Esperanza Spalding’s music is all about? Check out her performance at the White House here, and check out her website for more information on her albums and music.

Welcome, Logan!

Hi, I am Logan Snook! I am a second yearGetFileAttachment master’s student at UMKC, and am working towards my Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance. I am also a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the UMKC Conservatory. I am originally from Colorado, and lived in Seattle prior to moving to Kansas City. I have loved getting to know Kansas City and experience all the city has to offer over the last year and a half!

As a music student, my life revolves around rehearsals, classes, teaching, and auditions. Outside of the world of music, two of my favorite things in the world are travel and food! Luckily, my profession allows me to combine my love of music, teaching, travel and food all at the same time!

Along with music, I am also passionate about gender equality, especially in higher education and the arts. I am very excited to be joining the Women’s Center this year and look forward to exploring these topics further. I cannot wait to work with so many talented and driven women here, and look forward to working with everyone who visits us at the Women’s Center and at our events!

The Riot Grrrl Movement of the 90’s

By Danielle Lyons

Bikini_Kill_in_1991

Bikini Kill in 1991

The word “Riot Grrrl,” is synonymous with the word feminism. This underground hardcore punk movement started in the early 90’s in Washington, D.C. From their start, Riot Grrrl bands dealt with a big number of women’s issues they felt were not being talked about. Of course, the biggest theme of the Riot Grrrl movement was women’s empowerment. The movement sought to empower women by encouraging them to take their place in the men-dominated punk music scene. Women were encouraged to come to the front of the stage during Riot Grrrl bands’ shows; an uncharted territory for women at the time as they were often excluded. Some of the Riot Grrrl bands that emerged were Bikini Kill, L7, Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile, and Sleater-Kinney. These proactive women did not only create music, they also created zines, political action, and the notorious Riot Grrrl Manifesto.  It is a common misconception that this whole era of music and activism is anti-men. Molly Neuman of Bratmobile summarized it best, “We’re not anti-boy, we’re pro-girl.” In fact, despite initial aggression at the beginning shows, The Riot Grrrl Movement had its fair amount of men supporters such as, Kurt Cobain and Calvin Johnson.

Although the scene faded out in the late 90’s, their influenced is carried on by bands such as Gossip, Kitten Forever, and Skating Polly. Beth Ditto of Gossip stated that The Riot Grrrl Movement was, “Built on the floors of strangers’ living rooms, tops of Xerox machines, snail mail, word of mouth and mixtapes, Riot Grrrl reinvented punk.”

Amanda Palmer and the Art of Asking

By Danielle Lyons

AmandaPalmer_liveAmanda Palmer got her start in the music industry in an indie band called, The Dresden Dolls. She has since been involved with many musical collaborations; her most successful endeavor being Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra. In her career, she is notorious for doing spontaneous performances that are completely free to the public. An integral part of her career has been being accessible and in close contact with her fans.

After leaving her record label, she started a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise money for a record, an art book and a tour. She made the conscious decision to give away her music for free. Instead of forcing them to pay, she asked them for their help in funding her current projects. Her ability to ask for help is what made this Kickstarter campaign a huge success. She raised 1.2 million dollars; the largest music crowd funding to date. She later delivered a speech at a TEDtalk event called, The Art of Asking. Later on she released a book by the same name, which since has reached The New York Times Best Sellers List.

A Woman’s Worth

by Ayomide Aruwajoye

“Cause a real man knows a real woman when he sees her
And a real woman knows a real man ain’t afraid to please her
And a real woman knows a real man always comes first
And a real man just can’t deny a woman’s worth”

Alicia Keys – Woman’s Worth

I’m not sure if you have heard this song, but to all women and men, I feel like this is one of those songs that must be heard. This is a song that I grew up knowing. Everybody, especially the girls in my grade during elementary school, knew this song. I’m positive that we didn’t have a clue what this song meant since we were not yet in the dating stage, but since our mothers let us sing it around the house and we didn’t get in trouble at school for singing the song, we concluded that it was a good song.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/JtMUIwOE2ss[/youtube]

As I got older, especially when I was old enough to drive, I blasted this song in my car for months. It was my anthem. I loved the beat, her voice, but most of all the meaning of the song. A woman’s worth is more than two words put together that sounds pretty. A woman’s worth is something that all women are born with, and it places a status on how we should be treated.

Without knowing your worth you lack the motivation to be treated how you should be treated. A woman’s worth reminds you that you should not be getting paid less than men, rape is not something that is asked for regardless of the clothes you wear. Women shouldn’t go through sexual harassment, domestic violence, and basically that women should be treated right.

In the past, women did not know their worth and were told not to go to school and stay home to cook, clean, and take care of kids, they agreed to these things because they didn’t believe in themselves and their abilities. They were constantly being talked down to by men and I’m sure they had very low confidence levels.

This is why I believe all women should KNOW their worth. The way you feel about yourself can take you a long way. If it’s already established that you will not be treated less than a man, or called out your name, it’s more likely that people will respect that about you but also the fact that you won’t accept it makes you such a strong person.

There’s a saying, “it’s not what you are called it’s what you answer to!” this quote has a lot to do with the “knowing your worth” phenomenon. Young females today address themselves as Bitches and other disrespectful words. They sing along to songs that emotionally and physical attack females in a disgraceful way and think it is okay. For me, being a young adult in college is figuring out what my worth is and requiring to be treated that way or better, especially in my relationships.

The first step is figuring out what your worth is and how you want to be treated. Second step will be actually requiring to be treated exactly how you want to be. Third and final step would be realizing that your worth as a woman is undefinable, you are beautiful, smart, strong intelligent woman and nobody should treat you less than that because like Alicia Keys said, “You will lose if you choose to refuse to put her first. She will and she can find a man who knows her worth!”

Skirts or Pants? How About Both

by Mara Gibson

When I first considered writing on the topic of gender in “classical” composition, I wondered how I could possibly have anything new to say. Then, my colleagues challenged me. Why not? As a consequence, I have read about the role of gender in popular music, punk misogyny, and photography and discussed analogies between film and composition with a number of friends and colleagues. I have conversed with my closest collaborators, both male and female. I have started asking deeper questions, and in doing so, confronting why this issue is so challenging for me.

In graduate school, I consciously disassociated being female with being a composer. In fact, I took that even further and came to the conclusion that being a composer was in direct conflict with what I knew as a teacher, as a student, and as an artist. While I was coming to realize that my work coupled with my teaching style reflected a theme of synergy and convergence, I perceived a dichotomy in trying to fuse my various roles. I am sure some of this can be simply attributed to youth, but also, I believe we have been part of a transformation, where our generation is realizing a gradual shift in the way we view the artist.

Generally, we are coming to accept a more multidimensional role for an artist in the 21st century. Being an entrepreneur, musician, and teacher (and/or any number of other occupations) are all equally important. As Claire Chase said in her 2013 Bienen School of Music convocation address, “You can’t really separate the act of creating music, even very old music, from entrepreneurship.” She examined how entrepreneurship manifests in our time by providing countless examples of how we assume multiple roles: the artist as collaborator, the artist as producer, the artist as organizer, the artist as educator, and the list goes on. The resounding message delivered is that there is no clear roadmap. She inspires her young audience to “blow the ceiling off anything resembling a limitation.” I try to remind myself of this mantra every day; however, it is not always easy.

From my vantage point, the “guru” mentality is an accurate snapshot of the history of the composer/composition teacher relationship. In graduate school, I was encouraged to ignore the gender bias, which at the time was probably for the best in order to preserve my identity; however, this is not the same advice I offer to my students. I want to talk openly and non-judgmentally with them about the inherent challenges of being female and a composer alongside being a composition teacher and entrepreneur. More importantly, I want begin to identify why and how we have fallen into patterns of behavior that support the status quo. We have far too many resources at hand in the 21st century for female composers/teachers/organizers not to have more visible role models.

As women, by and large, we have been taught to view ourselves as made up of independent spheres, separating our profession from our gender, and from our craft. One challenge is to allow and encourage our various roles to operate and shape us in tandem, rather than in silos. For me, this involves accepting that being a good composer is being a good teacher, and that composing is my lifelong lesson. These two essential parts of who I am should not, and cannot, be in conflict. Whether it is teaching and composing, or composing and being a mother, or doing any number of things that we as composers in the 21st century must do to survive, we all deserve the opportunity to merge our identities and define ourselves in our own unique way. Granted, I am primarily coming from the perspective of a female in academia, but I suspect that the challenge of balancing multiple and often simultaneously demanding roles is consistent for female composers in general.

Recent publications about the relationship of women to the field of composition present numerous heartening viewpoints. Amy Beth Kirsten’s “The Woman Composer is Dead” (2012) offers many valuable observations. Kristin Kuster’s “Taking Off My Pants” challenges us to embrace who we are, while maintaining respect for our craft. And Ellen McSweeny’s “The Power List” offers concrete solutions to incite change. These three articles in particular illustrate exactly how much we need to talk about this pervasive issue, so I assigned these articles to students. Their reactions ranged from, “I’m saddened” to “…a women could never have composed Beethoven’s Ninth or Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto…women need to stop having hissy fits about it.”

The teacher in me desperately wanted to understand these reactions, so I researched and looked to the visual art community for answers. As Linda Nochlin probes in her famous 1971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”:

“Why have there been no great women artists?” …like so many other so-called questions involved in the feminist “controversy,” it falsifies the nature of the issue at the same time that it insidiously supplies its own answer: “There are no great women artists because women are incapable of greatness.”

Power structures have long operated along gendered presumptions like the one above. Certainly, all artists struggle to balance both creative and personal life challenges—this has become part of the romantic “plight” of being an artist—but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that for me, this quandary was further complicated by sex and gender. As women, we are pulled in directions that are conflicted, both due to social pressures and the biological constraints of childbearing during key career-building years. Culturally, we are expected to respond in “feminine,” frequently subservient ways, but to follow the modernist trend, as composers we are expected to provide answers.

repetition-nineteen-iii-1968

Repetition Nineteen III by Eva Hesse.

I agree with Eva Hesse that “excellence has no gender.” But how exactly do we begin to tell that story? Visibility is imperative for role models to succeed.

I also relate to Lucy Lippard, who writes, “Of course art has no gender, but artists do.”

So then, the question is: does being a “female” composer make a difference to being a good composer?

In confronting the question solely in the realm of being a good composer, the answer is inequitably no. There are countless examples of superb, successful, living female composers. However, when confronted with being a good composer, alongside being a good mother, and (for me) a good teacher, it becomes more difficult to quantify.

Nochlin answers the women-artist question sensibly:

What is important is that women face up to the reality of their history and of their present situation, without making excuses or puffing mediocrity. Disadvantage may indeed be an excuse; it is not, however, an intellectual position. Rather, using as a vantage point their situation as underdogs in the realm of grandeur, and outsiders in that of ideology, women can reveal institutional and intellectual weaknesses in general, and, at the same time that they destroy false consciousness, take part in the creation of institutions in which clear thought—and true greatness—are challenges open to anyone, man or woman, courageous enough to take the necessary risk, the leap into the unknown.

As creative artists, we are students forever; otherwise, we would not have chosen such an infinite language to study. And frequently we have to act like a teacher, student, and artist simultaneously. Whether it is building music, art collaborations, schools, teaching, or learning, we create materials, build forms architecturally, and communicate those ideas creatively. Remember, maestro, male or female, as artists, we are inherently collaborators.

Gaining a broad perspective through all of the roles we must play has provided a critical lesson for me. Beyond social construction and convention, judgment, joy and anger, we must confront the abyss and challenge, question, and listen. And, above all, we should celebrate being female, and choose to wear pants or skirts as we see fit.


This blog was originally posted to New Music Box.–

Composer Mara Gibson is originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, graduated from Bennington College and completed her Ph.D. at SUNY Buffalo. She attended London College of Music; L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Fontainebleau, France; and the International Music Institute at Darmstadt, Germany. She has received grants and honors from the American Composers Forum, the Banff Center, Louisiana Division of the Arts, ArtsKC, Meet the Composer, the Kansas Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts, the International Bass Society, ASCAP, and the John Henrick Memorial Foundation.

Internationally renowned ensembles and soloists have performed her music throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Asia, and Europe. Recent projects include a world premiere of D(u)o in three movements, a residency in Norway funded through the Trondheim Arts Council including a premiere performance of Fanfare, and a premiere of E:Tip with Madeleine Shapiro made possible through an Encore Award. During Summer 2009, Mara was an Artist-in-Residence at Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand where she returned again during Summer 2011 in Chiang Mai.

Recent and upcoming projects include a new work for duo Contour based in Freiburg, Germany, as well as several newly commissioned works for the Pangea Piano Project, and Chicago-based violist Michael Hall which was premiered in conjunction with the installation of Roxy Paine’s FERMENT at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in April 2010. In 2011-12, she will complete these projects while teaching at the UMKC Conservatory and leading the Conservatory’s Community Music and Dance Academy as director. She is also founder, UMKC Composition Workshop for Young Composers and co-director/founder of ArtSounds.

Email Dr. Mara Gibson at gibsonmb@umkc.edu.