Friday, 20 June 2014

Girls and Electric Guitars

I recently went to Birmingham to see my husband in Rhys Chapman's composition of 100 electric guitars called "A Secret Rose for 100 guitars".  It was an extraordinary night.  My daughter who is 6 loved it too (with her top of the range headphones on!)

But I only saw about 5 women in the ensemble and was disappointed that more women didn't apply to be part of the performance.

I don't think it was anything to do with the organisers, many of whom were women.  Nor was it a bias of the composer, Rhys Chatham who said this on Facebook

I'd like to mention, that Daria (one of the 100 guitarists) wasn't the only the woman in the band.  there were others

Ya know, when I first saw Patti Smith, she inspired so many people to begin playing. She was a poet on the poetry scene in the 70s,, and we all figured, if Patti could do it, maybe we could too? And that's what made the NY scene so cool back then, all these people who loved music, like Arto and Ikue and Kim, coming out of whatever backgrounds, and they all decided to play music, and it was way cool. Half the people in the bands in the no wave scene were women. I could name many, just thought I would mention that; Guitar: it isn't just a guy thing, after all.
Malina Moye

But Women guitarists aren't considered the norm. Why?

With a bit of research you can see there are plenty about.  Fender at the beginning of last year did this article which had the top 10 Guitar Goddesses.

I wish I had an answer to this one.  I don't know why only 5 women applied to be in the 100 Guitars, why there is biased thinking towards female electric guitarists. However one of the 5 girls at Rhys Chapman's concert was a young girl, who must have been about 11 or 12.  One of the female guitarists told me that she said "I love playing the guitar but I can't find any of the other girls who want to play too".

My husband, who runs a contemporary music night called @SonicImperfecti is doing his bit, aiming to create a gender balanced event throughout the year.  He's actively looking for female acts, not only ones who play electric guitar but who play experimental music.

I don't have the answers to why female guitarists are considered less likely than men,  but I do know that if more event organisers thought about their gender balance and more women step up to perform, it will go a long way to changing perceptions. And that 12 year old girl and my 6 year old daughter might think quite differently in the years to come.

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