EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

Playing Loudspeakers, Unsettling Concerts. Gender and Performance in Interdisciplinary Electroacoustic Music

Hannah Bosma

Hannah Bosma, attachement


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Where and how to find gender in electroacoustic music, its practices and performances? The prevalent discourse on electroacoustic music is to a large extent technical or formalist, abstract and “neutral”. In my research on electrovocal music, the voice was an entry point to discuss gender in electroacoustic music. In the current paper, however, I will look for other ways to find gender in electroacoustic music, elaborating on the relation of gender to fundamental aspects of electroacoustic music.
The paper discusses in what ways the seemingly neutral or abstract discourse of electroacoustic music and music technology relates to gender. The modernist discourse of electroacoustic music avoids femininity (such as subjective musical experience and immersion in uncontrollable waves) by substituting, disguising or controlling it with something masculine (such as objective discourse and distancing visualisation techniques).
In this context, the work of Huba de Graaff and Cathy van Eck is of specific relevance. The musical examples demonstrate the different ways in which Huba de Graaff and Cathy van Eck present loudspeakers on stage as musical-theatrical instruments and the references to gender in these works. Cathy van Eck’s “soundwalks” Extended Ears (2013) and Hearing Sirens (2005–2010) turn the soundwalk – as it were – inside out and add another layer to this multifarious genre.
Alternative conceptions of music and sound go with alternative practices, when audio technology is not used as an abstract apparatus for perfection and control, but staged as resistant materiality, as multifunctional media technologies with musical and socio-political impacts, or to reflect on and change musical performance.
This paper offers a preview of some of the issues discussed in my forthcoming article on gender for the Routledge Companion to Sounding Art (Marcel Cobussen, Vincent Meelberg and Barry Truax (eds.), forthcoming 2015).