time to change the way we view music and the arts

Genres, Gender and Gosh, It’s a Girl?!

I Fucking Love Science logo

The official logo for “I F–king Love Science”
(Photo Cit. the official Facebook page’s “Profile Photos” – designed by Eric Hamm)

While it may be true that science and art are often facing one another from polar opposite sides of both the popular and academic spectrum, science and the arts -specifically music- face more of the same sociological difficulties than society tends to recognize -or at least recognize adequately enough.

When I was young, I tended to see the “battle” between the sciences and the arts as one of very black and white proportions. (of course, is that not the way most things in life are seen during grade school years…?) The “science kids” could not relate to the “music kids” and as one would get older and come to know the realities of monetary need for school programming and school support, this is where the age-old schism could and would start to form, because, well, you have to support your brethren, right?
Well, what’s interesting, (and possibly needing an anthropological analysis to be fully fleshed out,) is how we as people impassioned about learning, breakdown and draw out lines of social groups and establish their factors of empathy. If social groups were as simple as, “all the trumpet players hang out with trumpet players” and “all the biology majors hang out with biology majors,” there would be no discussion to have. Where the complexity lies, is in how much of a macro versus micro view is used to group people together -regardless of whether they are “team science” or “team music.”
Case in point?
Yesterday, on the CBS morning news, an avid lover of science was interviewed about their online content, featured through a Facebook page / Twitter account. The element of surprise in the story was the gender of said science lover/blogger. Elise Andrew is the mind behind “I F–king Love Science” and she caught the internet, and especially her followers, by surprise, when she revealed her Twitter account and her gender suddenly became a major focal point. Many were in disbelief the page was created and run by a woman. This being in spite of the fact that Ms. Andrew has never acted in complete anonymity and her name has always been present on the science page’s “About” section.

As is explained in part of the interview below by Dr. Michio Kaku, though science is not an exclusively male dominated field (anymore,) and even though there are branches of science that have women dominating the majority, many other sects of the field still significantly lack a female presence.

The “elephant in the room,” as it was described in the interview, dealt with three things: women, the soft sciences and the hard sciences. Dr. Kaku made mention of women progressing in areas of study like biology and psychology; generally deemed soft studies. However, with hard studies like physics, engineering, math and chemistry, percentages are still notably low in woman Ph.D. candidates. Giving personal perspective on how slanted things used to be, when Dr. Kaku was studying at Harvard, he explained the physics classes were “typically 100% male.”

All of this being said, it becomes intriguing to think about the kind of discussion and interchangeable support that might arise if musicians, music journalists, scientists and technical thinkers were to look across the table at one another through the lens of common gender, rather than the lens of their contrasting professions. Such an idea might come off colored a little feminist but this isn’t intended as a feminist rant. Rather, it is just an observation of another angle these two social groups might be able to examine to find common ground and support their respective existences; perhaps lessening the perpetual struggle between the two for stability and power in the academic and professional worlds.
Music in general, as an enjoyed activity and interest, doesn’t really get automatically “gender boxed” but, just start separating the genres… Certain musical instruments, behaviors and aesthetics associated with one style or another… with any one of these factors, women are not always the first to come to mind -let alone be thought of as a potential majority. As with science, things have loosened and improved but because of these varying outside factors, women (or to be fair, men as well,) establishing themselves as vehement fans of some genres is not always accepted -especially when an individual avoids a genre’s other social norms and expectations in an attempt to simply like the music for the music. 
The extreme nature of metal, the regional connections of country, the affluent expectations of classical, the intellectual assumptions of jazz… Throw in the bells and whistles of appearance and public behavior that accompanies any of these and it becomes nearly impossible not to question how it manages to all fit under the same umbrella.
Like the wavering balance between connection and deviation of the sciences, illustrated through this “xkcd” comic strip, might it be possible that aside from the inarguable differences in tempo and instrumentation, that the foundations of musical genres are just an application and manifestation of sociological mentalities? Furthermore, that these mentalities are born from the non-subjective structure of a composition, which, in and of itself, is simply physics and math?? (e.g. Can someone count us off at the 15th bar in 5?)
xkcd comic strip #435 – “Purity”
(Cit. xkcd.com)



…but then, doesn’t that make “mathcore” a redundant genre label?
/end bad joke attempt here.

One thing is for certain: People like Ms. Andrew and expectation-busters like her Facebook page serve as great reminders without boundary, that human behavior and historical restrictions can, and should, be challenged constantly. In other words: You go girl!

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