Amoeblog

The unsung heroines of Punk/Post-Punk/No Wave/New Wave

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 13, 2009 05:46pm | Post a Comment
Since its beginning, rock music has been a male dominated affair. Women, such as Wanda Jackson, were not just anomalies but curiosities. By the '60s there were plenty of girl groups, female soul singers and a few female-fronted rock bands, but the few actually female-dominated rock bands like Ace of Cups, Fanny, The Girls, Goldie & the Gingerbreads (the first all female rock band to sign to a major label) and even the Shaggs aren't exactly household names. That seemed to change in the '70s, when Suzi Quattro and The Runaways seemed to lessen the shock of seeing girls wielding instruments. Whether he was joking or not, Roger Ebert took credit for the girl rock revolution by creating the Carrie Nations in his screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Things really began to change with onset of the new wave of the late '70s. Not only were there female-fronted bands like Siouxise & the Banshees and Blondie, but there were also bands integrated in various ways, like Talking Heads and later The Mekons, Gang of Four, &c. Now, although you could still listen to the radio for a year without hearing an all-female rock band, it's not entirely out of the question. These bands aren't all entirely comprised of women, but they definitely broke the mold.


The Au Pairs "Come Again"


The Bloods "Button Up" (audio only)

Samantha Bumgarner -- fiddling ballad woman of mountains

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 12, 2009 06:49pm | Post a Comment
Aunt Samantha Bumgarner c. 1937

Aunt Samantha Bumgarner (née Biddix) was a fiddle and banjo player from North Carolina who, in 1924, became the first woman to record hillbilly music. In doing so, she opened the doors for all the great female hillbilly and country musicians who followed. Imagine for a second a world without Brenda Lee, Iris Dement, Jean Shepard, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Norma Jean, Skeeter Davis, Sue Thompson and Tammy Wynette, to name a few. Not a pretty place.

Dillsboro, North Carolina c. 1904
 

Samantha Biddix was born in Dillsboro, North Carolina on Halloween, 1878, the same year Black Bart held up his last stagecoach and, more relevantly, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph. Her parents were Has Biddix, himself a fiddler, and Sara MaLynda Brown Biddix. Though Biddix showed an early interest in music, her father wouldn’t allow her to touch the fiddle, an instrument occasionally referred to by hillbillies as a “devil’s box.” Nonetheless, when he wasn’t around, she played it and displayed a natural talent. The banjo, then viewed as a slightly more acceptable instrument for women, was not forbidden and Biddix’s first, constructed from gourd and cat hide, was presented to her at fifteen. Later, having demonstrated her skills for her father, he bought her a ten cent model and allowed her to perform with him in the area. Ultimately, he consented to her entering a banjo competition in Canton and she won. Gaining confidence, she began entering and winning competitions routinely.

English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

When she married Carse Bumgarner in 1902, he gave her her first fiddle but she remained most acclaimed for her banjo playing. A few years later she acquired the nickname "Aunt Samantha." Although through the lens of modern ignorance, a hillbilly woman gaining fame with the banjo may seem completely out of the ordinary, it was actually fairly common for women to play the instrument, especially amongst hillbillies. In 1916, when Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles began field recording in the upper south, nearly three quarters of the hundreds of tunes they compiled as English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians were performed by women. In addition, many famous male hillbillies learned to play from the women in their lives. Ralph Stanley was taught to play by his mother, Lucy Smith Stanley. Cynthia "Cousin Emmy" May Carver taught "Grandpa" Louis Jones. Clarence "Tom" Ashley learned to play from his aunts, Ary and Daisy. Morgan Sexton was schooled by his sister, Hettie. Earl Scruggs was beaten to the banjo by his older sisters, Eula Mae and Ruby.

26 women's history fictional films

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 10, 2009 11:06pm | Post a Comment
Aelita Queen of Mars  Diary of a Lost Girl
 

   

     

   

   

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24 Fact-Based Films Celebrate Women's History Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 10, 2009 01:06am | Post a Comment
   
    
       
  
   
   
   

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Ruth Crawford Seeger - Modernist-cum-Folkie

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 8, 2009 07:43pm | Post a Comment
Female composers getting the short shrift is certainly nothing new, and is by no means limited to classical music. But as an admittedly casual fan of atonality, dissonance, modernism and serialism, I was surprised in February of this year to, for the first time, stumble across Middlewestern composer Ruth Crawford Seeger's unique, innovative musical voice. She immediately became a featured artist on The Lunatic Asylum and I became interested in her story.

Ruth Porter Crawford was born on July 3, 1901 in East Liverpool, Ohio, supposedly the "World Capital of Pottery." Her father was an itinerant minister. Her mother began her musical education with piano lessons when she was 11. Upon graduation from high school, she entered Foster's School of Musical Art in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1921, when it relocated to Miami, Crawford enrolled at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, where she studied with Madame Valborg Collett, Polish-born Henriot Levy and Louise Robyn. By 24, with the completion of her earliest work, she already displayed a unique modernist voice.

Ruth Crawford c. 1924

In Chicago, she met Djane Lavoie Herz, who in turn introduced her to the music of sometime-serialist Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. Through Lavoie Herz, she met and fell in with transpersonal astrologer/composer Dane Rudhyar, theorist/composer Henry Cowell and pianist Richard Bühlig. Cowell was an early supporter of her work and arranged for performances of her compositions in New York, where her folkish take on avant-garde drew comparisons to the work of Charles Ives and Aaron Copland.

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