Amoeblog

Women of the Western

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 16, 2009 06:48pm | Post a Comment
 

Ever since the dawn of film theory, film critics have loved the Western; probably because its engagement with formula and its psychological subtext are so obvious, so close to the surface, that theorizing about westerns is a bit like kicking gravel and striking oil. The genre bears a similarity to tales of knights errant, who similarly were bound by codes of honor and used strength and wit to defeat malevolence, &c &c &c... Part of what makes the Western attractive for film theorists is the way it shifts and evolves too -- spiraling off subgenres like Curry Westerns, Northerns, Oesterns, Red Westerns ands Spaghetti Westerns -- and engages other genres like samurai films and noir. But whereas a little bit of research turns up several scholarly works addressing women's place in the Western, I haven't been able to find any that focus on female-centric Westerns, nor been able to uncover a clever or cutesy name for the subgenre. When I started this blog, I thought I'd come up with a tiny handful, but was quickly surprised at how many Westerns feature females in roles of central importance.

   
Real women of the west. washing clothes (left), famous madame Chicago Joe (center), bandit Belle Starr (right)

The Wild West was, to be sure, a male-dominated place. Of course, there were women too who, just like their male counterparts, were probably more likely to run a ranch or work in town than to find work as gunslingers, bandits and bounty hunters... although there were those too. The National Cowgirl Museum Hall of Fame has, since its founding, sought to better document the contributions of women in the west. Although women in Westerns generally seem to symbolize civilization/the east, making cowboys uneasy with their use of risque talk and their attempts to transport urban conventions to an untamed land, in real life, that role would've been impractical and probably abandoned pretty quickly. When there's work to be done, propriety and traditional societal constructions would just get in the way. In fact, in Wyoming, for example, women gained the right to vote in 1869, over 40 years before the ratification of the nineteenth amendment. The photographs of Evelyn Cameron depict no-nonsense women who have little in common with the dippy, ditzy cowgirls of Gil Elvgren's art or Hollywood cowgirls. Of course, I'm not suggesting that Hollywood is in the business of portraying reality, but it's interesting to look at the decisions they make when constructing mythology.

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Women's history documentaries

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 14, 2009 10:19am | Post a Comment









              

26 women's history fictional films

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 10, 2009 11:06pm | Post a Comment
 
 

   

     

   

   

   

   

   



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Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.

Art Prints

Delia Derbyshire - electronic music pioneer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 6, 2009 07:33pm | Post a Comment

The Guardian once described Delia Derbyshire as “The unsung heroine of British electronic music,” seemingly implying that there are other heroines of British electronic music that are more widely… sung. I suppose there is Daphne Oram but the English never use less than three adjectives when one will suffice, so let’s just say that Delia Derbyshire is an unsung heroine of music. That she happens to have worked primarily in electronic music is secondary and that she was British shouldn't be held against her. She was a wizard and pioneer who, instead of guarding her magical abililties, eagerly shared her techniques and discoveries, but was stifled by the BBC’s draconian demands that their artists work and die in anonymity.


Delia was born in Coventry on May 5th, 1937. As a girl, she learned piano and violin and attended Barr's Hill School. She later attended college at Girton in Cambridge. After initially pursuing studies in math, she switched courses to music before graduation. After graduation, she began to look for work in the music field, quickly butting up against the deeply entrenched sexism of the field. In fact, in 1959, upon applying for a job at Decca, she was flatly told that their policy was to not hire women to work in the studios. The United Nations proved more diplomatic than the folks at Decca, and she worked there for a short while. Then she returned to England and found employment at the London-based music publisher, Boosey & Hawkes. She didn’t stay long.
In 1960, she was hired as a trainee studio manager at the BBC, working with the Radiophonic Workshop, then just a few years old. It was an organization charged with producing experimental incidental music and sound effects for the BBC Third Programme’s radio plays in cases where the normal orchestral score was deemed inappropriate. Her predecessors had included Harry Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram, two noted pioneers of electronic music and musique concrète.
Derbyshire came on board following Oram’s departure, as part of a group of young artists that also included Brian Hodgson and John Baker. Many of her initial pieces were collaborations with artist/playwright Barry Bermange. One such piece was 1964’s The Dreams, a sound collage of people describing their dreams with Derbyshire's electronic sounds.


Gradually, the Radiophonic Workshop began producing more music and sound effects for television than radio. One year earlier, in 1963, Derbyshire performed her mostly widely-heard work when given the score for Ron Grainer’s theme to a new science-fiction series, Doctor Who. Incorporating filters, tape loops and valve oscillators, she fashioned one of the most memorable pieces of electronic music ever, and one that's especially dear to Whovians. Grainer was so impressed he sought to give Derbyshire co-author credit but the BBC prevented it. Although officially uncredited, the popularity of the theme resulted in her employers giving her many other assignments and she ultimately produced over 200 pieces including noteworthy scores for Great Zoos of the World and Cyprian Queen. The BBC was, however, by no means entirely supportive of her work, rejecting many of her compositions, claiming they were too bizarre, “too lascivious for 11 year olds” and “too sophisticated for the BBC2 audience.”

Love Story - The Band Love and Arthur Lee's Skewed Genius

Posted by Miss Ess, February 17, 2009 10:45am | Post a Comment

One of my favorite bands from the 60s has to be Love. Their music is so unexpected and so unconventional, both lyrically and sonically. I give Arthur Lee the lion's share of credit for this (sorry Bryan MacLean). Lee was truly one of a kind.

I've just watched the recent documentary about Love, Love Story.

Lee formed the band under various names in Los Angeles in the early 60s. It was one of the very first integrated rock bands to hit the scene and gain popularity -- something that is discussed in the film quite a bit, as band members feel they were represented to the press/public early on by colorful psychedelic drawings as a way for the record company to avoid presenting the potentially "risky" fact that the band was made up of both black and white musicians. 

Love was one of the first rock bands to sign to Jac Holzman's Elektra Records and it was not to be a simple relationship between the band and their label. The band members spend a great deal of time in Love Story accusing Holzman of not promoting their work enough. Holzman counters this by pointing out Lee's aversion to touring outside of California. Regardless, the band made three brilliant albums within a span of a year and a half (!) -- Love, Da Capo and Forever Changes -- and increasingly, Lee's moments of brilliance were aggravated by longer and longer durations of virtual insanity because of his drug use.

Due to the fact that he was a young African American man in Los Angeles in the 60s and also because of Lee's skewed view of the world and his paranoid and idiosyncratic thoughts, Love's music portrays the world from an outsider's perspective. This lyrical innovation is just one part of what marks the band's music as distinctive and even refreshing; while Love's albums have some of the hallmarks of the psychedelic era, if you listen to the lyrics, they are highly critical of hippies and their "peace and love" stance. (Yes, ironic considering the band is named Love.) The lyrics are dark and question the way the world works.

Sonically, each album grows more multi dimensional; from Love, which is garage-y and poppy, with sudden time changes and inventive drumming; to Da Capo with its flute accents and experimental full-side-love-it-or-hate-it jam; to Forever Changes which takes the listener on an uncomperable trip through Lee and MacLean's brains with flamenco guitar, strings, Latin-flavored horns, etc. Although the documentary Love Story ends its story after the release of Forever Changes, when the original band broke up, I highly recommend the next album Arthur Lee released under the Love banner: Four Sail, in addition to the first three albums. Four Sail has some of my favorite Love songs ever, and Lee forges a solid comeback in all his quirky glory.

Love Story is a great documentary. Arthur Lee is such a character that it is fun to watch and listen to him. Although his diction is sometimes difficult to understand (and the film's sound is amature), he still presents an ever-strong point of view. There are so many great bits of footage and the interviews, particularly an interview with Bryan MacLean, who died in 1998 and several with Lee, who died in 2005, are precious. Guitarist Johnny Echols is also extensively interviewed and he seems to be the band member who has done the best job of keeping his head together, post drug addiction and fame. Echols adds astute comments to the unfortunately short story of the band Love. Their music is singular, electrifying and resonant; there will never be another group like Love.

Because Love never had a legit radio hit, there is almost no footage of them performing. It's a bummer, but here is the closest they ever came to a hit, a cover of Burt Bacharach's "Little Red Book."
 

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