It’s Maiden Monday!

…Because I say it is, damn it. And because I am learning these two songs:

Playing these has given me new respect for Steve Harris. Not that I didn’t love Iron Maiden already, but he adds so many neat little flourishes to his parts that I only half-noticed before actually trying to play them. And getting the timing right on those fast triplets in “Run to the Hills” has proven more difficult than I thought, though I did play them relatively decently last time I practiced. More accomplished musicians can feel free to chuckle, but hey, at least admit it’s something of a step up from my previous Motorhead/Celtic Frost/one or two early Metallica songs repertoire.

So, there’s this post making the rounds in feminist blogland I wanted to say a little something something about. This woman wrote about being a female musician and fan, dealing with sexist bullshit on the part of men she used to perform with and hang out with, and being bored with what she terms “dude music.”

There were parts I definitely related to. While I do make it a point not to cut down other women to be “one of the guys,” I do put pretty intense pressure on myself as a lady musician to perform well and not embarrass myself. Here’s a little secret: before me and my genius guitarist pal started hanging out, I was fucking terrified of playing with people who weren’t my boyfriend, because I was not only afraid of playing badly, I was afraid of being the example people pointed to when they said “girls can’t play.” I’ve seen people unfairly dismiss female musicians for weird, arbitrary-seeming reasons (for example, people cutting down Gallhammer for not being virtuoso musicians but not criticizing any of the 9 million other shitty musicians in the crusty-black-metal world…show me a drummer for one of those bands who can actually keep time consistently, and I’ll fart a cupcake. I do like some of those bands, but technical geniuses they ain’t). I’ve seen people utter the completely mystifying phrase “I just don’t like female vocals.” Huh? “Female vocals?” Can you really put Runnhild Gammelsaeter and Jesse Quatro in the same category? Maybe if that category is “awesome,” but certainly not otherwise.

But where she lost me was when she started saying stuff like this:

Dude music is music that can ever be described as “noodling.” Dude music is post-rock, and prog-rock, and rock that exists not to say anything, but to showcase how awesome the men in the band are at playing guitar. Dude music is music that has nothing to offer people who are disenfranchised or oppressed, because it either is totally uninterested in their disenfranchisement/oppression, or actively profits from it.

You know what? I LIKE technically accomplished music. It’s not a prerequisite, of course: I also like music that’s not technically accomplished at all, like Amebix and Crass and the Misfits (actually, most of the ’80-’86 era of punk rock/hardcore). But yeah, I like shit with solos and wacky time signatures and what have you. As a musician, I admire the display of skill; as a fan, I like the ability of a skilled musician to evoke a variety of moods by just using different techniques and musical phrases. Does this make me a Dude(TM)? I think that’s a tad reductive.

And saying that wanky music has nothing to offer disenfranchised folks because it does not directly address their disenfranchisement ignores the way people can make meaning out of song that isn’t necessarily directly evident to a person who is not a fan of that particular music. When I pump my fist to Slayer songs, it isn’t because I really relate to the lyrics and think they describe my life (since I am not a Satanist or a serial killer), it’s because I am translating the feeling of energy and aggression I get from the music itself into my life circumstances. Reign In Blood was the soundtrack to my teen angst (and my current twenty-something angst, for that matter) not for any of its immediately obvious qualities, but because that aggression (again, in the music, not really the lyrics) was something I could adapt to my personal circumstances. I know I really go overboard mentioning Robert Walser and Running With The Devil, but he does go into detail about this and also knows a lot more about music theory than I do, so check him out for further reading.

~ by Smellen on April 26, 2010.

2 Responses to “It’s Maiden Monday!”

  1. Fuck me, that live “Run to the Hills” is ferocious. Top of their game there. Steve Harris is one of the great metal bassists, no question. And all their stuff is tremendous fun to play.

    I was a huge Megadeth fan as a teen, precisely because their stuff was technically challenging and therefore had a kind of aspirational value to me when I was learning to play guitar: “one day, I’ll be able to play that”. Twenty years later I sort of can play a satisfyingly high percentage of it, and a lot of my earlier love of the music was bound up with the feeling that it would be awesome to be able to play that well, together with the growing confidence that this was a kind of awesomeness that was in principle achievable. A great virtue of Metallica is that most of their stuff is accessible to any teenage guitarist who’s prepared to put in the hours practising, including the soloes. You just need someone who’s a bit better than you to show you how to do it.

    This fits in well with the kind of dudely competitive-cooperative culture that is elsewhere manifested by groups of teenage boys obsessively practising the same skateboarding moves over and over again in front of each other, and I can see how that culture could be quite bruisingly dismissive or exploitative of any passing lone woman who inexplicably decided she wanted to join in; but that’s dumb teenage boys (of whatever real age) for you, and I believe it’s also part of the reason why things like riot grrrl happened.

    • One of the things I find very interesting about riot grrrl was that it happened within punk rock, which supposedly had this ethos of “it doesn’t matter if you actually know how to play, join a band no matter what.” So that whole attitude of approaching musicianship as a (dude-ly) craft wasn’t there, or wasn’t supposed to be there, anyway. Yet a lot of punk rock women still got dismissed/ignored enough to want to start a movement like that. I guess it shows that a “dude” attitude is not necessarily attached to virtuosity.

      And yes to what you said about Metallica. What I like about playing their stuff is that it’s interesting for bassists, too, since Cliff Burton was basically holding down the entire rhythm section by himself (Lars Ulrich being nothing more than a small, coke-snorting human drum machine). Lately I’ve been playing the introduction to “For Whom The Bell Tolls” a lot as a practice warm-up – such a fun little part. Thrash in general is pretty great, since it’s got the punk rock influence but is a little more sophisticated musically. I like the punk rock attitude that you don’t have to be an untouchable genius to be in a band, but I feel like that sometimes turns into a weird fetishization of mediocrity. Like, my punk rocker boyfriend is a really good guitarist but he refuses to play solos at all. Dude! Come on! It’s ok if people know you are good at the things you like to do! Sigh.

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