2.2 Portfolio

1. Overview

2. Structural Composition

i. Sectional Work: encounter(s)

ii. Developmental Work: guilty soundings

3. Sound Synthesis: The sunlight in Matsumoto barely reaches the water

4. Collaborations: FRINGE 2018/documentary

5. Exterior projects

i. White Gums

ii. great statue

iii. Breaking Out THNMF

iv. Folk music

v. trio (whispered)

6. Electronic Music Overview writings

i. Riverside Rave; a review 

ii. And Don't Call Them Lady Producers

Contents
1. Overview
 

I met Felicia Atkinson in July; the French experimental electronic music producer sat across from me in the dimly lit Late Night Valentine basement after her set. She told me she had only started using Logic recently, and before that had used Garageband to produce all her music. She told me that I didn’t need ‘gear’ to perform electronic music. She told me I didn’t need to Ableton and production experience to produce electronic music. I didn’t tell her she was the first person who made me feel like I was allowed to write electronic music, allowed to be inexperienced, allowed to be learning, and allowed to be both vocalist and producer.

 

This, amongst other realisations, has imparted a sense of creative independence, agency and confidence within me, encouraged by particular peers and mentors within the music community. Units this semester have happened to align to support this personal development, the mixing and sound synthesis units providing me with access to skills, knowledge and tutelage that I have found difficult to access outside of university. After every Electronic Music Overview lecture I went home and wrote something new, inspired by the sounds I was perceiving, the information I was receiving. I have felt challenged but valued, supported in my endeavours yet more than ever aware of the homosocial power structures within the electronic music community. This has prompted me to really question my identity as a female composer, whether that be within electronic music circles, experimental genres or folk and acoustic scenes. I feel a sense of political responsibility more than before, but I feel saturated with creativity and ambition. 

2. Structural Composition
 

2.i encounter(s) sectional structure

Creative Process

This piece started by recording a brief sample of different motion sequencer presets from the Sculpture synth in Logic, including:

  • Close Encounters

  • Dancing Anvil

  • Flowing Winds

  • Fat Groove

  • Glitch Factory

  • (and a white noise oscillator)​​

encounter(s) - great statue
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See the larger score here

Working with DAW presets is sometimes perceived as a cop-out, or cheap production, but the idea isn't so objectionable to me. For one, having a background in folk music, I remain aware that most musicians working in acoustic genres are all using the same instruments. This has been tradition for hundreds of years in Western Art Music, and then Western popular music, yet musicians aren't criticised for using a guitar, they're evaluated on how they use the guitar, and what they write with it. Now in electronic music production, I understand the option to create our own instruments is available, and in this age, very accessible too. But as someone who has only recently started producing electronic music, I find the process of starting from presets and then synthesising specific parameters, to be an efficient and educative process for me; educative because I am coming to understand how this specific synthesiser functions, becoming familiar with the GUI of the plug-in, and getting an example of the capabilities of the synthesiser with presets of a complexity far beyond what I might be able to configure at this stage. (It's also a little funny that because I'm using the undesirable, free, 'packaged' presets in Logic, not many other electronic producers might be familiar with the sounds I'm using).

The compositional process was definitely investigatory, opposed to writing to express an emotion or personal idea, the method of writing that comes most naturally to me. Like a new instrument, composing in a DAW provides me with the opportunity to explore and master electronic production techniques. The sonic results of this exploration feel so fresh and exciting that they satisfy a different part of my creative brain. I usually reach creative satisfaction by accurately, and concisely expressing an emotion/idea in a sonic form, whereas in the writing process for encounter(s), the satisfaction was not so much in achieving concision, but in assembling sonic moments in one aesthetically pleasing structure, that alludes to hundreds of other possible assemblages, and variations on the musical content of those moments. It feels very different to how I’ve written previously; being hyper-aware of the ease in manipulating the sounds created, reordering moments etc. rather than being restricted by the capabilities of acoustic instrument players, the sonic capabilities of their instrument, and recording logistics. 

 

SECTIONAL STRUCTURE

This piece can be described following a sequential non-linear block structure, as a listener can easily identify discrete sub-structures, or ‘moments’ (Stockhausen) occurring in succession (never over-lapping). encounter(s) snatches between musical content in sudden twitches, but (I feel) remains playful it it’s unexpected movements and changes in pace. While the exposition of the piece appears random, a kind of narrative arises over the duration of the piece as the listener becomes familiar with the 6 ‘voices’ (presets) and can begin to follow movements as a dialogue between these voices. A more predictable narrative emerges at the end of the piece, with the opening voice (‘Fat Groove’) descending in pitch each time it reappears. This descent brings the piece to a resolution; without it I feel the structure could easily continue on. 

 

COMPOSITIONAL PROCESS 

The entire piece is underpinned by vocal samples, which I created using Karlheinz Essl's Sequitur Max MSP patch. The patch takes an audio input (I used a condenser mic through an interface) and outputs a 'canon' part, which works using a number of delays, tapped at irregular periods. It then has a number of effects that the vocalist can control during performance; harmony, flange, ring modulator, comb filter, reverb (which is set at a default level when the patch is opened), and tremolo. These effects can be controlled manually, or using the space bar (which moves through a series of effects in an order pre-determined by Essl's vocal piece Sequitur, which the patch was designed for). Also available is an EQ, and volume levels of the direct audio input, the canon part, and the main volume. ​​

There is an inbuilt 'record out' function, which results in a dry input recording, and a 'wet' recording of the patch effects. The 'wet' recording audio files are what I used to create the base layer of guilty soundings, splicing the original audio file into smaller parts and then arranging them to create a melody, harmony and rhythm (the intentional clicks give a real percussive attack to the samples which I love, though when appropriate I have avoided this by cross-fading between clips). Other electronic instruments include a bass preset, 'trap bass', and a percussive sound, 'FM builder', both from Logic's ES2 instrument. 

 

The only 'acoustic' sounds are field recordings, some taken using a ZOOM H5, some taken with an iPhone. These sounds include:

  • coin rolling

  • coins being rubbed together

  • an analogue clock buzzing

  • whistling/humming at the same time

  • a children's toy

  • laughing

  • two women singing John Come Kiss Me (myself and a friend)

  • a Panadol package rustling 

  • a pan flute 

  • a dog running over floorboards

  • sharp intakes of breath 

  • a friend singing a folk song at the Perth wetlands in the cultural centre

  • birds at ECU

  • car driving past at night

  • choir singing cluster chords ​

2.ii guilty soundings 
(developmental structure)

Karlheinz Essl's Max MSP patch 'Sequitur IX'

The field recordings are separated into two tracks and have panning automation that usually place consecutive samples in opposing positions in the LR array, giving a wider stereo image. None of the field recordings were taken specifically for this piece; I already had them on my hard drive, left over from a number of different projects, as well as some I took as a kind of personal archive. Though they share nothing in common other than having all been recorded by me, I suppose the basis for choosing which sounds got included was mainly to do with the aesthetic value of them. Most of the field recordings in the first half are close-up recordings of small domestic items, (eg. clock, coin, children's toy, Panadol packet), which I think are all really beautiful, under-appreciated sounds that create quite an intimate mood in the beginning of the piece. Quite crucial this feeling of intimacy is each sound having its own moment to shine. Appearing in rhythmic unison with the vocals, each field recording appears individually, never overlapping with another. 

 

Working with field recordings and audio samples in this way is a practice that I have been developing while writing radio music. The process involves having a huge amount of material, selecting parts of this material (often very small samples, possibly less than a second long), arranging the selected parts to form rhythms/melodies/narratives/harmony. In a way this is similar to what more traditional Western Art Music composers do; they have a huge selection of instruments to choose from, and a (more limited) selection of pitches. (Note I'm referencing composers working within conventional/traditional genres). Working using a process influenced by radio music/collage places far more focus on the sound object, a term coined by Pierre Schaeffer, and used in musique concréte theory. The samples I work with can't be heard as pitch or rhythm alone, and must be evaluated according to a more complex, and I believe subjective manner, as most samples I choose have a recognisable source, and come with their own set of connotations (either societal or particular to the listener) 

guilty soundings (score excerpt)

DEVELOPMENTAL STRUCTURE

Inside out development: a kernel or 'seed' musical idea is multiplied and transformed to generate the musical material 'upwards' to the large scale. 

The piece begins with a the ‘kernel’ melody/phrase, created by sequencing 4 samples of vocals put through Essl’s Sequitur Max patch. This melody is then repeated and slowly transformed/developed. Timbral & textural complexity increases as the melody is punctuated with field recordings, found sounds, glitches and electronic instruments. 

3. Sound Synthesis studio composition:
 The sunlight in Matsumoto barely reaches the water
 
The sunlight in Matsumoto barely reaches the water - great statue
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You’re a pink coat

You’re an open book on the carpet

You’re too indecisive to believe it’s Tuesday

You’re a Taurus, or maybe a Gemini

Your uncertainties are contagious

You’re like a Joni Mitchell song that comes on in the car

You’re like a Joni Mitchell song in my head in Matsumoto 

You’re like the water it looked that day

You’re an undulation 

You barely know each other, it still hurts

0'00

Begins with Pulse Sequence, an arpeggiator from the ES1 instrument in Logic, and audio of me breathing, which is bussed to an aux channel with reverb effect from the Space Designer reverb plugin. The particular reverb effect is called ‘Nomadic’ from within the ‘Drone Tones’ selection, which essentially creates a pitched reverb which sounds at a base pitch of C. 

 

The Pulse Sequence arpeggiator emerges slowly, beginning with an attack time of 188ms, and gradually being automated down to an attack time of 3ms. Simultaneously, the cut off is being increased from the minimum (25%) to around 80%, giving the arpeggiator a fairly rich harmonic spectrum, and a little bit of twang that cuts through other elements in the mix. 

 

0’47

a recording of a trio improvisation (Shanae, B and my avant folk group) enters, giving the piece a little more organicism. This audio runs throughout the duration of the piece, remaining very hidden for the most part, but eventually emerging in the last minute.

 

1’00 

I’ve used a Voice Memo of me (very sick at the time) singing the line from Mac Demarco’s song Watching Him Fade Away, ‘Even though you barely know each other it still hurts watching him fade away’. In The sunlight in Matsumoto barely reaches the water I’ve only used the part of the line ‘you barely know each other it still hurts’, and I’ve segmented and repeated this phrase throughout the piece. In a way it becomes the ‘hook’ later on after the verse vocals, where more high quality recorded vocals join in on the phrase. The iPhone quality recording does introduce a grainy, candid, unprocessed sound that I like to incorporate into my electronic music (sometimes contrasting Macbook microphone recorded vocals with high quality condenser recorded audio). 

 

1’30 

the Pulse Sequence arpeggiator is doubled by another identical track, the MIDI data displaced by a quaver so that the two arpeggiators, panned left and right, create a dialogue that bounces around the stereo image and the melodic pattern is less predictable. Note, the attack time on the left panned Pulse Sequence is slightly slower. I might have been able to achieve a similar effect by using a delay (I’ve effectively done that manually). 

At the same time, the instrument ‘Mountain Flute’ from the Sculpture instrument in Logic enters, providing a sustained harmonic accompaniment to the bouncy arpeggiator (but using the same MIDI data). I’ve become a little more familiar with the Sculpture synth, often manipulating parameters in existing presets to get the sound I’d like. ‘Mountain Flute’ is an instrument that I quite like the sound of already, so I did little tampering, aside from slightly shifting the position of the wave shaper selector in Sculpture, moving it to a position between Nylon and Steel, which gave the synth a kind of resonance where the higher harmonics appear slowly throughout the sustain. 

 

1’55

The instrument ‘Synthetic Double Bass’ from Sculpture synth enters, which has an attack that begins almost a semitone above the dictated pitch, and slides down to the pitch. This gives the bass a kind of wobbly, organic feeling despite holding a steady pedal for the entire piece. 

 

3’00 VOCALS

Verse begins, one-take vocals panned hard left and right and offset by a very small amount to give a wide stereo image. I’ve come to enjoy recording one-take vocals, improvising the melody from poetry I’ve written (which has also been devised in an relatively improvisatory, non-critical manner).

Three harmony vocals enter for the hook/refrain, ‘you barely know each other, it still hurts’, panned in between the two wide main vocals. Punctuating the end of the hook/refrain are ‘weird mic sounds’, (recorded from when my interface was making strange sounds), and heavy breathing audio, both contributing to a kind of panicked, airy outburst that dissolves back into the steady arpeggiator motion. 

 

5’00

The same verse vocals enter, but I use the Vocal Transformer plugin to create effects. I automated the formant very gradually over the verse duration, the left-panned vocals increasing (towards an ‘e’ sound), and the right-panned vocals decreasing (towards an ‘o’ sound). I also automated the fine pitch, the left-panned vocals increasing, and the right-panned vocals decreasing, which doesn’t alter the pitch that much, but when pushed to the limits creates an artefact that sounds almost like a tremolo; a wavering quality that I really like. 

 

7’30

The last three minutes of the piece, the two arpeggiators are being automated to decrease the cut off and increase the ‘sub’ harmonic which combines to make it feel like the arpeggiator is descending. After finishing, I also decided to automate the tempo, to at points hold back the arpeggiator, or push it forward, just to create a little interest rhythmically. I like that kind of glitchy-ness, I feel it adds a human quality to electronic music. 

4. Collaborations: Short documentary film & FRINGE 2018
 
Tender at FRINGE 2018
with Michelle Aitken for Micromoves

Whatever you are trying to escape will be there to catch you when you fall, and to return to when you become frightened of being by yourself. Tender is a dance about, among other things, women that love the wrong people. About conflicting desires to be held, and to be free. The space between holding and harming, nurturing and supressing. How the line can be crossed before you even know it’s there.

Three female dancers, each moving with an arresting and soulful individuality, traverse a landscape of shifting images. They are compelled away from and into each other’s arms as though magnetic. The world is dark yet warm, with an new emotionally raw score by composer Annika Moses, that meets between electronic soundscapes and organic field recordings and vocals.

Those seeking protection encounter those seeking to not let go. The dancers break into restless, sinuous solos, and come together in images that shift back and forth between the symbiotic and the parasitic. Tender is a dance about being held so tightly you can’t breathe. Holding something so tightly that it is crushed out of existence.

Dance as a medium lends itself for me to playing in the necessary ambiguities of communication without words. I’m interested in making choreography that stems from the nuances of bringing into contact characters with shifting desires. Solos will be generated from rigorous explorations of physical states. Writing and movement prompts will enable the sensations of memories and past experiences to play out in the body.

House of Joys at FRINGE 2018
with KAN collective; Annika Moses, Noemie Huttner-Koros and Kate Thresher for Peaks

ups, finger painting, face painting, activities that encourage laughter and a kind of reckless abandon; this is a world where the rules of the adult world are suspended. Then each member is led individually into the House of Joys for a time of reflection, immersed in the tactile, calming blanket fort, safe from the worries of the outside world.

 

In here participants engage with one of our artists and are encouraged to reflect upon the ways they incorporate play and fun in their everyday lives. House of Joys is a playground for adults to rediscover the freedom and fearlessness of children in a safe and warm environment. 

House of Joys is a place where adult participants can re-enter a world of play that they knew as children. It is an intimate and sensory experience wherein one audience member interacts with each of the artists in turn and is immersed in the safety of the House of Joys.


This house will most likely resemble a kind of cubby house or blanket fort, which participants enter one by one. The participant is met outside of Paper Mountain by one of our artists and warmly welcomed up into the ‘play space’, where they are encouraged to play and make fun with other participants. There is a chest of dress-

Choice
for Georgina Taylor (RMIT)

My piece Mean Reds (pt | & ||) was used for the credits of Georgina Taylor's short documentary film Choice. 

This piece was written as part of my recent electronic project great statue

Mean Reds (pt I & II) - great statue
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5. Exterior Projects
White Gums
(Alex Jones & Annika Moses)

Alex and I curated a gig at 2 Cafe in Darlington, with performances from Jacob Wylde (folk), White Gums, and Ryan Burge ending the night with a glitchy, trip-ambient electronic set. Alex prepared visuals that were projected onto the stage, nestled into the corner where the two large glass walls of the space meet. It was really successful; the vibe was friendly and attentive, there was a big turn out and we were able to pay all the performers a very reasonable fee. 

Eternal Circles - White Gums
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Improvisation using Casio keyboard, guitar, loop pedal, Ableton push pad, samples

13/8/17 [gold walk] - White Gums
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Improvisation with Alex on guitar, Annika on vocals/keyboard

13/8/17 [anywhere good] - White Gums
00:00 / 00:00

Improvisation with Annika on guitar, Alex on vocals

 
5.iii Breaking Out THNMF 2017
 

influences

great statue
(electronic/vocal music)

The stage name ‘great statue’ came from the lyrics from one of my folk songs, Great Statue of the Salt Lake. It comes from a real place of vulnerability, guilt and self-criticality after taking the blame for a break up. But this year I’ve become more aware of how self-criticality and insecurity extends more widely into my performance practice. When I separate the great statue from its context in the salt lake of tears, guilt and insecurity, an image of power is left. It’s also kind of a play on the trend of male electronic producers using hyper-masculine stage names and creating an edgy, intimidating public presence. The idea of producing electronic music without audiences knowing I’m female is empowering and appealing. Other artists, for example o.blaat, who also explores a displacement of performer presence on stage, have created similar personas. Grimes, aka Claire Boucher, is an incredible producer who writes, records and produces all her own music, as well as raises a social awareness of the patriarchal and homosocial structures that often gate-keep women from becoming involved in powerful positions in electronic music scenes. 

The music I’ve produced under great statue is a real mix of aesthetics and compositional ideas; I’ve been testing the water. A few of the pieces follow this slow-evolving structure underpinned by an arpeggiator, and layered with improvised vocal melodies and field recordings/organic found sounds. A lot of musical typing has taken place (I unashamedly enjoy the imperfect, twitchy results from creating MIDI data using the MacBook keyboard). I’m often working with layering field recordings/found sounds as I feel it lends an organicism to the stark digital sound, and I enjoy contrasting high-quality condenser recorded vocals with MacBook microphone, or iPhone recordings. Another compositional approach I’ve taken is recycling audio/musical ideas/MIDI data to create new grooves from old ones. This has really been informed by the idea of sampling, and listening to artists like The Books. Lots of the pieces I’ve written have two distinct sections, 

I’m divided about using my voice in these pieces. One on hand, my voice is the instrument most natural, most close to me, and most developed technically. But I detest the idea of falling into the role of a ‘female vocalist’ within the electronic music scene. I admire artists like Lana (Rothnie) and Felicia Atkinson who use their voice within compositions and performance, but manage to construct an artistic image that falls outside of a ‘feminine’ coded role.

Whether or not my gender has been explicit in the music I’ve created, I’ve really enjoyed having a sense of agency that comes with anonymity. This is as much about being able to incorporate traditionally ‘folk’ or ballad aesthetics, into electronic music, as it is about being able to try more experimental electronic aesthetics into my practice, or move between genres. I’d like to develop a live music performance practice for the great statue project that somehow addresses patriarchy in the electronic music scene

 

In a composed dialogue between live vocalist and radio host, Annika Moses explores the physical and sonic spaces inherent to radio broadcast, within the limitations of a concert performance. The found-audio component is a cassette recording of a jazz radio program broadcast from the Cocos Islands in the late 1980s. 

Photo by Bohdan Warchomij

Annika Moses perfoming at the Breaking Out concert, Totally Huge New Music Festival

The piece VKW 96FM; duet for voice and radio was an exploration into combining radiophonic music, essentially a laptop based performance practice, with live performers and acoustic elements. The title duet for voice and radio is really just adding to the theatre of the piece, trying to animate the composed dialogue between the live vocalist and the recorded radio host; on stage it appears more as a duet for voice and laptop. Especially in my performance at the Breaking Out concert, as I performed sitting at a table with my back to the audience, the vocalist is very absorbed in the task of watching the session scrolling through (so as to receive cues from the wave forms of the radio host’s speech), while reading the script like a score to keep track of their own speech. I even dramatised the vocalist-laptop relationship further by including a section in the piece where the vocalist types (nonsense words) frantically in the silences between radio ‘air’. 

The compositional process was a little stunted by self-criticality and procrastination, but basically followed the same method as my other radiophonic works: starting with a large amount of ‘found audio’, in this case a found cassette tape of my grandfather hosting his last pass radio show on Cocos Keeling Island in the late 1980s; selecting parts of this audio to include in the piece, usually listening for interesting inflection and syntax; assembling these samples to condense or extend the original narrative, create a new narrative, juxtapose between samples, or create aesthetically pleasing melodies/rhythms/phrases. New to my process was choosing how to incorporate a live vocalist into this assemblage of samples. The dialogue between the two vocalists can be composed using all the same musical parameters as a duet between two instruments, just with an added layer of subtext, connotation, and explicit narrative because the performers use text and language. I compiled a list of ideas/compositional techniques that I could explore in this specific kind of radio work: 

Listening
Listening
5.iv Folk music
 
It'll still be Australia Day - Annika Moses
00:00 / 00:00
Mess Head - Annika Moses
00:00 / 00:00
Landscape; longing - Annika Moses
00:00 / 00:00
Divination - Annika Moses
00:00 / 00:00
A Wild Thing Between My Teeth - Annika Moses
00:00 / 00:00
My Mother's Scarf - Annika Moses
00:00 / 00:00

Listening

AESTHETICS

In August I recorded a few folk songs while I was house sitting (living in a student share house with 6 other people is rarely a conducive environment for recording). With this set of songs I really tried to implement the skills I’d learnt in Lee Buddle’s mixing unit, and fuse a folk genre with lo-fi aesthetics, experimental and improvisatory processes, field recordings, toy instruments and grunge/home studio aesthetics. Perhaps the most difficult part of working with these aesthetics is finding a balance between lo-fi and hi-fi; making a convincing track, that has intention in its infidelity.

 

I'm interested in compiling the tracks into an album format that flows in one narrative, using 'interludes' to transition between tracks and add 'glue'. Albums like A Seat At The Table - Solange, Pleasure - Feist, and To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar, have influenced this album aesthetic. 

5.v trio (whispered)
 

COMPOSITIONAL PROCESS

For the WAM Experimental Showcase, Shanae, Be and I prepared a piece using the poem Arctic Fox for vocals, broken banjolin and acoustic bass guitar. Our process involved taking the phrases, or words from the poem as prompts and devising musical and physical gestures as expression. Even within prepared pieces we leave space for improvisation, and the second half of our set was totally improvised (see below). 

AESTHETICS

  • quiet sounds

  • silence

  • spoken word

  • 3 part folk genre harmony vocals

  • extended techniques using acoustic stringed instruments & toy instruments

  • extended vocal techniques 

  • using poetry as improvisatory prompt

  • exploring dialogue between voices

 
6. Electronic Music Overview writings
engaging in a social discourse 

Riverside Rave: a review

Annika Moses

Under the gaze of East Perth Power Station, possessing a kind of industrial glamour with its imposing features being lit up from below, people begin to gather. From the carpark nearby, we walk along the riverside path, following the sound of music. There’s no entry fee, there’s no door; people have set up a generator, a desk with CDJs, and PA speakers on stands pointing towards the Power Station facade. When we arrive, around 11pm, only 15 or so people are there, most of whom are talking and drinking behind the decks where a small jetty pokes out onto the glimmering black water. Someone turns one of the speakers around to face the river.

The first DJ1 is playing a fairly melodic techno set, complemented by the second, who plays a similar vibe but incorporates a few more house tunes. The DJs seem to be harbouring a kind of playfulness in their performance tonight, contrary to the ‘serious image’ I have seen conjured at past events. For instance, the first DJ pays homage to techno classics like Ben Klok’s Sub Zero, played long before its usual call time at 4am, and rather than appearing cheesy or lame it comes off as a joke between a group of friends (which has now grown to the size of 60 or so people).

It’s a diversified collection of people that continue to gather. People with clothing, haircuts, styling that disrupt common culture and heteronormative concepts of gender. The first DJ is a non-binary person, the second a gay woman. In a music culture/scene that now glorifies the big-name ‘celebrity DJ’, and praises arrogance, even machismo in male DJs, it’s refreshing to see minorities behind the decks. Our congregation seems reminiscent of Detroit’s warehouse raves in the 80s.

The techno and house music playing seems to hark to Eno’s ambient 

music theory, in the regard that it ‘allows you any listening position in relation to it ... music that can be background or foreground or anywhere’ (Eno, 2009). In this space, people can socialise and talk, barely moving, alongside people dancing wildly entranced. With none of the usual separation between dance floor, bar, and outdoor areas, the social landscape of this event is unspecified and subject to change. There are no restrictions on smoking, which allows for people to smoke and chat while they dance. There’s also no separation between booth and dance floor; no altar raising DJ above dancer. In fact, people are giving the DJ affectionate welcomes behind the decks as they arrive. The open space of the riverbank encourages this egalitarian social landscape, creating pockets of movement and inactivity that are constantly negotiating boundaries, morphing between the two, and sometimes ending up in between.

Traces from the Detroit rave scene and Eno’s ambient music aren’t the only echoes from the past that we receive tonight; the hundred-year-old East Perth Power Station reminds us of Perth’s fundaments, and the river takes us back farther, one of the lasting features of the landscape cared for by the original custodians, the Noongar Whadjuk people. Interacting with (what remains of) the natural landscape reminds us that dance and movement are ancient and inherently human, and only exaggerates the frustration I have felt of late in the dance music scene, dominated by commercialised venues, commodified DJs, and capitalist, heteronormative social hierarchies. Many nights I have wondered whether our isolation and infancy as a city couldn’t give us a chance to (re)define the electronic dance music subculture in Perth as one that better reflects what were once core foundations of liberty and integration. Tonight, I am content dancing by the riverside.

Resisting patriarchy, homo-social power structures and heteronormative behaviour in the electronic music scene does not necessitate an overtly political musical content; the female artists discussed in this essay reject patriarchy using a wide range of tactics, each individual and appropriate to their practice. They embrace radical independence, refuse to be critiqued according to irrelevant expectations of mainstream media, engage in the cultivation of a female/trans/non-binary supportive community, and produce work that is irrefutably excellent. 

Eliane Radigue shows a radical independence from the heteronormative hierarchies towering over her in the mid to late 20th century, disrupting the expectation that women must conform to domestic maternal roles regardless of professional ambition, reaching musical prosperity relatively late in life, and creating music with virtuosity and extreme dedication to her artistic vision. ‘I’ve always been digging in the direction where I want to go, without paying any attention to how it was perceived’ (Radigue, 2006). Born in 1932, Eliane Radigue emerged in a time when female ambition in the music industry was severely suppressed, exemplified by her limitation to an assistant role while studying electroacoustic music techniques at the Studio d’Essai in Paris under Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (Rodgers, 2010). The two Pierres refused to acknowledge Radigue’s experimentation in tape feedback as valid, let alone innovative. After showing Schaeffer her work for the first time in the early 50s, “the only thing nice that he said was, I considered you the best of my assistants, and look at what you are doing!” (Radigue, 2006). Radigue left Studio d’Essai and moved to the United States with her then-husband, the French-born American artist Arman, which put her in contact with more supportive network of artists, including James Tenney, John Cage, David Tudor and Philip Corner (Radigue, 2012). Her musical ambition was curbed for a time as she raised her three children, taking on a single-mother role after separating with Arman and returning to France. But in 1970, with her children fully grown, she met her new ‘love’; the Buchla ARP 2500 synthesiser, in New York City (Radigue, 2006). The Buchla became the instrument that realised her sonic aspirations, allowing her to adjust ring, frequency and amplitude modulations in very small measures using the pentiometers to change the timbral qualities of the sound rather than changing the basic frequency oscillators. 

 

This method characterises her meditative, slow-evolving sound works, such as her three hour long Trilogie De La Mort, influenced by the Bardo Thodol, the Tibetan book of the dead. Radigue imbues the trilogy with an energy that breathes and pulses, capturing what she calls ‘the spirit’ of the piece (Radigue, 2006). This huge undertaking showcases the extreme patience and meticulous care she gives to her music, layering at least thirty to forty elements in a mix, after months of rumination, to achieve her very particular sonic ideas (Dax, 2012). Not to mention the technical virtuosity required to tame the revered Buchla synthesiser, an instrument often gender-coded as masculine because of its mathematical and technological complexity. So although Radigue’s music isn’t overtly political in its content, it is clear that the trajectory of her career is non-normative. Her career path subverts the patriarchal hierarchy in the electronic music industry and her practice disrupts dominant culture expectations of gender roles in wider society.

 

The feminist, electro-punk collective Le Tigre (Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman and JD Samson) are a group that overtly engages in feminist/LGBTQI histories and politics with their lyrical content, but their wider practice also engages in smaller, less obvious political acts which are just as valuable. The group formed in 1998, originally as a collaboration between Hanna, Fateman, and video artist Sadie Benning, who was later replaced by JD Samson in 2000. The project started with a drum machine, sampler and keyboard, while Hanna and Fateman ‘slowly [figured] things out’ as they developed their technical skills and understanding (Fateman, 2002). Though Le Tigre are often described as ‘post-riot-grrrl’ (note Hanna’s former involvement in the feminist punk band Bikini Kill), their use of electronic technology in their compositional process, production, and performance practice sets them apart from other electronica or dance music styles. Their lyrical content also characterises their sound, and drives their public engagement with feminist and queer issues. The song Hot Topic, from their self titled album, contains a (very) long list of women that have inspired and influenced them, excerpted below:

“Tammy Rae Carland and Sleater-Kinney

Vivienne Dick and Lorraine O'Grady

Gayatri Spivak and Angela Davis

Laurie Weeks and Dorothy Allison

Stop, don't you stop

Please don't stop

We won't stop”

Hot Topic (1999), Le Tigre

The lyrical aspect of their music is a very obvious political engagement, but the group perform smaller political acts in their practice, web presence, and industry involvement that are just as valuable and effective in disrupting patriarchy in the electronic music scene. Le Tigre uses their website to reach out to their fanbase about issues like sexual abuse and coming out as LGBTQI, which raises a political consciousness within a music sphere. They also put energy into nurturing other supportive communities for female/trans/non-binary within the music scene, such as contributing to the online forum Pink Noises, started by Tara Rodgers in 2000. This is in preference to securing a standing within male dominated media circles which often offer a reductive depiction of women in music, as Fateman says: “if there’s gonna be a supporting culture for women to make electronic music, it’s not gonna be by us getting our foot in the door at a magazine! … [that’s] not indicative of a positive feminist community around electronic music.” (Fateman, 2002). And the very act of producing feminist punk music with electronic dance music equipment and processes, without conforming to either of those genres, demonstrates their agency as musicians, whatever their political alignment, gender, or sexuality. 

 

While South African born, London based Chantal Passamonte might not ‘[sample] George Bush or something’, she insists ‘you can be political in your personal life’, leading by example (Passamonte, 2004). Passamonte’s artistic development demonstrates that her identity as an immigrant female did not limit her ascension through the patriarchal power structures enforced in electronic music, and that skills, ambition, and an authentic artistic voice can surpass gate-keeping structures and dominant culture pressures. Passamonte moved to London in 1991 to pursue the music career that had always seemed so unreachable under the South African sanctions and cultural boycotts she grew up with. In the UK she started out working in a record store, and gradually started getting into organising gigs and DJing, performing under the stage name Mira Calix. She earned a job running publicity for Warp Records and 4AD for a number of years, and after having developed her DJing proficiency to an exceptional level, moved into producing her own music (Rodgers, 2010). Already, the professional diversity in the early stages of her career grants merit, but Passamonte continued to extend her horizons moving into avant garde electronic music production, installation works, video/performance art collaborations, and site-specific commission pieces from museums and institutions across Europe (Passamonte, 2004). Passamonte’s artistic voice is one of ‘textural organicism and coherent eclecticism’, weaving together analog hardware sounds, found sounds, elusive vocals, and wooden and stringed folk instruments, which she collects around Europe (Rodgers, 2010). 

 

The album Skimskitta (2003) released under Warp Records is an example of Mira Calix’s individualistic voice, with a 30 second long, glitchy opening track Again, It Starts, a playful second track Poussou that pairs a childlike piano and synth sounds with lo-fi beats, and a third track Woody which suddenly falls into an ominous, twitching groove with spooky distant vocals. In an interview with Tara Rodgers, Passamonte reflects upon her separation from the metropolitan scene, now living on a farm with her own studio where she produces music; “humanity doesn’t run at a clock around you, and that’s actually quite nice, it’s quite liberating … I quite like not knowing if it’s a Sunday. Because those things are not relevant to me, ‘cause I’m lucky enough to work for myself, effectively.” (Passamonte, 2004). Passamonte’s departure from commercial success, despite being extremely successful, and her isolation from mainstream media and capitalist values of time and money demonstrate the political choices she has made in her personal life and professional practice. Her success wasn’t achieved by conforming to ‘feminine’ coded roles in electronic music, such as singer or dancer; opportunities were granted to Passamonte because of her excellence, professional dedication and authentic individual voice (Farrugia, 2012). 

 

Though Radigue, Le Tigre and Passamonte exercise very different practices and approaches towards music composition and production, they all disrupt patriarchy and dominant culture gender roles within electronic music, whether that be through overt musical content or more subtle choices in their practice. In reality, so under-represented are we, that any female/trans/non-binary artist who pursues a career in electronic music and resists mainstream media pressures to conform to ‘feminine’ roles within that sphere, is contributing to a political awareness and rectification of current norms.

And Don't Call Them Lady Producers
Annika Moses