Do you have any suggestions for books about women in music or whatever? I'm going through books on your women in visual art masterpost and enjoying them I thought you might know of some. Thank you.
yea ! and thanks. i don’t find there are as many published texts focused solely on the narrative of women in music as there are women visual art mediums but being me i read any i can get a hold of lol :
Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound by Tara Rodgers – i’m putting this first bc it’s my favorite and was SO IMPORTANT to me when i was first getting into women of the BBC workshop/ women in the avant garde & electronic music.. i think i found it through looking for writings about annea lockwood and pinknoises.com.. if you know me you know women in electronic/ avant garde music are everything 2 me and this book does such a good job contextualizing the female perspective in sound. it’s so good.
Divas in the Convent: Nuns, Music, and Defiance in Seventeenth-Century Italy by Craig A. Monson -- oh my god ever since i heard rosa mistica i have been completely obsessed with the work of female nuns whose astounding compositions were repressed and discouraged by the church hierarchy in the 1600′s. it’s a fascinating history to me idk if anyone shares this fixation but this book is amazing.
Celestial Sirens: Nuns and Their Music in Early Modern Milan by Robert L. Kendrick – one to read with ‘divas in the convent’ - less accessible bc it’s an academic text with a heavy musicologist tone but if you can get a hold of it it’s stunningly thorough and relavatory, i learned so much about performance rituals surrounding polyphonic music from this. if you like sacred music it’s a must imo.
Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music by Heather Augustyn – this author has written a lot about ska and obviously has a large reference point for jamaican music and sounds of the culture so i enjoyed this read a lot. i had little prior knowledge to how hard women in this sphere had it which makes endurance of women covered so admirable, very whole in its biographical coverage.
Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story by Alice Bag – this is one of my favorite books about women in punk. alice is of course of the seminal band the bags and her standing within the scene makes the perspective really personal and insightful. highly recommend.
Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music: The Limits of La Onda by Deborah R. Vargas – a friend gave this to me and it is wonderful. vargas is a great writer, if you know nothing about la onda in mexico or america this will ignite an interest and if you do this provides so much insight and contextualization as to the history and cultural performance.
From Convent to Concert Hall: A Guide to Women Composers by Martha F. Schleifer – another important one to me early on. when i started taking music theory courses i was discouraged the composers discussed were never women so i took up independently diving into these histories, this is an academic text which does a great job of relating the canon of female composers to a lineage of male counterpoints and exploring reasons why their endurance is faulted by musicology- wonderful and comprehensive.
to go along with that: The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers – obviously an essential reference material if it’s of interest to you, compiled out of love and passion for furthering these women’s work (the tagline is: “Throughout history women have been composing music, but their achievements have usually gone unrecognized” i mean !! yesss) was of great help to me in discovering composers who i had glossed over.
The Lost Women of Rock Music: Female Musicians of the Punk Era by Helen Reddington – great and thorough w/ good insight re: social and commercial reasons women of this scene never “broke through” or lived on in mythos the way their male counterparts did, says “rock” broadly in the title but covers a lot of post-punk like the raincoats/ x-ray spex/ crass female acts like poison girls which i loved. notable for interviews with au pairs and delta 5 ladies!!!!! + viv albertine pre her own book.. love it
Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazz Women by Linda Dahl – there are actually a good amount of books about women in jazz but this is probably my favorite, it’s a great starting off point. most focuses on the new orleans scene/ 40′s era big band/ swing in its prime/ seminal vocal jazz ladies but well researched, organized, and passionate.
Black Women and Music: More than the Blues and Songs in Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women’s Music by Eileen M. Hayes – both amazing works, heavily academic in precedent and standing but hayes is a definitive voice in this subject and i love her perspective. the first is a collection of essays that spans everything from disregarded black women in classical music to the nuances of black feminism in hip hop narratives to black women in avant garde collectives. unbelievably diverse, informative, well researched, and insightful. the second book is focused on black lesbian presence in music festivals predominately catered to white lesbians, very interesting look into a discourse you genuinely don’t see much written about.
Swing Shift: “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s by Sherrie Tucker – super fun read about the boom jazz bands of women and interest in female musicians and performance saw in the WWII era and how these artists fought against the social perception that they were only replacements for REAL musicals acts while men were at war, captivating slice of history.
Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday by Angela Y Davis – some essential analytic insights into poetic politics if that interests you. it’s davis so what do you expect. her portrait of blues music is informed by working class black feminist histories and voices, making her perspectives on billie holliday songs (all of her breakdowns of artists’ songs are illuminating, astutely conscious in their literacy and force you to listen to the work differently) and how these artists laid foundation for feminist dialogs still enduring today something really special/ significant with potency imo. a genre as a basis of independence and freedom.
Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800-2000 by Mary A. Bufwack – straightforward work documenting women’s roots in country music and related social anthropology pretty much. worthwhile even if country music doesn’t thrill you, the stories of this music is very american. watching significant historical plights and hardships of the US lower class shape that art is interesting.
Big Ears: Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies editors: Nicole T. Rustin and Sherrie Tucker – collection of essays on various subjects all relating to how gender dynamics/ politics inform jazz as a music and culture. really liked it.
Women’s Voices Across Musical Worlds editor: Jane A. Bernstein – well organized into five sections, approaches themes of sexual politics in music production & distribution/ sequestration of female performance with a very cross-cultural complex approach.
Cecilia Reclaimed: Feminist Perspectives on Gender and Music editor: Susan C. Cook – another book of essays, dull but informed.
Female Song Tradition and the Akan of Ghana: The Creative Process in Nnwonkoro by Kwasi Ampene – another one my friend handed off to me, thoroughly academic in its musicology and extensive field work. most comprehensive writings on nnwonkoro as a genre you’ll find so i found it compelling.
Gender and the Musical Canon by Marcia J. Citron – well done work regarding feminist perspectives in regard to the western music canon, would be aptly suitable as an introductory text.
Women Make Noise: Girl Bands from the Motown to the Modern editor: Julia Downes – too broad and ambitious to be comprehensive into any one specific margin of women in music, but serves as a nice glance of the timeline from the past 50 years. another that would be best as a introductory guide.
Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist, from Cafe Society to Hollywood to HUAC by Karen Chilton – great biography of a seminal black renaissance artist and female jazz musician.
Black Pearls: Blues Queens of the 1920s by Daphne Harrison – THE go to book for an overview of women in blues, examined from many angles.
Women, Music, Culture: An Introduction by Julie C. Dunar – this is an undergrad text book i read as a starting point and listening guide into the world of female musicians, lol. well done an engaging, the companion CD is useful.
Ruth Crawford Seeger: A Composer’s Search for American Music by Judith Tick – i adore seeger and covet anything i can read about her so this is an all time favorite for me. so well done and comprising of her standing as a composer, woman, and within the scene that breed her.
to read in tandem that i just finished recently because i had next to zero prior knowledge about opera: En Travesti: Women, Gender Subversion, Opera // Opera; or, The Undoing of Women // Siren Songs : Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera // Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early-Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera // The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire … female empowerment and agency in opera (as well as the gay history within) is so fascinating to me, worth looking into.
Carla Bley (American Composers) by Amy C. Beal – fantastic biography and retrospective of an astounding female jazz composer. a bit brief but i enjoyed it regardless, felt beal had an intuitive grasp on bley’s prerogative and voice.
another in tandem pairing: The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema by Kaja Silverman and Into the Vortex: Female Voice and Paradox in Film by Brita Sjogroen – maybe a bit off focus from “music” fully because it’s more about film, but worthwhile exploration of feminist theory regarding sound and women’s origins of voice as used in cinema. if you’re a fan of michel chion’s writings like “the voice in cinema” you’ll enjoy.
Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship by Ruth A. Solie – one of the first books i read that really covered gender politics in relation to music as a study, does a good job of dispelling the proposition that these perspectives are only applicable in niche women’s studies circles. hasn’t aged well though.
another big in tandem reading list because i think these all overlap in focus and work well when consumed as a whole: Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus // The Riot Grrrl Collection // Cinderella’s Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground (Live Girls) by Maria Raha // Pretty in Punk: Girl’s Gender Resistance in a Boy’s Subculture by Lauraine Leblanc // Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music by Marissa Meltzer // Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys: A Memoir by Viv Albertine // Girls Rock!: Fifty Years of Women Making Music // She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock and Roll (Live Girls) by Gillian G. Gaar // She Bop: The definitive history of women in popular music + She Bop II by Lucy O’Brien // Chris Stein / Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk by Chris Stein // We Owe You Nothing by Daniel Sinker (you’ll notice a lot of these are punk planet related) // Will Work for Drugs by Lydia Lunch // Female-Rock Photos by Ronald Vaughan // Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! – most of these were big to me as a teenager, ahaha.
sort of in that vein: Drugs Are Nice: A Post-Punk Memoir by Lisa Crystal Carver – i adore suckdog so i’m biased but this is def among my favorite music autobiographies. i love lisa, all her books are fun.
Mismatched Women: The Siren’s Song Through the Machine by Jennifer Fleeger – funny relic, very interesting. again, not so much solely “music” focused- more a study on the female voice and its application and history in different media.
From Spirituals to Symphonies: African-American Women Composers and Their Music by Helen Walker-Hill – carefully researched, fantastic reference point. a must if you’re interested in black women within music. covers the likes of early 20th century composers like irene britton smith/ undine smith moore/ margaret bonds// women who achieved success in their respective periods who have been neglected by canonical standards today.
Female Voices from an Ewe Dance-drumming Community in Ghana by James Burns – respectful ethnomusicology of adekede, author does a great job and obviously has personal vested interest in these women and their music. nice read, accompanying DVD makes it better.
Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga: Bessie Smith and the Emerging Urban South by Michelle R. Scott //
Bessie: Revised and expanded edition by Chris Albertson – the former focuses more on the history and social landscape/ migration of the black community in chattanooga, the latter is a great biography of one of the most important female voices in blues.
Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey by Sandra Lieb – another good portrait of a seminal blues woman.
Women Making Music: The Western Art Tradition, 1150-1950 editor: Jane Bowers – encyclopedic and richly studied, contributions from a ton of respected scholars. great focus on female composers with chapters dedicated to the likes of Clara Schumann, Ethel Smyth, etc.
Home Girls Make Some Noise!: Hip-Hop Feminism Anthology – great collection of essays that sometimes border on prose exploring black female agency in hip hop spaces with the nuance experience provides. recommended
Girl Groups: Fabulous Females That Rocked the World by John Clemente – super fun little read, informed profiles of 60 key girl groups that following in the brill building type sound. if you like that scene it’s a must, sheds light on histories i was less familiar with. definitive.
Listening to Salsa: Gender, Latin Popular Music, and Puerto Rican Cultures by Frances R Aparicio – genealogy of Afro-Caribbean music filtered through Puerto Rican literature with a women’s studies angle makes this look at salsa as a social identity compelling and different. some of the analysis of the music leaves room for conflict but still worthwhile.
Monteverdi’s Unruly Women: The Power of Song in Early Modern Italy by Bonnie Gordon – AMAZING READ. i love this book, gordon divulges into the social and musical environment female singers whose voices were demanded but whose presence was largely discouraged and dangerous lived in during renaissance italy using theoretical frameworks to lend insight into music rather than using it to bring forward dogmatic statements re: theory.. so well done and fascinating. adore her writing and approach.
The International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Antoinette D Handy – enjoyable look at one of the most seminal all girl jazz bands of the time period.
Melting the Venusberg: A Feminist Theology of Music by Heidi Epstein – verbose but feminist analysis of church music and deconstructing those hierarchies based in theology that goes all the way to contemporary artists like Diamanda Galas is hard to come by so i enjoyed this.
Respect: Women and Popular Music by Dorothy Marcic – unique in that it takes a look at female narratives in western pop throw an organized introspection of 20 big pop hits. well written.
Queering the Pitch by Phillip Bret //
Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig by Judith A Peraino //
The Queer Composition of America’s Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity by Nadine Hubbs – all notable LGBT+ works on music that are worth looking into if that interests you.
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon–and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller / Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words by Malka Marom / Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir by Linda Rondstadt / A Natural Woman: A Memoir by Carole King – all good to read in companion if you’re curious as to the histories of that group of women the defined a specific sound and idyll in american music.
Jazz Women: 1900 to the Present, Their Words, Lives and Music by Sally Placksin – 80′s relic of the female jazz preservation canon, pretty meaty and well focused subjects.
Just for a Thrill: Lil Hardin Armstrong, First Lady of Jazz by James L. Dickerson – flawed characterization and contextualization reaches at points but still worth reading, pairs well with the former book.
Shall We Play That One Together?: The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland by Paul de Barros – much better effort in terms of comprehensive bios of women who overcame social precedent to make names as accomplished jazz musicians, wonderful read.
Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian: The Life and Work of an American Composer, 1867-1944 by Adrienne Fried Block – big fan of beach’s piano works so naturally i was thrilled to find a meticulously detailed well researched fleshed out biography on her, takes her character beyond being a victim of odds against her into a complex artist with inherent musical prowess.
Women Drummers: A History from Rock and Jazz to Blues and Country by Angela Smith // When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm by Layne Redmond – well suited for reading together, the former indexes hundreds of female drummers with over 50 some odd interviews, super informative and engaging historical anecdotes. the later plays on a much older narrative- the practice of sacred rhythm/ drugging among goddesses and various religious ceremonies/ celebrations- equally as compelling.
Some Liked It Hot: Jazz Women in Film and Television, 1928-1959 by Kristin A. McGee – chronicles women’s jazz performances through early filmography, explores the motivations of these histories place within jazz “canon”, interesting read with great pictures.
Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960s to Now by Addison Herron-Wheeler – fun little [100 pages] work that expands on women’s place with metal histories with some tracing back to goddess traditions that don’t entirely line up, still worth it.
Sophisticated Ladies: the Great Women of Jazz and Madame Jazz: Contemporary Women Instrumentalists by Leslie Gourse – gourse is a fantastic writer on jazz, the former would be a great introduction to the more notable and celebrated female vocal jazz talents, the later goes into the neglected stories of women instrumentalists in the jazz realm that’s really compelling- not anecdotal regurgitated shit.
Women Composers: The Lost Tradition Found, Second Edition by Diane Peacock Jezic – fine for what it is, another book documenting female composers, noting their dejected obscuring, expanding on feminist musicology.
Women of the Underground: Music: Cultural Innovators Speak for Themselves by Zora Von Burden – great read. highly recommend this one, notable for first hand interviews with: Wanda Jackson, Miss Mercy (GTOs), Moe Tucker (Velvet Underground), Nina Hagen, Lydia Lunch, Adele Bertei (The Contortions), Cosey Fanni Tutti (Throbbing Gristle), Jarboe (Swans), Slymenstra (Gwar), Patricia Morrison (Sisters of Mercy, The Damned), Teresa Nervosa (Butthole Surfers), Laurie Anderson, Kembra Pfahler (The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black), Pam Tent (The Cockettes), Pauline Black (The Selecter), among others.. that diversity and the depth of coverage make it one of the more unique entries.
Women In Music: An Anthology of Source Readings from the Middle Ages to the Present by Carol Neuls-Bates – includes some interesting source material from its subjects including diary entries, poems, lesser known writing and compositions- scholarly but approachable.
Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop, and Rap by Evelyn McDonnell – a fun one. more about the practice of writing about music than playing it. compilation of almost 70 articles/ pieces/ essays/ personal anecdotes penned by women who serve as columnists, contributors, academics, as well as musicians (patti smith and kim gordon among them) about various genres and events. lots of personal appeal.
Girl Groups, Girl Culture: Popular Music and Identity in the 1960s by Jacqueline Warwick – interesting work of sociology study as applied to girl groups, examining their significance and audience barriers, stresses their importance with an author well attuned to the scope of what they’re talking about. accessible for thesis writing.
Electric Ladyland: Women and Rock Culture by Lisa L. Rhodes – if women’s advancement of and involvement in midcentury rock culture is of interest to you this is probably the most thorough examination of it you will find.
Antonia Mercé, la Argentina: flamenco y la vanguardia española by Ninotchka Bennahum – a bit off tangent because it’s far more about dance than music, but a great celebration of early 20th century spanish vanguard in all avenues. really enjoyed it.
The World of Women in Classical Music by Anne K. Gray – far more accessible than some of the more college level texts i’ve mentioned on the subjects of women in classical spaces, a bit broad and sweeping but beholding of all the biographical information and encyclopedic in its approach. great resource.
Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound by Alan Betrock - another fun relic of a girl group aficionado summarizing some history, less vital than the others i listed but worthwhile to any big fan of the genre.
Lydia Mendoza’s Life in Music: La Historia de Lydia Mendoza: Norteño Tejano Legacies by Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez – fantastic biography of one of the most enduring and notable Chicana icons, includes some first hand interview coverage and astoundingly thorough documentation of her life.
Satin Dolls: The Women of Jazz by Andrew Hagar – another in the lineup of works regarding female jazz vocalists, nothing life changing but i do enjoy hagar’s writing- it’s obvious he comes from at least a seasoned background.
Music and Women: The Story of Women in Their Relation to Music (The Diane Peacock Jezic Series of Women in Music) by Sophie Drinker – uncompromisingly feminist, compendium of background into women’s relationship w/ music, puts forth a theoretical model for reconceptualizing how we understand this harmony. interesting but very theory heavy.
Musical Echoes: South African Women Thinking in Jazz by Caron Ann Muller – fascinating biography of cape town jazz musician Sathima Bea Benjamin. who, among having a gripping career as a recording artists, founded her own label and made a unique mark on jazz’s history.
Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe by Gayle Wald – obviously “women in rock” as a colloquialism begins and ends at tharpe. definitive not only as her personal history but for a bluepring for all rock musicians to come. definitely a must.
Women and Popular Music: Sexuality, Identity and Subjectivity by Sheila Whiteley – feminist musicology work a little too vague and light for me to find compelling. would be of interest to those invested in feminist analysis of pop culture touchstones and that line of dialog.
Underneath a Harlem Moon: The Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall by Iian Cameron Williams – amazing biography of a harlem renaissance superstar. a consummate, reverent, and adoring look at her life. if the work of artists like duke ellington interest you this is definitely of note.
Women in Music: A Research and Information Guide and
Women and Music: A History
by Karin Anna Pendle – pendle’s a good author, knows what she’s talking about and commanding of fact. i highly recommend the later as a resource for contextualization and history.
A Bad Woman Feeling Good: Blues and the Women Who Sing Them by Buzzy Jackson – truly one of the more mediocre books on this subject but since i’m already being a completionist, it gets a mention.
Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality by Susan McClary – one of the more widely regarded and “important” works of cultural critique within music context, you either love it or you hate it. i think its praxis is a little reductionist and not really in alignment with my personal standings but it’s worth a read.
New Historical Anthology of Music by Women by James R. Briscoe – accompanies a CD of the works listed and discussed, some good biographical information. worth investigating if you’re as invested in the subject as i am.
as per usual i know i’m forgetting some but yeah those are what come to mind rn.. a fun topic i like talking about. you should read one/ recommend me one