women in brass

i made a post awhile ago about supporting female brass players and let me tell you. i am so. fucking. sick. of getting comments on the post adding on about how male woodwind players have it so tough too.

no. i’m talking about FEMALE BRASS PLAYERS. who have to prove their talent over and over again. who grew up being told we played the wrong instrument. who are just as passionate as male players. who are told not to cough during blind auditions because it lets people know you’re female.

please leave my post alone. let it support all the young girls who are being told to switch instruments. let it acknowledge all the girls who have been auditioning for years and are starting to give up hope. let us have our moment.

The Psycho Bitch, Gone Girl, and What It Should Mean

***Spoilers Ahead***

Film and film criticism have an uneasy history with female anti-heroes or “psycho bitches.” Famously, we have Alex Forrest, played by Glenn Close, in Fatal Attraction. She is cinema’s first great “psycho bitch,” a bunny-boiler to the nth degree. Sure, she has wild passionate sex with Michael Douglas and kills the family pets for a good two hours, but, at the end of the film, she is dutifully punished for disrupting the sanctity of marriage. How dare she let Michael Douglas cheat on his wife with her! She is shot, killed, and Michael Douglass goes back to his wife. That’ll teach her.

And of course, we have Catharine Tramell, played by Sharon Stone, in Basic Instinct. Tramell isn’t punished by the end of the movie, but we still get to see her writhe naked for sex scene after sex scene. Thrusting and moaning on satin sheets, bare breasts swelling as Michael Douglas sucks them. We get the infamous upskirt in her interrogation scene. Then more sex. And sex, and sex, and sex. Tramell is packaged as a manipulative psychopath who uses sex to get what she wants. And, lucky for us, we get to watch her do it again and again. After so many times, you have to wonder if Tramell’s intentions or motivations even matter, or do the producers just want to show Sharon Stone naked again? Basic Instinct is a movie created by men, for men, with the male-gaze always in mind. Tramell is acceptable because even though she leaves the film unpunished, she’s given a male viewing audience everything they could want. They can still objectify her and leave the theater thinking about how fucking hot her tits were.

These two famous examples are written and directed by men. Tramell and Forest don’t represent real women; they represent how men view women. Mysterious, conniving, sexual. Can we label them as “strong” female characters? Ultimately, these women are only “strong” until a man comes along and woos them.

So, here comes Gone Girl and Amy Elliot-Dunne.

There’s a lot of buzz about Gone Girl being misogynistic. Amy Elliot-Dunne appears to be a Men’s Rights Activists’ worst nightmare: their vision of how all women are. She fakes rapes, uses pregnancy to trap men, she’s cold, manipulative, unattainable, and it’s all wrapped up in a beautiful woman who isn’t afraid to slit a throat. To top that off, Amy leaves the narrative unscathed. By the end of the film, the “psycho bitch” wins.

How patronizing is that term: “psycho bitch.” If Amy (or Forest, or Tramell) were a man, the term most people would come up with is “anti-hero.” Your Hannibal Lecters and Patrick Batemans.  But, if a woman does something crazy, just write her off as a psycho bitch. That’s a douchebag’s favorite description of a girl who doesn’t do what he wants. She’s crazy, nuts, psychotic. It’s the easiest way to reduce someone to something unworthy of analysis.

Gone Girl starts by selling itself as a standard, male-driven police procedural. It populates the first act with your typical females. The abused, doting wife. The sex-kitten twenty-something who gives the audience the obligatory boob shot. But, at the midpoint, these are revealed to be ways to get the audience comfortable, unassuming, so that the real Amy can take the stage and dismantle the genre from the inside. The men are suddenly clueless, useless creatures bumbling around while the women get down to brass tax. The men are reduced to the dimensionality that women are normally afforded. It even goes so far as to objectify the men in a way that women are objectified in film. The “pause the TV” moments, the brief flashes of Ben Affleck and Neil Patrick’s Harris’ cock. It’s Sharon Stone’s vagina, Jessica Rabbit’s nude frame.

Gone Girl seems fed up with the roles women have available to them. And it doesn’t let its “psycho bitch” be fucked into submission by something as inconsequential as a man. A male-audience doesn’t even get the joy of seeing her bouncing breasts and perky behind. They get a woman who wouldn’t give a fuck about them. Who would wad them up like used tissues and toss them out.

True, Amy does use sex, but it’s not presented as something she is susceptible to like Tramell and Forest are. The one true sex scene in the film is a murderous reclaiming of Basic Instinct’s opening. Amy’s underwear stays on. Her breasts are tucked away. She’s impossible to objectify. The camerawork is crisp, clinical. It doesn’t luxuriate in the act. We hear Neil Patrick Harris whimper in pleasure. Amy commands him to thrust harder. She reaches under the pillow, grabs a box cutter. The second he orgasms, she slits his throat. When he’s dead, she tosses her hair out of her face and leaves the room, blood-covered and fully clothed.

Sex is just another tool in her toolbox. Something she takes out, uses, and puts away with utilitarian interest. And in the end, she goes back to the husband she framed for murder and wins. She gets everything she wanted. Nick is left with nothing. He is punished. She remains.

Now, we can ask what a character like Amy means for women. What are we supposed to take away from her? What is she saying about that unrepresented majority of the population? What are we supposed to learn?

The answer? Nothing.

Amy is just a character. But, she seems so new that people are left wondering if this kind of transgressive approach to a female is inherently political. Even though Amy delivers some well-thought out tidbits in her “cool girl” monologue, she is not a stand-in for women. In the same way that Hannibal or Patrick Bateman isn’t interpreted as representative of all men. We have such a wide array of male characters that it isn’t an issue. Amy feels like one of a kind, so we want to interpret and assume she’s meant to be a comment on women as a whole.

It’s an issue that applies to any character that isn’t a white, straight, cis male. They see Brokeback Mountain or The Kids Are Alright and wonder what it means for all gays. They see Priscilla: Queen of the Desert or Transamerica and wonder it means for anyone whose transgender. They see 12 Years a Slave and wonder what it means for all black people. The answer should be nothing. There should be such a wide berth of media for these people that a singular character doesn’t become a stand-in for everyone in that group. No one leaves a Jennifer Aniston rom-com asking, “What was that trying to say about white people?” Or a Scorsese movie asking, “What did that say about straight men?”

Amy is just a character in a movie, but it’s a great movie. It not only passes the Bechdel and Mako Mori test several times over, but it’s written and produced by women. And it isn’t just home to a manipulative sociopath, but all sorts of women. “Cool girls” and take-charge detectives. Ditzy neighbors, no-nonsense socialites, and merciless media personnel. Women who support other women, dismantle other women, fight and thrive.

I want movies with all these kind of women. I want movies with any women. Anything that isn’t a supportive wife telling her husband how important he is. Or, hot girlfriends who try to stop their men from doing the brave thing.

I never want to tell women “don’t make that movie because it might make a Men’s Rights Activist angry.” I hope our measure for media is never based on their imaginary view of the world. I want better roles for women. And I want more writers like Gillian Flynn and producers like Reese Witherspoon. I want women to make movies that earn over a hundred million at the box office, like Gone Girl and Zero Dark Thirty. I want more movies with fucked-up women who are so well-written, so crazy layered that they can be mercilessly examined in a million think pieces just like this one.

Mamamoo's 'Melting' Brings Retro Soul Back to K-Pop

EDM, step aside. Bubblegum pop, your time is up. Mamamoo’s Melting brings a retro soul feel back to the K-pop world, heralding the Korean quartet’s rise to the top ranks of the girl group hunger games. Shunning the over-the-top production values associated with a lot of the music coming out of South Korea, Mamamoo’s first LP brings its listeners back in time – with a modern tweak.

The girl group made it big last year with retro-inspired dance songs like “Um Oh Ah Yeah,” “Mr. Ambiguous,” and “Piano Man” garnering the attention of South Korean audiences. Following the release of Melting at the end of Feb., these women are back in brass with a light-hearted vengeance to show the world that K-pop isn’t all about the saccharine and the sexy.  

Solar, Wheein, Hwasa, and rapper Moonbyul go against the grain of typical K-pop albums, kicking it off right away with a new sound on the Dr. Dre-inspired “Taller Than You,” one of three official singles from the album. A totally different style for Mamamoo, the four pull off the humorous spitfire lyrics to pure perfection on this parody rap battle all about the 1cm that divides them.

Mamamoo tones it down a bit on the jazzy “Words Don’t Come Easy” before introducing “You’re The Best,” Mamamoo’s answer to “Lady Marmalade.” Just as Christina, Pink, Lil’ Kim, and Mya belted it out on the 2001 cover of the iconic song, this sassy, brassy song makes the most of each members’ distinct vocal colors.  The bombastic, retro groove is also revived on “Funky Boy” and “Girl Crush,” two of the most upbeat songs on the album.

The album hardly tones it down as it goes on, recalling some of our favorite songs from years past with “My Hometown” kicking off with some gentle strumming that would fit right in on Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane, even as “Emotion” and “I Miss You” come off like songs TLC would have dominated charts with. “Friday Night,” featuring Korean crooner Junggigo, is the most modern sounding song on the album, with an uptempo R&B sound.

Mamamoo dabbles with even older sounds, too, bringing pure doo-wop and swing on “Recipe” and “Cat Fight.” The dreamy, soulful, instrumentally motivated “Just” brings things just about to a close. Throughout Melting, the ladies of Mamamoo take the tunes of yesterday and give them a modern feel. Never letting their outstanding vocals overshadow the eclectic musical accompaniment, Mamamoo simply shines in a way not seen by most K-pop girl groups.

Their talent is getting noticed worldwide: Melting made it to the No. 1 spot on the U.S iTunes K-pop chart, and they’re slated to perform in Austin for South By Southwest 2016 this month.

source: billboard


Barbara Butler, trumpet

  • Professor of Trumpet, Rice University
  • Soloist with Music of the Baroque, Chicago Chamber Musicians, and Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra
  • Former member, Eastman Brass, Eastman Virtuosi, and the Vancouver and Grant Park Symphony Orchestras
  • Former faculty member: Northwestern University, Eastman School of Music, and University of British Columbia
  • One of the most influential trumpet teachers of the last twenty years