One of my mother’s greatest gifts to me was sharing the many kinds of music she loved. She might follow Ravel’s Bolero with Sarah Vaughn with Rhapsody in Blue or a record of mariachi music she picked up in Mexico. Her influence helped create my very eclectic tastes in music, which is a very important part of my life.
Am I any kind of music professional? No. I taught myself to read sheet music in second grade, and I played first trombone in my high school’s marching band. Today I play a number of different instruments (badly). I also have the dubious distinction of having taught two different people how to play the saxophone even though I have never played it. When I was a kid, I was big on singing, but in my teens I developed a cyst on my vocal cords that ultimately ate the middle out of my range. This bummed me out greatly. That’s about the extent of my music credentials.
Oh, and often, when I sleep, my dreams are accompanied by music. My niece and I share the ability to “play” music in our heads, note for note — in my case, even very complex orchestral pieces.
While I could go on at length about my love of Chinese flower music or the English concertina, in this blog I want to focus on women making music, with a special emphasis on music by members of the LGBTQI community and their allies. Why did I choose that focus? Well, as in most things, it seems as though women don’t get as much ink (digital or otherwise), and anyway, it’s an area of music that encompasses a huge array of different instruments, styles, and attitudes — just the ticket for an eclectic listener like me!
I am old enough to remember sitting around a record-player listening with awe, excitement, and a little bit of terror to “Lesbian Concentrate,” which was at least the first lesbian musical (and poetry) anthology, if not the first explicitly lesbian album. How we howled at Meg Christian singing ”Ode to a Gym Teacher”! It was so new — it felt both so daring and a little bit naughty to be hearing it.
For a time, a long time, the performers we had came almost exclusively from Olivia Records: Cris Williamson, Meg Christian, Linda Tillery, Teresa Trull, and others. Now, we have come so far that I was reading a 2010 list of “The 50 Most Important Queer Women in Music”, and guess who wasn’t listed? Cris Williamson. That sort of blew me away. Her music was so important to so many of us. I don’t think many who followed would have followed if it hadn’t been for those intrepid foremothers of women’s music.
But I’m not here to teach history or rant about who got left out of a dumb article on a now-mostly-defunct web site. There is music happening, right now, all around us, and that’s what I want to focus on.