LISTEN are, as they wonderfully put it, a group that “exists to spark and cultivate a conversation around women’s and LGBTQIA+ experiences in Australian music”. As part of the Darebin Music Feast the group hosted a two day conference in which they discussed topics such as gendered sound, safer spaces in music venues and intersections between race and music as well as running workshops in zine making and learning the ways around an audio mixer. While in many ways the conference reinforced a lot of feelings many of us already hold towards the music community, it also offered an opportunity to expand on and learn. Here are four things we took from the two day event.
How can you be confident when history tells you otherwise?
Women rarely have access to the elaborate histories that men gain with ease brought on the systematic documentation of men’s experiences and achievements over women’s. How can one step forth into something when as far as they are concerned, no one has done so before? It begs the question, this identification of a confidence gap – rather than being stemmed from the simplicity of gender, is it in fact a result of lacking history which only reinforces that it’s all for men and no one else? The panelists all talked about their individual variations of the confidence gap and the differing actions they take, whether it’s through learning to understand what their anxiety is telling them and being best prepared such as Jen Cloher detailed, or just relishing in the knowledge that failure can often lead to future triumph. Or even as HTRK’s Jonnine Standish suggests; to learn to take yourself out of the equation and see the performance as a whole and in doing so see that the audience gets a lot more out of a show than judging you as the person on stage.
White people are super awkward when it comes to race
Our 8 panelists brought us all in close (much to my anxious terror) and announced this panel would be different, that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions from the get go. And then there was a shared look of horror from all the white folks in the room, that of ‘I’m thinking of something but can I ask that’? It was one that our panelists must have noticed, as the plan was slightly revised to include an introduction of sorts. The nerves never did quite die down, but our hosts were thankfully insightful. Beginning with a conversation on whether or not the word feminism has been tainted by a high focus on solely white cis women to the shittiness conjured up by tokenism and the differences between said tokenism and diversity, it was an interesting panel bringing forth a viewpoint many in the room had been lacking. But still, barely a peep from the audience. Thankfully, the large panel was ready for this, and there quite an interesting discussion on how to deal with the bullshit thrown by racists in the sector. But still, only one question.
“If we can’t provide our patrons and performers with safe spaces then we are failing as a music city”
The discussion of safety in live music venues has been at the forefront of late with recent report from Music Victoria demonstrating an appallingly high percentage of punters saying they felt unsafe at venues. LISTEN brought to light the glossed over threat of venues to the very performers with panelist Simona Castricum detailing a threatening incident barely in the past at The Tote. It was identified that while venues on an individual level are taking steps to ensure safety for all punters and performers. Quite a lot of it seems to come down to a lack of formal training in harassment and assault for third party security and possibly even a lack of diversity in the gender of security.
Exclusion can sometimes lead to experimentation
On the panel of unconventional music, vocalist Caroline Connors touched on how her origins as a jazz instrumentalist led her to more experimental music, due largely to the exclusion she felt from the predominantly male jazz genre (something that Erin Fitzsimon of Inigo touched on as well in our interview with her). The concept that new personal challenges and experimentation can arise from gender prejudice is in a way a small comfort – that it can push you to pursue music a different and hopefully more rewarding way.