Hey, Phantom Regiment: BAD MOVE

(the following is a transcription of a Twitter thread I posted this morning. Further comments are in brackets [ ]. It is worth noting that for a show about Joan of Arc, “burn it all down” is an awful tagline.)

Yiiiiiikes. Someone tell Phantom Regiment that a show celebrating women should really feature music BY women. Yes, I understand the name recognition wouldn’t be on the same level. But if you only use men’s music, guess what: you care about men’s reactions more than women’s. [I say this in that their repertoire choices make it look like they’re more interested in crowd-pleasing than in telling an anywhere-near-accurate story; they care more about saying they did a show about a woman than they do actually getting it right.]

This surprises no one, if you look at DCI’s culture as a whole—it has always been bro-centric. Other corps (looking at you, Cavies) are more obvious in their misogyny and toxic masculinity. [Accusations of hazing and sexual assault across the activity as a whole further highlight the negative effects of this mindset.] But this Phantom move looks especially bad when you remember the all-woman mixed ensemble they featured in their ballad just last year.

Further, there is a long musical history of telling women’s stories with words and music written by men—it’s in opera, it’s in jazz; name the genre, and it’s a problem. It leads to inaccurate, inarticulate portrayals, and I worry especially since Joan of Arc’s story isn’t exactly . . . happy. The inclusion of Carmina Burana is particularly disturbing, when you take into account analyses of its music and motifs that paint a picture of women as snakelike/deceptive/generally bad. [I realize a lot of people sleep through music history class, but this is why you shouldn’t.]

And THE DESCRIPTION: “the 2019 Phantom Regiment celebrates bold, empowered women and the spirit of revolution . . . .” Like, let’s talk for a second about that. If your go-to for bold, empowered women is being burned at the stake, maaaaaybe you need to do some soul-searching. The expectation of martyrdom—be it through marriage, childbirth, or abuse—already prevents women from moving forward in their fields TO THIS DAY. I just did a thread on IG just last night about how teachers/mentors devalue our careers when we’re getting married/having kids. But if you insist on telling a story of a woman martyr, here’s how you do it:

YOU TELL THE STORY USING THE MUSIC OF WOMEN WHO WERE FORCED TO STOP COMPOSING BECAUSE OF THEIR GENDER [or extensions of that—got married, had kids, etc]. Or you tell it using the music of women who pushed through the expectations and made a career of it anyway. Or you tell it using the music of women who died young. Lili Boulanger immediately comes to mind (and she died before copyright so most of her music is public domain). But a program written by ALL MALE composers? REALLY? For THIS story? For a season you say is about celebrating women? [Your program is called I AM JOAN, but all the composers you’re putting in the narrator’s seat are men. How is any woman supposed to feel a sense of kinship or ownership over this story and any chance at an accurate retelling?]

This is particularly grating when you consider the centennial of the 19th Amendment is this year. So, Phantom Regiment, please remember that killing women does not celebrate them, and if you really must anyway, you damn well better reprogram your show. ♦


Hey, thanks for reading! My name is Megan and I make experimental, jazz, and classical concert music about interpersonal relationships and sexual assault. Feel free to wander around the site and subscribe if you’d like to keep up with my posts; I’d love to have you with me!

6 thoughts on “Hey, Phantom Regiment: BAD MOVE

  1. If you want to be technical, a lot of shows this year celebrated women. Phantom Regiment took a different approach to it. Instead of directly telling the story of Joan of Arc, or even having the Phantomettes back this year, they decided to make it more about women that inspire. Phantom uploaded videos on their social media called, “Who is Your Joan?”, which went through different corps members and staff (men and women alike) about a woman that inspired them to be the best they can be. And looking at the technical stuff after finals, they are finally on an increase of score since 2012’s “Turandot”. This was an amazing year for them, and hopefully started many more years of being amazing again. And this show sure as hell moved me. It made me passionate about trying to make it in to Phantom.

    1. The thing is, I’m *not* getting technical here. This isn’t about execution or all the goodies corps drop on social media; it’s not about their scores or how well they played. I would expect *any* top-12 corps to be able to execute *any* show design with a modicum of proficiency, and “their score’s getting better” isn’t a justification for bastardizing a woman’s story and stealing her name for the title of her show while also excluding the musical voices of well-known, effective women composers. I’m not saying anything about the quality of the music they put together–plenty of drum corps shows are moving in some way or another–I’m pointing out that if you’re going to claim a historical figurehead, you need to be responsible in the ways in which you use her.

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