Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and the Importance of Teaching Identity

It’s December 1, 2019, and I’m propped against the comfiest pillows in my apartment, poring over the second edition of Robert Walser’s Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History in preparation for a forthcoming guest lecture. I’ve got tons of time—until sometime next semester—but because I’m trying to highlight the connections between my musical work as a whole and the jazz tradition, I’m looking for sources that will back up my arguments. I don’t expect to spend much time in the legitimacy flames this time around, but ideally, I’ll use this lecture again in the future. So I’m reading Keeping Time in full, re-engaging with my favorite parts and digging deeper into things I might have missed or flat-out did not read when I first brought the book home as a junior in college.

While I’m trying to find useful words by men to prepare for the inevitable (hopefully distant) day one decides to argue I’m a poser who doesn’t conform because I don’t understand complex harmony or virtuosic playing or some shit like that, I’m also giving myself full permission to luxuriate in the (few) moments of words penned by women. So I dipped my toes into Hazel V. Carby’s “The Sexual Politics of Women’s Blues” like it was the hot tub of my dreams. I wasn’t disappointed—in fact, in the span of a single essay, my world rearranged itself.

Continue reading Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and the Importance of Teaching Identity

In Another Universe, I’m Already Dead: Costs of Trauma-Informed Activism

[I wrote this post over the course of October and November and genuinely did not mean to put it up the night before my twenty-fourth birthday. Somewhere, the universe is laughing at me.]

Last night (not actually last night), I lay in bed at 1am, clinging to my partner as I tried to get my heart rate down. Normally, I’d say panic attacks aren’t particularly common for me—usually, I have one or two a year—but over the past few months, my body has truly become the biggest testament to how difficult this transition back into Phoenix has been for me. Very few people besides those I’m close to have an understanding of how fear-based my interactions with this region and community can be. It’s difficult to return to a situation that previously was very, very bad for me, especially since I know I’m going to do far too much to try to fix problems that aren’t my responsibility to address. And my body holds that knowledge. It tells me—quite loudly—when it knows I’m about to do something scary, and it hits me with the consequences of dealing in this much tension and stress on a regular basis.

Normally, I average two panic attacks a year. Since moving back to Phoenix, it’s closer to one a month. So far, I’ve realized that while I do a pretty good job processing my trauma at my own pace, aspects of the way I’m treated by colleagues who either are angry with me or want to talk in-depth about the things that drove me away in the first place, things I haven’t fully been able to articulate to myself even after two years, tend to kick my trauma in ways I’m not prepared to deal with yet.

Continue reading In Another Universe, I’m Already Dead: Costs of Trauma-Informed Activism

Here’s Your Damn List.

I am not a fan of the question “can you give me reading material on that?” (in any incarnation). It puts the onus on oppressed demographics to educate their oppressors on longstanding, pervasive harm that is being engaged in to this day. I particularly hate it being directed at me in any context besides a serious, direct (in-person) conversation between two people or perhaps in a small group of friendly faces. If anyone asks me in public, the answer is almost always “no, you can do your own research.” Because, frankly, that’s always true. To borrow from an internet friend, your education is not my calling. It is your responsibility.

However, I know I’m going to be asked this question for a long time, so below is a by-no-means-comprehensive list of over one hundred resources I highly recommend to improve your own education about gendered violence (both in a physical-violence sense and a general-trauma sense). This took me weeks to assemble. Your work does not stop here. If it has an asterisk (*) next to it, that means I found it on the first page of a Google search. You could do that, too. Do better!

Last update: December 14, 2019

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Paying Your Dues (and other bullshit)

Since moving back to Phoenix, one phrase (besides “it’s better now”) has begun to permeate my consciousness—and weigh on my mind—more than it ever did while I was in California. I absolutely spoiled any chance at a surprise with my title, so yes, that phrase is “paying your dues.” Despite all the time I’ve spent wandering through various genres and fields of music, it’s never quite rung true to me. This is, I think, partly because of how intentionally nonspecific it is and partly because of the conditions under which I make music and move through the world at large. The depths of this issue are murky, and from here it’s difficult to see the bottom, but if I had to take a stab at a thesis, it’d be this: the gatekeeping, favoritism, and institutional bias that create the foundation of “paying your dues” stifle creativity, discourage participation, alienate newcomers, and serve the white patriarchy.

Wow, that’s a lot to unpack. So let’s take it a bite at a time, shall we?

Before we get into it, I’m not sure why this didn’t come up a lot while I was in Los Angeles, but the answer is probably partly regional and partly cultural. A wise jazz musician once pointed out to me that the prevalence and outward manifestation of misogyny varies drastically by location. Generally, New York and LA are noticeably different (though not necessarily less misogynist) than most of the rest of the country. And while this “paying your dues” thing can undoubtedly play into that, I think another part of the equation is that mindless playing-for-the-paycheck work isn’t as looked down on in LA as it sometimes is in some pockets of Phoenix—in part because gigs are a step up from the carousel of day jobs, plural, needed to pay Los Angeles rent.

The other part of this, I suppose, is that I wasn’t told to pay my dues in LA; I was told to put in the work. While both phrases carry similar weight, there’s a lot more flexibility to the latter. My friends and teachers saw me making angry assault music and counted that as “doing the work.” They saw me advocating for student life improvements and institutional change and counted that as “doing the work.” They see me blogging about the need for better treatment across the board and count that as “doing the work.” But regardless of the details, I didn’t hear or talk about or think about “paying my dues” much in California, and I do in Arizona, so it’s time to break down some concepts.

Continue reading Paying Your Dues (and other bullshit)

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.]

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Announcing Phantom’s Winter Composers

Phantom Brass is pleased to announce the winners of our Winter 2018 Call for Scores. We had so many great submissions this year and we’re grateful to everyone who participated. We look forward to premiering these works as part of our 2018-19 season.

  • Marina Romani: Prologo (solo tuba)
  • Greg Simon: The Way Through the Woods (trumpet and tape)
  • Jacob Elkin: Tiny Dance
  • Björn Griesheimer: Taratatam
  • Justin Merritt: Album Leaves
  • Emiliano Manna: Gesti
  • Sy Brandon: Capriccio for Brass Quartet

We’re also excited to formally announce the arrival of a new member, composer-trumpeter Sara Sithi-Amnuai. Sara is a fantastic player and we’re delighted to have her onboard beginning in the 2018-19 season. As a group, we can’t wait to see what new challenges we can take on with the added flexibility of a fifth member! ♦

Interested in keeping up with Phantom? Join the mailing list to hear about calls for scores and upcoming events.

Congratulations: Phantom Brass Has Its Composers

Phantom Brass is pleased to announce the results of our inaugural call for scores. This fall, we received works from seventy-four composers representing eighteen states and fourteen countries. We would like to congratulate Bracha Bdil, Michael Boyd, Jim Fox, Jinhee Han, Philip Henderson, Hayley Marie King, Chris Lamb, Pierre Emmanuel Mariaca, Charles Meenaghan, and Jonathan Newmark on the skill and creativity of their composing. Phantom Brass will collaborate with these composers to bring their music to life throughout 2018.

Our next call for scores will open January 15; stay tuned! ♦

You Can’t Cry While Drinking (Coffee)

Sometimes a project sucks you in so fast you don’t even realize it’s happened.

My roommate’s capstone is one of these projects. Written by Tess Galbiati and serving as both her final creative project and her honors thesis, the production follows Stacia, an art major with big plans for the future, as she struggles with her own wellness during a rough relationship and a fatal illness within her family. Relationships of all kinds are tested. It’s a fascinating dissection of the nuanced conversations and friendships that today’s young adults make.

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Don’t Tell: February Premieres and Shenanigans

Hi everyone! I hope your holiday season was restful and filled with friends and family and all that jazz. Mine involved lots of traveling, but now that we’re back to a (mostly) normal school schedule, I’ve returned to my normal music-making groove. February is a busy month for me – despite it being the shortest of the year, I and my peers have a lot going on! Here’s a sampling:

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