Happy IWD!

Hello everyone and Happy International Women’s Day.

Last year I marked this date in sound by releasing a SONIK mix to accompany the Balance for Better Blanket. The Balance for Better Blanket was produced in collaboration with the team at KDD&Co. and celebrates the lives, work, skills and contributions of 30 women. My mix provides a sonic context for these same women in an audio collage of field recordings, songs and found audio.

celebratory stranded colourwork blanket, made up of many different, intricately-designed squares

In 2020, I also collaborated with Jilliene Sellner on a special IWD mix for release through the radio show to which we are both long-term contributors: framework. Jilliene is a Canadian sound artist and PhD researcher at Goldsmiths University and though we have never met in person, I feel we share a kind of socially-engaged interest in sound and its relationship to gender and other intersections of identity and power.

Last year, Jilliene put out a call across her social media for new works made by women and the result was this show. This year, in a much more introspective mode, we dug into our respective music collections to put together a show for this year’s special IWD edition of the framework radio show.

For me, this meant rummaging around in my bandcamp purchases and being introduced to new artists by Jilliene, who did the same.

Do you use bandcamp? To me it is THE NUMBER ONE place to buy music: a sort of Ravelry of sound. The platform takes 15% of digital music sales but the remaining 85% goes directly to artists. What I love most of all about this model is that artists and tiny little independant labels can set up pages for free, and publish work directly, without mediation or interference by conservative, profit-obsessed middlemen. Anyone who is doing exciting work with sound can publish it on bandcamp, and thereby find an audience. Finding and listening to artists on bandcamp has been one of my favourite activities for about six or seven years now. However, through lockdown, it’s taken on a special significance as a way to directly compensate artists for whom COVID-19 has had a devastating financial impact through concert and performance cancellations.

Through bandcamp, Jilliene and I also found the amazing creative women of sound whose work features in the show we have created for our special edition of framework radio show.

Women like sound artist and poet Kiera Mulhern, who buried a microphone in a book to collect fragments of text and words for her album, De Ossibus 20.

Women like Jacqueline George, who has a fascination with sound’s capacity to conjure internal images, and whose work reflects a restless search to uncover the creative sonic potential of Cairo’s noises and textures as in this amazing piece, The Same Sun.

Women like Kate Carr – who runs the Flaming Pines label – “a topography of hidden global sounds” – and brings us such sonic meditations on environmental devastation and resilience as her own release, “I had myself a nucelar spring” and that of her colleague, Linda O’Keefe: “Silent Spring“.

Women like Moor Mother AKA Camae Ayewa, who describes her own dense, rich releases as a “slaveship punk and Afrofuturist electronics” and whose montages of sounds and poetry simultaneously bear witness to racism in America and suggest a pro-Black sonic future.

Women like Klein, whose grainy sonic collages meld electronic, found and cultural textures together into a distinctive record and experimental sound which speaks to her Nigerian heritage in works like her magnificent “marks of worship”, the video for which was directed by Akinola Davies JR.

Women like Lucy Liyou, whose hauntingly personal and introspective album “Practice” explores the emotional and cultural space around the piano and its connections with family, memories, and the Korean cultural context of Lucy Liyou’s heritage.

Women like Izabela Dłużyk, whose careful, detailed recordings of the birds in Poland in Soundscapes of Spring and Soundscapes of Summer reveal her particular sensitivity to sound. Blind from birth, Izabela has been recording birdsong since childhood, gradually refining her craft in hope of sharing with listeners “glimpses of wisdom and [the] beauty of the natural world.”

Women like Aurélie Nyirabikali Lierman, who is based in Belgium, and whose creative practice fuses ideas from Western contemporary sonic praxis with the non-Western soundworlds of East Africa, in a mode she sometimes describes as Afrique Concrète. Aurélie is one of many amazing artists creating experimental sound work in Africa and represented on this release by the excellent Syrphe label.

Women like Sophia Shen and Lemon Guo – the two experimental Chinese composers behind the duo, Southeast of Rain 东南有雨. Based in California and New York, their “genre-bending” work references Chinese musical conventions through the use of the voice and the pipa (a traditional Chinese string instrument) while freely introducing ideas and sounds from outside that tradition such as field-recordings and found sounds.

Women like Ruby Colley whose approach to composing and performing with her violin vastly expand the scope and possibilities of that instrument. Ruby’s recent release, Murmurations mixes up references multiple genres, while the track she allowed us to include in our special framework:afield radio show seems to have been recorded outside, with birds.

I love the work being done by these women around the world, in sound, to amplify and explore and celebrate and share and represent life at different, sonic levels… through voices, instruments, found sounds and other materials, they are telling the story of the world in complex and numinous ways. On International Women’s Day, I am turning the volume up to loud on this womens’ work. From shouts of pain and anguish apprehending climate-change, to ways of hearing informed by disability, to sound work which intentionally looks beyond the dominant Western paradigm, to work which intentionally confronts issues around race, ethnicity and cultural diversity, this work is completely amazing and diverse, and it needs to be more widely heard and known.

You can listen too, via the bandcamp links I’ve shared above or in the tiny glimpses into these different practices which Jilliene and I shared in our special IWD radio show for framework:afield. Special thanks to all the amazing women whose work we have featured in our show. If you have recommendations for women whose voices need to be more widely heard, please drop them in the comments below and, if you are able, directly support women musicians and sound artists today.


a closeup photograph of burning - flaming - pines.

1 thought on “Happy IWD!

  1. I wanted to thank you for highlighting the work of Ruby Colley – it’s a long time since I’ve been this excited to listen to something over and over and over again.

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