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Reviewed by:
  • Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound
  • Betsey Biggs (bio)
Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound. By Tara Rodgers. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. 322 pp.

The title of Tara Rodgers's Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound comes from a term in electronic music referring to a sound containing every possible frequency. But, as she points out in her introduction, it also juxtaposes a marker of femininity with a marker of productive disturbance. Rodgers describes the twenty-four interviews in this book as "pink noises: sonic interventions from multiple sources, which destabilize dominant gendered discourses and work toward equal power distributions in the cultural arenas where sounds reverberate" (19). Though Rodgers answers a few expected questions—Who has access to the tools for creative voice? How are women represented in the media?—the strength of this book lies in the prismatic ways in which its opening essay invites the reader to unpack the interviews that follow.

The essay introducing Pink Noises lays out three main themes of critique: militarism, technology, and the binary of noise/silence as the preeminent historiography of electronic music; gender, technology, and the discourse of production and reproduction; and the ways in which sonic and feminist waves might interact with one another. This introduction is followed by twenty-four interviews organized into six sections: time and memory; space and perspective; nature and synthetics' circulation and movements; language, machines, and embodiment; and solitude and collaboration. The musicians chosen for each section resonate well with one another, particularly if one is familiar with their music. As a collection of interviews with women making electronic music and as an important critical look at the resonances between feminism and electronic music, this volume is both welcome and long overdue.

Rodgers brings a wonderful breadth to her approach to the topic. She has participated in electronic music cultures as a dance music producer, experimental electronic musician, professor of sound art, and feminist scholar. As a composer, I found myself grateful that she was able to engage deeply in questions both musical and technical with DJs, sound artists, and electronic music composers alike. Indeed, were the book simply a compilation of such interviews, it would be an inspiring resource for any composer. However, Pink Noises gains a great deal more meaning because of the way Rodgers's deep understanding of both gender issues and electronic music allows her not only to marry these worlds but to use them to question one another in innovative ways.

Pink Noises grew organically out of a project begun over a decade ago, when Rodgers built her first home studio and found that, within the electronic music community, not only were women few and far between, but their contributions were routinely minimized. (This absence is easily confirmed by looking through canonical histories of electronic music; in the book, Annea Lockwood calls the history of women and electronic music "this great hole, a black hole [End Page 160] of no info.") Inspired by the emerging possibilities of online community as well as the Riot Grrrl movement and feminist cultural commentary, she created the website in 2000. The site offered interviews with women making electronic music; a safe space for conversations about technology, music, and gender; and resources for learning more about the nuts and bolts of making electronic music. Initially launched with six interviews as well as several essays and links to production resources, the site was active for several years and is now archived.

Pink Noises the book updates most of these initial interviews and adds dozens more. Crucially, its introductory essay is full of fresh new ideas about the ways in which feminism and electronic music might speak to one another, and these ideas lingered as I read through the interviews. One of the most satisfying aspects of the book is the sense of mentoring and networking that, I believe, grows out of the project's beginnings as an active community of friends, colleagues, and collaborators. Connections among the musicians interviewed here as well as with Rodgers herself pop up again and again throughout the book. Both Laetitia Sonami and Antye Greie describe working with...


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pp. 160-168
Launched on MUSE
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