The Myth of Absence: Representation, Reception, and the Music of Experimental Women Improvisors

This dissertation examines how creative women improvisers are subject to gendered representations and receptions by the media, festival, and record producers. Current dispositions towards women, whether deliberate or unintentional, influence future engagements for women improvisers. In addition, the relative exclusion of feature articles on women improvisers or as leaders at festivals leads to what I call the myth of absence - the assumption that women are not interested in participating in the exploration and development of experimental creative improvised music. This assumption, as my research reveals, is false.

Pursuing an ethnographically oriented methodology, I conducted interviews with a diverse community of women improvisers. These women included accordionist Pauline Oliveros; pianist Amina Claudine Myers; singer Maggie Nichols; pianist Irène Schweizer; kotoist Miya Masaoka; drummer Susie Ibarra; samperist Ikue Mori; pianist Marilyn Crispell, among others.

From the interviews, a collection of issues was selected, leading to the formation of five chapters. The first chapter presents a brief survey of the history of improvised music research, canonicity, and the exclusion of women improvisers. In chapter two, I provide perhaps the first collection of biographies on seven women improvisers. Chapter three examines the gendered reception of women improvisers in current magazines on improvisation. In the fourth chapter, I analyze the data from five international festivals that feature or include improvised music. These festivals include: The Guelph Jazz Festival, Canada; Du Maurier International Jazz Festival Vancouver, Canada; Festival International Musique Actuelle Victoriaville; Total Music Meeting, Berlin; and Taktlos, Switzerland. In the fifth chapter, I explore the interactive nature of improvised music.

This study reveals the need for greater inclusion of women improvisers in the emergent scholarly discourse on improvisation. Without the inclusion of women improvisers in the field, there is a danger of creating dominant modes of improvisation while women's contributions to the field remain marginalized or "othered."

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Amina Claudine Myers, dissertations, ethnography, experimental music, experimental women improvisors, female improvisors, gender, Ikue Mori, improvisation, interviews, Irene Schweizer, Maggie Nichols, Marilyn, Miya Masaoka, Pauline Oliveros, Susie Ibarra