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Brown, JM 1996, 'De-gendering the electronic soundscape : women, power and technology in contemporary music', Masters thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright JM Brown 1996


In this project, I focus on women's relationships with technology in the context of contemporary music culture. In choosing this focus, I intend to elucidate the interplay between social constructs of gender, power and technology as they enacted in a particular arena of artistic and economic activity. The nature of this interplay is informed by prevailing regimes of truth which have emerged through historical processes and which surface in diverse social contexts, of which this is but one. My intention here is to identify such regimes and to situate women's discourses within them. In this undertaking, I draw on a body of theory which lies at the conjunction of contemporary feminist critique and the later work of Michel Foucault on power and the 'technologies of the self' to explore a model of power which promises cogent strategies in the feminist project of reworking notions of gender and social agency. The inquiry enlists the perspectives of women students in a university school of contemporary music through a guided interview process. The technologies referred to include musical instruments both of traditional and twentieth century design, as well as a range of sophisticated systems of equipment used for recording and amplifying, for composing and arranging music. Through analysis of the interview data and through readings from social science and musicology, I identify a dominant discourse, or regime of truth, which privileges men and marginalizes women in the realm of techno-musical activity. Alongside this prevailing regime are women's discourses which both comply with and dissent from its assumptions. In examining these discourses, I seek insights into the processes by which women collude in their own exclusion from a male-colonized terrain, but also exercise power to insist on entry. The alignment of technology and masculinity in contemporary music creates serious training and employment disadvantages for women in many facets of the industry. I contend that this anomaly demands attention in the interests of socio-economic justice, in the interests of the industry itself through full utilization of human resources and market potential, and in the interests of women's desires to expand their creative options and employment opportunities.