Monday, October 20, 2008

Men, Women and Music

This morning in my inbox was a link from the Times Online about the differences between men's and women's musical lists. I was thinking about this just last night, as I attended a show at Albuquerque's The Stove (which needs to update its Web site. Hint, hint) by Santa Fe band The Late Severa Wires and Sunburned Hand of the Man (Sunburned plays tonight in Santa Fe at The Process, by the way 8 pm, no cover, 367 Hillside Ave.). The audience for these two psychedelic, post rock noise bands was, by far, primarily male. The members of each band was also a majority male, though Sunburned did have a female singer/sampler/electronic knob turner.

As I listened to the music I couldn't find much in the way of an answer as to why men and women listen to different music. Most of the stuff last night was more atmospheric than wordy and the angst that I felt coming from both bands seems to be a pretty common type of feeling. It's angry without being violent, dramatic without being tearful and calmly meditative despite the feedback and pounding drums. Basic, primal emotions, yet the men were by far more into it than the women.

And though the Times article points out that "you seldom see many women buying albums or attending gigs by instrumental “postrock” acts such as Tortoise or Godspeed You! Black Emperor" it's lists of "artists that women love and men hate" and "artists that men love and women hate" stick pretty squarely to the pop side of things. For the ladies it's James Blunt (wait, someone out there actually does like this? Um. Ugh.), Cat Stevens, Tori Amos and Early Genesis, while the boys get The Smiths, Led Zeppelin and Neil Young. I'd love to complain about the lists being unfair in some way but I think they're not too bad. Pop crap coupled with more pop crap, angst on both sides, etc. Two bands from each list for this girl, and a lot of shock that anyone digs the rest.

What I find most interesting about this idea though is not the idea that men and women listen to music differently, it's something that I discussed with a friend the other day. The way female creativity is accepted. (I would have loved to see where the writer felt that Sonic Youth fit on the list, a very "male" group with one of the most interesting women in rock on guitar.) Many male friends of mine who don't let their creativity out much but are of the "creative type" stereotype are automatically assumed to be creative and good at what they do. They say they write or play guitar and it's accepted, even if no one has seen the artwork. Women have to prove their skills in a different way, and even then what is seen is taken at face value and not expanded upon within the imagination. Why can a man paint and play guitar while a woman who does photography shocks everyone when she sings? Then there's the whole issue of dating. When we women date creative men our own creativity, no matter how successful we are, is outshone by the men in our lives, no matter how unsuccessful. The real issue isn't how do we process art differently, but how are we processed by art. Perhaps that's why women gravitate toward easy to digest music by men while sticking with complexity in their female musicians. We understand that complexity in ourselves, yet we deal with it so much in men we want our men simple, the way they're not in real life.

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