Pardon Our Dust (this work is messy)

On this blog, I try to write about the intersections of womanhood, music, misogyny, and my own creative practice. The balance is a tenuous one to strike, especially since world events and major (musical) institutional announcements can necessitate posts that both move beyond my usual material and interrupt the flow of my thoughts. As such, even though I try to tie everything back to music or the work I do specifically, sometimes I think some folks forget that this all ties together for me.

And yes, it can be tempting to ditch the writing about feminism and activism and navigating music’s social scene in a decidedly female body. At times it feels like it would be easier to try to be the Buzzfeed of contemporary classical music. I know full well that I could opt for the familiarities of topics like leading ensembles and earning respect (now there’s a phrase fraught with male undertones) and inclusive programming. I already touch on these things from time to time, but they could become the mainstays of my written work. I could emphasize the traditional (or, at least, expected) career components we’re all familiar with.

And, in a way, I think that’s why I don’t. Sure, I’m happy to write on something conventional when it inspires me or when I’m getting questions about it, but most of the rest of the time, my mind is grappling with other things. Somewhere along the way, my art and my activism fused, and thanks to my CalArts education (especially Michael Pisaro’s John Cage class and Anne LeBaron’s Concert Theater), I’m prepared to use that in a purposeful way. Beyond that, too, I’ve realized that while my femaleness and queerness were not (always) the ways in which people defined me during my arts education, they seem to be what folks get fixated on the most in the professional world (thus far). If I can take that potentially crippling reality and tie it back into the creative work I’m already doing, I will.

See, there are plenty of composers and artists throughout history who have pursued the work and writings of philosophers and their own contemporaries as a means by which to further their art. I may not be tuning into Plato and Aristotle, to Locke and Descartes, but I’m paying close attention to Ellen Reid, to Ronan Farrow, to Ijeoma Oluo and Blair Imani, and to my sisters and siblings and friends doing this work across the country and around the world. I listen to the pain and the anger and the longing, but through it all, I see the self-discovery and the awe and the wonder that pokes its way through no matter how dark the night seems.

And that’s why I write the things I do—because they’re the things that can make or break an arts career without ever being mentioned as a threat. Because I and many others spend too much time reaching for the words to articulate things that our fellow female and nonbinary peers intuitively understand but have never heard voiced, and I want to contribute to that literature. Because someday, when I’m a mid-career artist meeting students and giving master classes across the country, I want to be able to put myself back in my students’ shoes in the blink of an eye. I want to remember—viscerally—what it was like to be twenty-three and writing music and analysis about Schrödinger’s Rapist because the local, regional, and global communities of men I was in made that topic seem urgent and necessary and critical-to-address-now. I want to remember that my profession as a whole made it necessary for me to pursue these topics not because no one else was saying anything but because these voices continue to be categorically excluded from music’s biggest stages. I want to remember the feeling of freefall that comes at the start of a career in which mistreatment and abuse from my peers and colleagues could be the thing that kills me. (I don’t mean that figuratively.) And, somehow, someday, I want to stand in front of those starry-eyed students and be able to tell them that the pain I was dealt by the hands of creatives who said they loved me was worth it. That there somehow was some reward, whether personal or professional, financial or existential, that made me feel like my work and my words were embraced, not tolerated. That I made it—not, perhaps, to any fame, but to a point at which I’m not in panic mode all the time.

So, for now, I’m not writing too much about the things I could teach you in a lecture or a lesson. I’m building a method of respect and compassion, a framework of honesty and nuance upon which I can frame my music and my performance art and everything that exists between and beyond. You’re welcome to follow along and borrow what you like, of course, but my creative space is very much being built.

Pardon our dust. We’re open during construction. ♦

Thanks so much for reading! If you’re interested in the words coming out of my mouth or the sounds coming out of my horn, feel free to poke around a little while you’re here. To follow my ramblings and creative process in real time, or to support the work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @ordinarilymeg on Instagram. If you’re looking for more inspiration, here’s an article I read today on the myriad ways women are discriminated against in academia.