Thursday, January 19, 2006

poor choice of phrase combination, or...

intimidating brush with patriarchy? I'll simplify it for the men in the audience. You be the judge:

Say you're in a band, and you're one of two Is in a room full of Bs. Since this is already a minority position, and you play the tumuru, a traditionally B instrument. You'd feel a lot of pressure to prove yourself, right? So far, you've been doing quite well and you're confident in your ability to be an I amongst Bs. Sure, you've got room for improvement, and occasionally you fuck up pretty bad, but who doesn't? You've always felt that your tumuru playing was not so much a reflection of your letter and more a personal, individual expression. Any faults you have are not the fault of your entire letter classification, but rather of your own concern.

So a sheet of music is placed in front of you, and you study it. It seems to be fairly easy, with some classic tumuru riffs and some low notes you feel confident on. The chart starts. It's pretty fast, and you have trouble getting started, in fact getting a bit lost. You do your best to get back on track but you miss some of the important, exposed music. You log it in your memory so that the next time you won't embarass yourself too much.

The song ends. The director hems and haws a bit, and then asks the other tumuru player (a sub, but then again you were both sightreading) some questions about backround and experience. The director says a few words of advice and then turns to you. "You know what tumuru playing is all about, right? I mean, there's legit players in the top band and they do fine, so you don't have to be used to this kind of music. I don't care if you make mistakes, just don't NOT play. Don't be scared of it. I'm all about the curviness of the band. If you don't have a pair, grow a pair"

As an I, you find this comment to be quite offensive. Is the director saying that you're not welcome in the band because of your straight line physiology? Is he suggesting that curvy letters are best and therefore most desireable in style? Or is it just an offhand comment, meant to suggest that the director will not punish you if you prove yourself? Is proving yourself against these odds impossible? (no) Or does it feel suddenly like the room has gone cold to you and everyone looks the other direction?

So, you decide. Would such a situation make you uncomfortable? For me, I can forgive the "grow a pair" comment for now, being as everyone in the band is being judged on how they read at this point and if something stupid happens, you go with it instead of getting flustered. For me, I resent a few things:

1. The implication that I must be a legit player- why? I am, that's true, and if I was a jazzer I probably wouldn't have screwed up so badly. But combined with the "grow a pair" comment it feels like a judgement on my gender.

2. The implication that because I am (I) the reason I didn't play so well or missed solo entrances is because I'm shy or afraid. I suppose that's a better conclusion than "well, she just can't play at all" but still. If you know me, you know I hate that. HATE THAT. You can hardly offend me more than by suggesting that I'm timid or retiring. If you don't understand where I'm coming from on that one- well, you try actually being that way for many, many years, and then breaking the mold one day, only to find that preconceptions stand.

Feminist and personal hackles officially raised. I didn't say anything to (director) because I thought I'd give him this one as a freebie. It could have just been a poor way to say what he was trying to say, given the circumstances. It could just be jazz lingo and I just have to deal with (until such point as I can change the world). At any rate, strike 1.

PS I still love playing in this band. The fifth book is awesome and I have no intentions of relinquishing my control over it.