Monthly Music Hackathon: Gender in Music

Gender in Music is the theme of this month’s Monthly Music Hackathon. On April 30, at Spotify’s NYC offices, the event will start at noon with talks by roboticists, musicians, computer scientists, and DJs about their work and how it relates to issues of gender, feminism, and music. Then, the hacking begins – build anything you want related to music, gender, and more. Original art, research, apps, and any other type of project are all fair game. Programming and technical skills are not required. Demonstrations of hacks will start at 8 pm. There will also be some workshops on visualization of lyrics data and vocal processing.

Some of the speakers and workshop organizers took the time to answer a few questions about their work, about gender, and about how gender informs technology. Producer & drummer Kiran Gandhi will talk about her life as a touring musician and about her Madame Gandhi project. Artist Erin Gee will discuss her work around human voices in electronic bodies. Kaitlin Gu and NYU Women In Computing will lead a workshop around data visualization. D’hana Perry will talk about her latest project LOOSE, and issues around race, gender, and identity construction.

In what ways do you see gender informing music, and vice versa?

D’hana Perry: We’re in an interesting time in gender x music right now because there are endless ways to express yourself, and so many inexpensive tools available to produce music. The very idea of questioning what gender “is” and “is not” is being mainstreamed right now and it’s coming out in the music we hear from bedroom producers to major label artists.

For example, you can see the contribution that genres like Sissy Bounce gave to the broader culture. Artists like Big Freedia & Sissy Nobby, have expanded people’s limitations around sex, gender identity and gender expression, while releasing groundbreaking, aggressive tracks. Where do you think ‘Twerking’ came from in the first place?

At the same time, we still see the same Top Ten Female Dj’s lists that journalists can’t seem to stop writing year after year. So while we are witnessing so much innovation in gender and music, there is still an unwillingness to acknowledge and promote women as major contributors within the music industry overall and it’s absurd!

How does the theme “Gender In Music” relate to the work that you do?

Kiran Gandhi: It is the only work I do! I am a musician who likes to take my beliefs on modern feminism and instill them into my music and live performance. My band is called Madame Gandhi and we just wrapped up our March of Madames tour around the country during international women’s month.

Kaitlin Gu: I do a lot of work with providing spaces for women in tech specifically. Along with my co-founder and partner in crime, Kira Prentice, we founded Flawless Hacks, an all women hackathon based in NYC.

D’hana Perry, Photo Credit: Amos Mac for Original Plumbing Magazine

D’hana Perry, Photo Credit: Amos Mac for Original Plumbing Magazine

Why might this topic be relevant to music hacker participants in Monthly Music Hackathon?

Erin Gee: Artists, dreamers and creative technological workers have a responsibility to understand their own science fictions as powerful agents for social engagement. As it turns out, technology is not only a gadget, but a means of accomplishing or doing something. We have done gender in very rigid ways for a very long time. Once a hacker has mastered their technological craft, why not learn more about design process in light of gender, colonial histories, ableism? I mean really, why not?

What would you like to see participants address or explore in the hacks that they will be making April 30?

Kiran Gandhi: Most musical products today are still built with the male consumer in mind. I want to see participants think about building products with the female consumer in mind. For example, Annie Clark of St. Vincent just built a guitar that carves out a space for people with breasts. Tools like Sensory Percussion enable drummers to pack a much lighter drum kit when on the road by substituting most sounds electronically using small sensors. What can YOU build that helps women make the music they want to make? What can you build that might encourage more parents to support their girls playing music? What products can you make that might make the average sound engineer slightly less condescending, or a product that enables you to test your own sound so you don’t have to deal with sexism on tour?

Erin Gee - Photo credit Nick Hyatt

Erin Gee – Photo credit Nick Hyatt

Tell us a bit about what you’ll be talking about at the Hackathon.

Erin Gee: Ultimately I think I’d like to talk about some of the stuff below – technological determinism vs technological constructivism, how technology over the years actually refers to tools and processes of doing relevant to a specific social group, and maybe a brief introduction to how gender interacts with design historically in technology? I lecture on these topics, but I understand my own work in the hierarchical organization of the body itself as a means of kind of hacking the quantification of the human body itself, which isn’t directly gendered but is driven by my feminist interrogation of any and all human systems of “technology”.

Pretty much just want to point out how an exploration of technological systems themselves is actually a deeply political act, and so my work kind of extends from previous technofeminist engagements to address gendered discrimination in technology.

Gender in Music Hackathon

Saturday, April 30, 2016
Noon to 10 p.m.

Spotify NYC
45 W 18th St, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10011

Free. All are welcome: RSVP

About Monthly Music Hackathon

Monthly Music Hackathon is a unique event series that brings together diverse NYC music communities to explore music from every angle. Once a month, an entire day is dedicated to a topic related to music, such as algorithmic composition, lyrics, hip hop, music games, and more. It’s an opportunity for you to learn about a new subject from experts, participate in hands-on workshops, work on your own project for a whole day, practice the full lifecycle of a creative project, and get feedback on your work from people with diverse viewpoints. Monthly Music Hackathon is free of cost, open to all, welcoming to people with all skill levels and disciplines, non-competitive, does not allow advertising or recruiting, and is organized by volunteers who are passionate participants. For more information, visit their blog, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.