Listen Closely

In class this week, we were given a worksheet that consisted of boxes to fill in. We were asked to go outside of the classroom and walk around our large campus filled with many different environments. The sheet suggested we go to a quiet and woodsy area, a busy, pedestrian filled area, and other areas that would allow us to experience different sights and sounds. Our task was to ignore the sights; close our eyes and open our ears.
I first walked out onto the big open main part of campus which we call the drillfield at Virginia Tech. Here, I listened for the sound that people made as they went on their way to class, passed Frisbees on the lawn… the sound of feet hitting the ground and cars and buses driving around; their brakes screeching as they paused for pedestrians. I then walked to a pond/wooded area we call the “Duck Pond”. I expected it to be much quieter here, however, there were people talking amongst one another, little children running around chasing the ducks, the sound of people running and heavily breathing, and many other man-made noises. I sat underneath a willow tree and tried to concentrate on the sounds that were coming from the earth. I heard the wind breezily flowing through the soft leaves of the willow tree, the soft splashes of frogs jumping in and out of the water, the rhythmic singing of the birds, and the rain gently tapping the pond as it fell. I then made my way to Main St., a busier part of Blacksburg, where noises were louder and more constant. Car horns beeping, doors opening and closing, wind-chimes clinging together, and so on.
I had never realized just how many different sounds could be heard around campus and how each sound is so significant to its place. When we close our eyes and open our ears, it helps us understand the context of a situation and the complexity and rhythms that we normally wouldn’t notice. This was an important experiment that can be related to music very easily. A lot of the time, we can hear music without actually listening to every detail that is put into making a song sound the way it does. If you listen carefully to a song, you would be able to hear consistency and rhythm in the drum beats or the strumming, you could hear the contrast of high-pitched and low-pitched instruments, and how all of these things are tediously intertwined to make beautiful music. I encourage you to listen to the song below, maybe even a couple times, and listen… really listen to every note, chord, every sound that comes from the music. What do you hear? Did you hear anything the second time that you missed the first time?

Gender Roles in Bluegrass Music

When I think of bluegrass music I do not automatically think of a certain gender or a certain race, I focus my attention more on the music itself and how the instruments are strummed and the melodies are sung. I have noticed recently that this genre does have a strong connotation with men, specifically middle aged-older men who are also white. Maybe this is because the music is rooted in the Appalachian region which also holds the stereotype of being a home to people of this sort, however I think that there is so much more to the music than who’s playing it.
Music is meant to be heard. And I will admit that in the bluegrass genre, it just sounds right to here an older male vocal on top of the beautifully harmonized instruments, however, women can achieve just the amount of prestige that a male can! Not only in bluegrass, or music, but in EVERYTHING. Mastering a craft takes hard work, dedication, and talent. There is no rule book that says “only men can excel in the bluegrass music industry.”
There are many talented women in the bluegrass scene, for example: Rhonda Vincent with her powerful on-stage presence, Claire Lynch with her Stevie-nicks sounding gritty high-pitched voice, and the highly-acclaimed Alison Krauss with her fairy-like tones who has taken the bluegrass world by storm! These ladies are just some of the few examples of the powerful woman-presence in bluegrass music.
I think one of the main reasons women do not get as much acknowledgment as they should in this industry is because their lyrical content can’t always compete with that of a man’s. Men seem to be able to write about anything and everything whereas women cannot get away with saying as much with their music. I think it is important for women to create a presence in the music industry that celebrates feminism rather than attempts to overcome an obstacle. It seems to me that women feel they need to overcome something to feel just as powerful as men when the truth is: there’s nothing to prove! Walk the walk and talk the talk and don’t worry about what anyone has to say about it. When people find power within themselves and their own identity, I think it is then that people will be able to move past gender inequalities.

The following video is one of my favorite songs in bluegrass music sung by a woman. The audience is captivated by her siren-like vocals, which shows that she is equally talented when compared to male bluegrass artists.