Read a snippet of our Kink Print interview with Synth Library Prague, a platform focusing on providing access to music-making through their open equipment collection, especially aiming to empower femmes in music along the way.
Throughout the month, we’ll be revealing bits and pieces of our first printed mag, bearing the topic SELF, allowing even those who cannot afford to buy it a bit of the glamorousness we managed to assemble for it!
A space supporting diversity on the music scene led by female musicians and curators, Synth Library Prague was born as a sister library of its precursor in Portland, US, founded by Alissa deRubeis. Synth Library Prague works as a strong foundation for exploring one’s own approach to musical expression, providing all the equipment along with the support of a like-minded community. With Mary C at the helm – a music journalist, curator, radio host, DJ and a producer – one of the library’s most important values is the empowerment of female artists.
To start off, can you tell us a bit more about Synth Library Prague and its efforts? What was the initial spark behind it?
Alissa: The Synth Library has been operating in Portland OR USA for two and a half years, and people from around the USA and world have expressed interest in having the same resources in their city. We try our best to listen to and serve our community and so we were looking around for the right place to have our first sister library. The most crucial piece of branching out was finding the right person to support its growth. Luckily I was introduced to Mary C through Bastl, and for a year we stayed in communication, during that time I learned more about Mary’s amazing organizing skills and creative perspective. We are thankful to have someone who shares our values so the libraries are able to reflect each others most important aspects, but different enough that we can be inspired by each other.
The questionable treatment, discrimination, and sexism women, trans and non-binary people face in the music industry has been quite the topic for a few years now. Do you feel like the situation has changed somehow, or is it all talk and no action?
Alissa: There are always people taking action to improve the conditions for others, and I greatly appreciate the work people put towards a greater equity for all. We have a long history of people caring and trying, and this history extends far beyond companies and people marketing their concern for women or equality. And even with the work people have done, I think we still have much more work to do. The problem of sexism and discrimination is a large and deeply embedded problem, not just within the music industry, but our whole society. I acknowledge that artists have a special moral responsibility, and I think James Baldwin put it best when he said “Society must accept some things as real; but he must always know that visible reality hides a deeper one, and that all our action and achievement rest on things unseen. A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven. One cannot possibly build a school, teach a child, or drive a car without taking some things for granted. The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides.”
Mary C: I guess we have to remember that it’s been only 100 years since women got the right to vote in Czech republic. I was so surprised when I opened a Czech book from the late 90’s called New Reading of the World full of great feminist essays, it seemed like we still deal with the same issues. And whenever I feel terrible from how deeply rooted the misogyny is, I remind my self that I have been born to very good conditions compared to majority of women around the world and that I can use the extra power and comfort to make at least a tiny change. I try not be fooled by what we see on social media in our echo chambers and look further. My focus is music and empowering women in this field but when I hosted discussion about labour and health care or had a workshop with young Roma women in foster home or learned more about homeless women through Jako Doma NGO, it was obvious that there are still serious systemic issues that are not trending at all and we should not forget about them.
Why is it important to focus on making music more accessible to young girls? Would you say it can be a tool of self-expression, self-healing, or self-care (or all at once perhaps?) for them?
Alissa: In making synthesis and audio electronic instruments available to young girls we are sharing even more than the possibility of creating music. We are sharing a skill set of professional language development, providing tools for self expression, and enriching personal relationships with science and technology. These skills can increase self confidence and ability to stay engaged in the study of modern technologies, sonic or otherwise.
Mary C: It’s interesting how only certain types of making music are considered appropriate for girls and women. The stereotypes shape the education and the way we talk about women musicians and that shapes our choices. So it is important to offer wider range of possibilities for women in the music education. Just recently someone asked me: why should a woman be a trombonist? I was shocked. We should ask, why should there be any restrictions? We should be able to take control, be offered to be whatever: conductors, composers, producers, sound engineers, instrument designers, we should be offered power not only playing a “beautiful melody”. Offering music technology to women is very important because lot of times they are not confident enough to work with it, they carry some notion about themselves that has been impose on them and that’s a shame because music technology can bring some kind of emancipation, you can express however you want just with a computer, you don’t need any producers, engineers or bandmates. I definitely need to see more women not only using the technology for their free authentic expression but also not being afraid re-designing it.
Want to read more? The rest of the interview can be found in our first printed magazine Kink Print: SELF – get your copy here!
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