In a Nutshell [No.1]

Moderator Semay Wu

Our 1st event was held on 12th of April, 7:30pm at the Varesezaal, in the Koninklijk Conservatorium of The Hague. We had two speakers, Ji Youn Kang (a composer, sound artist and noisist based in The Hague and Mariette Groot (who runs a mobile store called Underbelly, offering records, books, magazines, films and small musical instruments. They shared their own experiences and thoughts which then continued onto an active discussion.

Such topics – like gender in electronic music – are rife with really difficult corners, and the spectrum of where people lie is wide. To acknowledge this, it was essential that we addressed situations appropriately which allowed the speakers and also the audience to be comfortable. We had to find a way to provide a safe space for people to talk and to not feel pressured in public. During the meetings – for the organisation of this event – it became very clear that there were still many stories of many people’s experiences that needed appeasing. Indeed, what was felt in this group, was a very strong connection of listening and supporting. This is something we would like to bring to the discussions.

It is very humbling to hear about personal stories – of  complex and contentious situations that have happened in the past, and knowing that many similar situations are still happening today. We are also reminded that in many contexts things are not quite so visible. Even the most subtle of derogatory exchanges between two people – things not seen by other people – are some of the most damaging to the self-confidence and self-respect of a person. If they are the only ones to experience this, how will other people believe them? So, the questions are raised as to how to expose these invisibilities, and to give credance to them as real self-politicised experiences. It is arguable that not enough changes are happening in various public events, and this has not only heavily skewed the imaginations of the public towards the sense of diversity, but it means that any tiny amount of change can be seen as monumental. Is this good enough? Are we supporting the female performer/composer enough, and can we cultivate more female role-models? In fact, how do we see the role of females in electronic music? When people choose artists, what is un/consciously being thought of whilst deciding?

For this discussion to work, we need to find a way that lets it sit with an open mind, in order to find solutions through this, and how they will be implemented. If we want changes to be made, we should of course accept the smallest changes as a way forward, but changes must be continuously happening for the better. If people become active in thinking about themselves in this topic, then this is a very good thing. Self-politisism can only be seen as an open door: to start questioning our surroundings.

In addition, why is positive discrimination such an explosive topic to discuss? If it makes sense to have, then why is it so complex, and why are people against it? As a heavy example, it goes without saying that it is a demoralising thing when after you demand that ‘Black Lives Matter’, there will always be somebody throwing back the comment, ‘All Lives Matter’.

So there are many important questions to ask.

The main issue that catapulted this event forward was via a public argument on the topic of no women on the concert bill. The myriad of responses (from male and female) swarmed to the honey, and reacted angrily on the affect this subject brought to them: Not about self-politisism but because the topic itself is a contentious taboo subject. The hot question angered many. Why? Is there an unspoken boundary as to which one cannot cross? It is arguable again that a person’s personal experience is much less valuable and important than it’s ‘cleaner’ public image. This is in itself problematic, and if anything were to happen from this subject, it is that people need to talk, face-to-face, and to listen.

Both Ji and Mariette had two quite different approaches to their talk, and for the first event, the turnout was certainly very full. The list of bullet-points made from each were as follows:

1st speaker Ji Youn Kang
Ji Youn kang – talk
  • University in Korea – Gender balance was good for women in Composition courses. What happens after university? Who are getting the jobs, and where are all the women? Compare the percentage of women at university with the numbers after university who have careers in composition. Notice the drop.
  • Traditional Cliches in Korean job circumstances (female and male).
  • At university, your identity can be pre-defined. How does this affect you? What kind of definitions are these? – composer/sonologist/cultural background/gender etc.
  • How do we encounter and challenge invisible derogatory behaviour? Hidden discriminations that are not seen by other people.  Will they be believed?
  • If you can prove that you have made great commissions as a composer, is this enough to prove your worth at a professional level? What are the deciding factors that prove your worth?
  • How is discrimination formed and how does it exist in reality? How is it presented to us?
  • How different are our experiences to other people’s experiences?
2nd speaker Mariette Groot
Mariette Groot – talk


  • Appearance of websites of festivals seem positive towards female artists, but in reality the real statistics show that they are much lower than what is projected.
  • What, therefore, is our perception of equality / gender balance in festivals?
  • What are we used to seeing in festivals of M/F artists? And is our perception of balance skewed? If the actual percentage is low for female artists, yet when we look at the programme and it suggests that there are far more, what is happening?

Imagery and Language:

  • Can language change our perception for workshops etc? When we realise the importance of language, can we diversify our participants in workshops by including words that attract different kinds of people? What words work better for whom?
  • What does image say about our system? Is it inclusive? Can we re-think and re-construct images to reveal more depth than what we originally thought was there?
Crowd after the event


photos by Florian Cramer



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