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Punk/Noise Panel 2C

Punk Through Narrative & Identity
Room G.17, Armstrong Building

Jessica Blaise Ward (Leeds Beckett University)
Who remembers post-punk women?’

Who remembers post-punk? Its cultural and musical presence in the late 1970s and the early 1980s is often celebrated by many, despite the numerous hardships that British society faced. From industrial disputes and strikes to anti-Thatcherism and youth unemployment, it was a transitionary time in British history. How do we remember post-punk? Established since the 1940s, memory work and oral histories provide an opportunity for this, although they simultaneously raise a multitude of issues, not least from terminology. ‘Individual memory’ and ‘collective memory’ both allow for misrepresentations, although Sara Jones contends that the latter ‘requires actors, both individual and institutional, to construct, transmit, and support particular narratives of the past’. It is hence paramount to ask: who has been permitted to remember? When considering memory alongside gender identity and post-punk, one can observe some of the opportunities that it afforded women, and yet debate continues to contest their ‘empowerment’ and ‘increased’ representation in popular music. Historically much memory work has been conducted by women, whilst oral histories of punk and post-punk have predominantly been written by men. This presentation displays the memory and representation of women through semi-structured interviews, revealing anecdotal nostalgia of post-punk by members of what was termed Generation X (those born between 1955 and 1975).

Melodie Holliday – (Editor & Educational Development Shades of Noir)
‘“It was different” Navigating Punk While Black’

Art Trip And The Static Sound  -These guys and girl peddle a type of lo-fi punk that sounds right at home amid the detritus of London’s toilet circuit. ‘The Girl Who’ slinks in with a serpentine bass before getting cut to pieces by towering, scuzzy, chords, while singer Melodie Holliday delivers her witty vocals like a 21stcentury Johnny Rotten  ( NME, 2014) 

In recent years Melodie Holliday has begun to reflect on her journey in alternative movements such as punk in the UK. Born to immigrant, Jamaican parents from the Windrush era ever since the age of 15 years old when only wearing clothes that she had made herself or others had worn-in previously before her, seemed to be ( and still is) of the utmost importance she has been navigating alternative spaces. Adopting a Punk lifestyle after hearing Ari Up’ s voice singing “Typical Girls”.  So what is it like navigating punk and being a lead singer in a punk band while being Black and can anyone do it? When the stereotype is that Black people predominately like R and B what is it like to make sounds that are considered to be just noise by more conventional types? How does the use of critical race theory (Lourde, 1985) inform Melodie’s practice as a punk? Why does she feel that it is important to reflect on navigating punk while black?

Louise Barrière (University of Lorraine, France)
‘A “Very DIY Music” For Punk-Feminist People? Doing and listening to noise music in Ladyfest-inspired festivals’

My paper discusses the links between noise music and punk-feminist scenes, by looking at the Ladyfest network.
Ladyfest festivals generally aim to challenge gender roles within the punk scene. The network draws on a punk-feminist inspiration and specifically maintains several links with the Riot Grrrl movement that developed in the 1990s1. Yet, their musical scope has widely expanded through the years, and Ladyfests’ programs nowadays include punk as well as, for instance, electronic dance music, hip hop or, to a certain extent, noise music.

Drawing on my PhD research, I have analyzed the programs of more than 100 Ladyfest and Ladyfest-inspired festivals that took place in France and Germany since 2003, and studied the place of noise music in that network. During fieldwork sessions, I have attended noise concerts, and had informal talks with artists or organizers. In the first part of my presentation, drawing on the informations I have gathered, I will therefore explain why noise music occupies a place at the margins of the Ladyfest network.

Yet, I made the hypothesis that doing noise music could serve a feminist purpose. My guess was that the DIY dimension of noise music could be empowering for women and queer people who attend such festivals, because it would offer them the possibility to make music without much equipment nor musical knowledge. I thus have organized noise music workshops during various festivals over the year 2019. In the second part of my presentation, I will discuss my assumption by analyzing my experiences and multiple conversations I had with the participants.


Published by Gustav Thomas

Claws & Tongues was started in order to provide a visible yet fluid platform with which to try out ideas for writings by Gustav Thomas that may or may not lead elsewhere, as in articles, chapters, essays, papers zines or books. Gustav Thomas is my real name in so far as it comprises the two middle names included on my birth certificate, which, as a bona fide part of my ‘real’ name makes it only a half-alias. I’m not ashamed, especially, of what one would normally consider my ‘real name,’ but I don’t intend to use it on this blog or announce it here, in this ‘about’ text, or anywhere else on this blog. That’s not because I wish to keep it somehow hidden or secret – to find out what my framing monikers are would be very easy since I’ve never sought to keep them separate from Gustav Thomas. Rather it’s because that ‘real’ name is the one that teachers, headmasters, employers, medical receptionists, the Inland Revenue, medical staff, authorities of any kind, and so on, and on, has been so thoroughly used by, and thus inextricably tied to, such institutional protocols, that it leaves me, as an individual who, like any individual has the capacity to access their own agency, very little space or scope for developing the potential power and effectiveness of that agency. Gustav Thomas happens to also be my facebook name and as a musician I also chose it (actually the first time I used it) as the pseudonym I use whenever I produced 8-bit Techno on a Gameboy (I haven’t ruled out extending that use to any beat-based project should I pursue any in the future, in preference to either Virginia Pipe or Copydex, the latter being, for obvious reasons, a strictly plunderphonic collage vehicle, anyway). Gustav Thomas also conveniently encapsulates my two ethnic provenances as half Slovene and half Welsh; they are also the first names of both my grandfathers, one a fairly well known (in his time) Slovene writer, novelist and educationalist, the other a WW2 colonel among officers who led the Normandy landings, for whatever significance that, or any other part of their own rich histories, can have, here, or in anything else that I do. Above all, I have started this blog because in my professional life, which is academic, I have made the decision, officially, to have my research assessed (by the various state bodies that do that, through the RAE, REF etc.) as much through my thinking and writing as through my art practice, which it has been exclusively so far. The kind of writing I intend to do is the kind of writing I’ve always done, over the past 15 years mostly on internal departmental blogs meant as teaching support, and will almost completely draw on things I’ve been thinking and saying within an academic context during that time. My first extended pieces, then (those that are 10,000 words or more), are being extracted from my brain as a matter of almost pathological necessity, freeing up space before I can move on and at least learn new ideas, if not make them and articulate them formally. Given the context, and my stage in life (a 50-year-old whose two kids have left home), I fully intend not to start teaching myself to write in a recognizably formal-academic style; nor do I intend for my writing to be considered as such, albeit there are inevitable traces of academia in what I’m writing due to my having earned my living as an academic for – already - too long. Instead my intention is to improve, develop and extend the style I already have which will have probably begun somewhere in early childhood when I first scrawled some short stories with the vague idea that I wanted to be a ‘writer’ and, above all which has evolved through at least three decades of learning, loving to know about, talking about, and teaching about music, art and the ideas, impulses and inherent discourses that inhabit and surround them. I am aware that I have a propensity to criticize certain other artists and commentators harshly, often with extreme formulations, in a manner easily identifiable as arrogance or some such self-interested tendency. I’m not sure exactly where that emerged from; it could be the years of being fully committed (because I knew it was right) to a mode of expressive practice that operates very consciously, and critically, beyond the reductive ring-fencing of ordained culture, what most people think of as Music and Art - Culture; it may well be, though, that I learned such an approach from certain writers I’ve read over the years – it’s in Dostoyevsky, Bukowski and DeLillo in ways I can see in my own mannerisms, but also in someone like Ben Watson/Out To Lunch, whose writing on music and ideas not only had a big impact on me but certainly also encouraged me to be bold and direct about what I knew needed saying, not least because – and this is central to everything – the way in which music, popular music, popular arts and cultures are dealt with on the day-to-day ordinary level, as in what people consume, accept and ingest, how/why they do it, manages to circumscribe completely the immeasurable seriousness regarding how politically and ideologically penetrating all art is (and was always meant to be), but especially (and this is embarrassingly tautological in a way that’s generally ignored) that which is thrust upon a people at great expense by its state and the (almost entirely) corporate (read: oligarchal) interests the State serves. I’ve been accused by colleagues of being too polemical and by Ben Watson as not being a polemicist at all, in both cases meant as identifying a weakness; I would say that to consider anything I write as polemical would be to negate any capacity it may have to say something useful – too much is being said and done by modern humanity that is unfathomably (self-)destructive. My drive in all this comes from a need not necessarily to oppose and take up the position on any opposite pole; rather I just feel that someone (as many someones as possible, starting anywhere at all, including just ‘me’) needs to be engaging in a tendency to question, starting with the very simple interruption, ‘Hang on a second… that can’t be right.’ There are tens of thousands of writers and artists already doing that very well, of course. This blog is merely a workshop from which to start making my own contribution more discernible and, just possibly, useful.

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