Naomi Moon Siegel Presents at the Racer Sessions this Sunday
This Sunday at the Racer Sessions we're so excited to welcome trombonist and composer Naomi Moon Siegel, who will perform a set of short solo trombone pieces "using aspects of the feminine principle to guide my awareness as I perform (Naomi M.S.)." Naomi recently moved to Missoula, Montana after several years performing in various improvised styles in Seattle. Be sure to read Naomi's inspiring essay below on the role of "feminine" versus "masculine" identity, its manifestations in the jazz world, and Naomi's thoughts on embracing these two aspects of humanity as a musician. We'll see you this Sunday, October 16, 8pm at Cafe Racer!
Solo Improvised Trombone and The Feminine Principle
“Our culture has had a long heritage of associating the feminine principle with what it means to be female and the masculine principle with what it means to be male. As a result, both men and women have traditionally been locked into rigid culturally-defined gender roles that have not been helpful for anyone who wants to live a more meaningful, creative and soul-making life…. A fully integrated individual is a unique expression of both masculine and feminine traits”
- Carol Winters
I will perform a series of short improvised, solo, acoustic trombone pieces using aspects of the feminine principle to guide my awareness as I perform. The most central feminine qualities I will use are: listening, back-body, and intuition. In addition to those important values, I will choose from a list (or from audience participation) other feminine qualities such as:
When I use the words feminine and masculine, I do not mean anything having to do with being a man or a woman. Rather, I mean balancing principles or opposite forces that are complementary. We could use other words like yin and yang. I find holding these kinds of ideas in my awareness as I play music allows me to practice having a fuller, more embodied experience of playing music. Music and music performance can be so outward. I play an instrument that is so forward and in front of my body, that sometimes when I perform, I lose a sense of my body and myself and feel depleted. Playing with these feminine principles in my awareness allow me to more fully embody the experience and feel more nourished by it.
I grew up playing and studying jazz since elementary school. Jazz and jazz education have been very overly-masculinized spaces for a long time, both musically and socio-politically. Sherrie Tucker, professor of American Studies at the University of Kansas, has theorized that jazz became overly-masculinized with the arrival of bebop. The things that seem to be most visible valued in jazz since bebop are more outward masculine qualities: virtuosity, speed, complexity, flashiness, high range, competition, being a soloist, loudness. There is nothing wrong with any of these things in and of themselves, but it is important that all of these values are balanced out. For example, most great jazz musicians are also incredible listeners and have a deep sense of groove. Those qualities (listening, groove) are subtler, and I think it’s important to shed more light on those. Also, emphasis on just the more masculine qualities can be very alienating for young musicians who perhaps are drawn to improvised music for other reasons – to be in community, to be authentically expressive.
"I find holding these kinds of ideas in my awareness as I play music allows me to practice having a fuller, more embodied experience of playing music."
I would also like to take this opportunity to say that part of the over-masculinization in jazz culture is depicting women inaccurately. It is important that we realize and tell these important stories that are often not told:
- Women are and always have been instrumentalists in jazz and improvised music.
- Women have always been amazing musicians and an integral part of the web of jazz and improvised music.
- Women play all kinds of instruments and always have, including the trombone!
This will be my first real performance playing improvised solo trombone with no electronics. I am embracing the vulnerability and intimacy of it. And I ask that all the participants in the jam session also choose a feminine quality or two to hold in their awareness while they improvise.