"A Different Starting Place": DIY festival cycles as queer feminist music scenes

  • Author / Creator
    Boucher, Cynthia C.
  • Although music scholarship has addressed queer topics in the past, a focus on lived experiences and community interactions has been notably absent in the literature. This work considers some of the challenges that may be inhibiting the emergence of a queer focus for fieldwork-based music studies: the tendency to read queer subjects in exclusively comparative ways-such as in relation to their contemporary non-queer subjects and environments-or through specific unrelated venues or events. As a remedy, I suggest that ethnomusicological methods may benefit from understanding queer musical practices as rooted in ongoing queer cultural production, an optic which is both historically informed and inwardly focused toward queer communities. Drawing on and expanding concepts from popular music studies, queer scenes are introduced and extended as queer cycles, connecting musical activities across geographic locations (translocal) and across time (transtemporal). The discussion then uses this type of inquiry in its reading of three music-focused queer feminist scenes between 1976 and 2016, including Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, Riot Grrrl, and Ladyfest, to explore this history from both linear and non-linear perspectives. An in-depth look at one translocal queer feminist music festival scene, called Not Enough, comprises the core of my ethnographic research, providing a sense of how a scene-based approach to queer music can support ethnographic studies. Founded in Portland, Oregon where seven consecutive festivals were staged (2010-2016), Not Enough festivals spread in later years to New Orleans (2013-2014), Winnipeg (2013), and Edmonton (2015-2016). I show how Not Enough festivals negotiate their unique festival identity while still retaining core elements that closely associate them with other queer feminist scenes, and apply the previously introduced framework to do so, using material collected from interviews and participant observation, as well as archival and previously published resources. Finally, I argue that an examination of the ends of festivals, not previously considered significant in the literature, are crucial for understanding the larger cycle of queer feminist music scenes. This discussion highlights the complexities of lived experience and the elements of cultural history that are so key to ethnomusicological approaches, but which have been lacking in much of the music scholarship on queer scenes to date.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
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