16 October 2017 10:54

Women will take a major step forward in the electronic music industry thanks to pioneering projects underway at Lancaster University.

Women are conspicuous by their absence in the sound industry fields of live coding, sound engineering, instruments and history, according to Project Director Dr Linda O’Keeffe, a Lancaster University lecturer and founder of WISWOS (Women in Sound Women on Sound), an international organisation set up to redress the gender balance.

“It’s vital we demonstrate that this is not a field that belongs to one gender,” explains Dr O’Keeffe. “We have to create balance in this field and, therefore, visibility is key. We have to give women a voice.”

Her approach has been both practical and theory orientated focusing on: encouraging more music technology teaching in schools and building a global awareness.

The creation of a brand new ‘Research in a Box’ teaching resource, funded by Lancaster University, is all set for distribution to schools at the start of the autumn term.

The virtual and physical aid, available to schools on loan, works in tandem with a new, fully interactive, website and provides the full kit for creating beautiful electronic music.

The box includes a stepped tone generator, components to build a printed circuit board, a soldering iron,  engaging tutorial CDs and videos led by Dr O’Keeffe, an instruction manual and a copy of ‘Pink Noises’, the must-have book by Tara Rodgers for women who want to be serious in sound.

A USB stick is also available for students to download Sonic Pi, live coding software which creates and shapes music.

Tutorial videos are also provided by Nina Richards, a composer who specialises in synthesised music and who builds synthesised machines, Indie rock star Eva Petersen whose band, Little Flames, toured with the Arctic Monkeys and Maria Jose Ibarbo, a young Brazilian sound engineer.

The interactive website has been developed by Dr O’Keeffe and international sound experts Dr Rebecca Collins, Dr Tony Doyle, Joanna Helms and Dr Diana Chester.

The package also includes a four-question survey for students to complete and add to Dr O’Keeffe’s research to help shape the industry future.

The Box has been enthusiastically trialled at schools in the North West.

“This is the first time this has been done in this field in this way,” says Dr O’Keeffe. “We have had great feedback from the schools trialling our box. Teachers from both science and music departments were imagining lesson plans based on the resource and the students were fascinated by it all.”

Dr O’Keeffe has also spearheaded the compilation of an extensive list of sound authors in every aspect of music, acoustic ecology, recording and the sonic arts on the new website.

“It’s a sort of Wikipedia of women authors on sound in every aspect of music, acoustic ecology, recording and the sonic arts,” she explained. “It’s aimed at young students and teachers including an A-Z list of books, blogs and journals with connected resources; a timeline of historic contributions to the field and an interactive space for discovering new works.”