Literature Review on Women in Multimedia


Researching the topic of new media in regard to composition proved to be a difficult task. Despite the great number of artists involved in the medium in the last decade of the 20th century, little had been written about more than a select few. Much information exists that details the events leading up to the digital revolution, but the literature dwindles in regard to works from the 1980s to present day. Nevertheless, the older publications proved themselves useful. For recent information, however, websites provided the bulk of information. Acknowledging the illegitimacy of online sources, the search was largely limited to artists' homepages and sites run by professional organizations. Though the information gleaned came from a number of resources, a few works proved invaluable to the research. Sources addressed the history of multimedia, the role of women in music technology, and compositional techniques of interdisciplinary works.

Thames & Hudson's World of Art series, in existence for over forty-five years, provides exhaustive information on specific art-related topics. Each book comprehensively covers a select movement or genre, listing hundreds of works and artists. Pages full of colorful photos provide visual examples of the pieces discussed, and detailed captions provide additional pertinent facts. The books follow a basic timeline, sequentially outlining the information from inception to present day. Frequently published new editions keep the series abreast of recent events. Each handpicked editor specializes in the subject of their chosen book. The format style differs slightly between volumes but generally have the same components, such as an index and selected bibliography. Glossy and compact, the World of Art series visually attracts the reader and lacks the pedantic style of many unwieldy authoritative works without sacrificing knowledge.

New Media in Late 20th-Century (1999), edited by filmmaker and critic Michael Rush, guides the reader through the developments of new media, beginning with early works like Eadweard Muybridge's photographic series Descending the Stairs and Turning Around (1884-1885) and finishing with Diana Gromola's 1996 Virtual Reality experience, The Virtual Dervish: Virtual Bodies. The helpful table of contents separates each chapter into smaller subheadings. The chapters delineate the change in topic by italicizing each segment. The writing style intertwines artist statements and facts. Each paragraph introduces the reader to an artist and their respective work, which remains the general format for much of the text. For outside research Rush lists major bibliographic resources at the end of the book, divided by the corresponding chapter. He includes an "Institutional sites of interest" section which names related organizations and their URL addresses. Ars Electronica, the Guggenheim Museum, and New York's Museum of Modern Art are among the prestigious institutions listed. In addition, he includes a few related links not associated with a particular organization. Overall, New Media in the Late 20th Century comprehensively analyzes electronic media in an informative and interesting manner.

With an intent focus on interactive media, Digital Art (2003) explores traces the transformation of visual art from paint to pixels. Editor Christiane Paul, Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum and avid lecturer, heads the digital art resource group, Intelligent Agent. Paul begins the book with a brief introduction to the arts and technology, bringing the reader up to 2003 through a series of intriguing visual ventures, captivating graphics, and philosophical analyzation of recent digital works. An excellent listing of online art projects at the end of Digital Art gives the reader the information needed to experience the work of each artist personally, and the URLs of related festivals, organizations, and exhibitions follows the artists’ listing. A select bibliography finishes the supplemental resources. Digital Art is as much a commentary on the social implications of digital culture as it is a thorough chronological record of computer experimentation.

Dick Higgin’s work, Horizons: The Poetics and Theory of the Intermedia (1984), provides the historical background for the concept of intermedia. Higgins, along with wife Alison Knowles, helped found the artistically-jarring Fluxus movement. The embracing of interdisciplinary art which the Fluxists propagated led Higgins to lecture and write extensively on the subject. Horizons provides an unique retrospective look at Higgins’ work from the 1960s. Written in 1984, the book includes articles from the 1960s followed by commentary by Higgins two decades later. In Chapter 2, “Intermedia,” he clarifies his original definition of intermedia within the context of the 1980s artistic atmosphere. Other chapters includes reviews of other interdisciplinary artists, such as Pauline Oliveros and Charlie Morrow, idle musings of the author, and intriguing anecdotal commentary. Chapter 9, “A Child’s History of Fluxus,” provides biting insight into the Fluxus movement in the guise of a delightful children’s tale. Though dated, Horizons, provides a fascinating look into the mind behind the contemporary concept of intermedia and paints an introspective picture of the interdisciplinary arts from the 1960s to 1984.

Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present (1988), written by former Kitchen curator Roselee Goldberg, scans nearly a century of performance art and mayhem. Addressing the conception of Futurism to the cabaret Live Art of the late 1980s, Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present recounts the lives and antics the artists who dared to redefine art in the context of their own bodies. The titillating illustrations and tongue-in-cheek candor deceives readers into forgetting that they are reading a historical survey.

Women and Music in America Since 1900: An Encyclopedia (2002), edited by Dr. Kristine H. Burns, provides hundreds of entries dealing with artists, terms, movements, and a great variety of other subjects dealing with women in music. The two-volume work covers a broad spectrum of artists, from singer Jill Alyson to Ellen Zwilich. Each entry includes sources for further reading. Respected artists and members of academia contributed heavily to the encyclopedia, and an index listing the information about each author. Burns includes an extensive bibliography to aid in further research. The text remains at a level for both the scholar and the layman, and images . Few, if any, published works contain such a comprehensive look at women musicians of the 20th century. This two-volume set would prove invaluable to any library collection.

Already a staple in many university music technology programs, Joel Chadabe’s Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music gives an overview of the evolution of electronic music from the Telharmonium to the interactivity of contemporary installations. Chadabe incorporates quotes from many of the artists a composers into the text, giving the reader a glimpse of the musicians and innovators within the context of the subject’s own period. Electric Sound includes photographs running the gamut of electronic music history, which bring alive the people and events discussed in the text. The book brims over with information, and each sentence seems saturated with information. Though the overall tone remains academic throughout, the amount of knowledge gained throughout the work makes it a necessary component of both the introductory and more advanced music history curriculum.

Linking together music history and the role of women in Western music, Christine Ammer’s Unsung: A History of Women in American Music chronologically details the ever-changing place of women in the musical world. As the book reaches Chapter 8, “Opera Composers and Conductors,” the focus shifts from past to present. Ammer divides the final chapters into the electroacoustic and multimedia arts, women involved in the orchestral setting, both as performers and conductors, and educators. The final chapter, “Angels and Advocates,” recounts the support, financial and social, women have given to the artists. Ammer includes an index of American women musicians involved in the top thirteen orchestras in the United States. Unsung contains an in-depth bibliography, as well.

In addition to traditional resources, the researcher examined a number of internet sites related to the topic. Though the majority of information was derived from the personal websites of the artists, some sites offered invaluable knowledge and direction to other places of reference. Aware of the invalidity of many websites, the researcher tested the authenticity of each web article by crossing information against other sources and investigating the authority of the posting author. For this reason, research primarily came from articles and biographies posted directly by the artists.

Kristine H. Burns’ WOW/EM website, designed for young women interested in pursuing careers in computer science or music technology, provides lengthy lists of informative references. Brightly colored buttons lead the user to articles about electronic media, personal testimonies by music professionals, educational institutions, online links to gender-related issues, and a significant number of other subjects. Though WOW/EM’s preferred audience ranges from high school to college, the bibliographies and educational links provide information useful for any age group.

For further information, the reader may refer to the bibliography at the end of the paper. A separate section lists electronic resources, which includes web links and CD-ROM materials. The researcher gauged the validity of websites by cross-referencing information with reputable sources and ascertaining the authority of an article’s author. The majority of links lead the reader to the main pages of the composers discussed. At the time of this paper, all web addresses are working. Over time, of course, this situation will change.


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