wears the trousers magazine

trouser précis: björk versus sexism
August 29, 2008, 11:26 pm
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When we published Fari Bradley’s rally cry to female writers, arrangers and producers of electronic music a few weeks ago, we didn’t realise how topical the, er, topic would turn out to be. Last week Björk posted a message on her official website calling on journalists to pay more heed to the credits when discussing who did and who didn’t do stuff in the studio, specifically with regards to her 2001 album Vespertine and the role her friend Valgeir Sigurðsson played in the recording process. According to Ms Guðmundsdóttir, an article in The Reykjavík Grapevine (an English paper distributed in her native Iceland) wrongly credited Valgeir with writing the album’s arrangements, something that has apparently happened quite a lot over the last 7 years.

The best bit was when she called the industry out on its sexist tendencies:

it could be that this is some degree of sexism. m.i.a. had to deal with this with the respected website pitchfork.com where they assumed that diplo had produced all of her kala album without reading any credit list or nothing , it just had to be, it couldn’t have been m.i.a. herself! it feel like still today after all these years people cannot imagine that woman can write, arrange or produce electronic music. i have had this experience many many times that the work i do on the computer gets credited to whatever male was in 10 meter radius during the job. people seem to accept that women can sing and play whatever instrument they are seen playing but they cannot program, arrange, produce, edit or write electronic music.

Pitchfork responded. So did Valgeir, and blogger after blogger. But is it all just a storm in a soundboard? Sveinn Birkir Björnsson, the editor of The Reykjavík Grapevine, seems to think so. The latest issue runs the following response alongside Björk’s original letter:

Dear Björk,

After carefully reviewing past issues of the Grapevine, I have reached the conclusion that you are referring to a list in the back pages of Issue 10, where DJ B Ruff is asked to name his favorite albums. At number three, he names your album Vespertine and his full answer goes: “A little heavy but it’s really impressive how well Björk’s voice mingles with Valgeir Sigurðsson’s instrumentals. My favourite Björk album.”

Seeing as this is a direct quote to DJ B Ruff, we have a hard time correcting him, without directly misquoting him. It is our policy to rather let people be wrong than misquoted.

The Grapevine has never claimed that Valgeir Sigurðsson was directly involved in the creative process of your album. In fact we have in the past published interviews with Valgeir where he directly refutes this.

But I do hope that this input from you will finally correct what seems to be a common misconception.


It’s a bit embarrassing to criticise people for not doing their research properly and then be caught out doing the same. But regardless of whether she’s right or wrong on the specifics, Björk has a point. And that’s just one reason why Wears The Trousers exists, and one more reason to love her.

(as if we needed another…)

* * *

Alan Pedder

shelectronica: remembering the women behind the BBC radiophonic workshop

shelectronica: remembering the women behind the BBC radiophonic workshop

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and we’ve seen an array of events springing up across the country to commemorate this, most recently this past weekend’s ‘Doctor Who’-themed Proms. Amid all the celebrations it’s easy to forget that, were it not for the efforts of pioneer Daphne Oram, the Workshop might never have existed. Despite being regarded as a beacon of standards in the 1950s, the BBC did not think the developing movement of electronic music in Europe merited any attention, deeming it fad. With hundreds of musicians and an orchestra they thought they did not need ‘synthetic music’. Oram, who worked in classical music, had to spend her own evenings setting up the Workshop despite the opposition from the BBC, campaigning relentlessly with her colleague Desmond Briscoe from the radio drama department for the provision of funds and equipment.

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