Welcome to Blessing All the Birds, a feminist fan project focused on the work of songwriter Joanna Newsom. We see Newsom's work as feminist literature and our goal is to provide it the serious critical analysis it deserves, as well as to discuss her unique place in popular culture.
Contributing Authors
Posts tagged "Bjork"
Asker rocilanda Asks:
Hi, I've been recently reading your entries on Joanna's and Kate Bush' and Björk's comparisons with all that's magical and witchy. I've found them really interesting, and there's a thought that passed though my mind that I wanted to discuss or clarify: Witches don't exist per se. What does exist, is the enormous number of women who died because of the unfair accusations of a sexist society. And these women, I believe, have always been women who stand up for their rights, (...)
allthebirds allthebirds Said:

(…) and did things that only men were allowed to do, and therefore disturbed people that lost their power over them. Witches, in reality, were nothing but forceful women who weren’t understood, and generated fear due to their intense pasion and love and freedom that were so restricted for the twisted society of that era. And in a way, Joanna, Kate and Björk are like that, and to look at them as witches is not that offensive. Maybe being a witch doesn’t always got a negative connotation.

Hi, thanks for the great question! I agree about the innate power of witches and I realized a little while ago how much empowerment I actually derive from reading the history and culture of witches. And I understand the impulse for people to call Kate Bush and Björk and Joanna Newsom witches. They are powerful, they are special and talented, they tap in to and use feminine energies that are important (but misunderstood), and they are extremely independent and smart. But my main criticism around that moniker for them as artists is that it is too often cast upon them by people and critics who don’t actually analyze and engage with their femininity and its power in a critical and clear way. They cast that moniker on them because they are being reductive and unwilling to explain what “witch” means in a literal and figural way and also many times, I think they are intimidated. Witches directly threaten kyriarchy and when one is called a witch, it’s a warning to those who want to uphold oppressive structures. And we also cannot divest that moniker of its sexualization. Witchcraft and (illicit) sex have been tied together for centuries and I think that is part of the impulse to give them that moniker, too: it’s just another facet of how objectified and sexualized female artists are in this society. Witches are desired and hated because of their sexual independence. Transgressions are attractive, but they also must be squelched. 

Let’s keep on talking about this. Anyone else have any witchy stuff they want to discuss here? 

In a weird instance of art imitating art, [Björk] begins by sinking to Joanna Newsom’s level. After all, she damn near invented alt-preciousness, why let some new little harp-playing harpie run the place?

SF WEEKLY on Moon

THIS MAKES ME SO FUCKING ANGRY

(via spookywitch)

Yeah…it makes us angry, too. Here again we see rampant misogynistic language against and the trivialization of two grand female musicians. And honestly, Björk and Joanna Newsom are not similar artists. They are just both damn good artists. Comparing them is so specious and facile, it makes my blood boil. For example, if Joanna Newsom starts using iPads to make her music, I’ll drop dead. As I have said time and time again, we need to break the gender-binary in music journalism and make people realize that it’s OK to compare a female musician to a male musician. We need to make people realize that people always compare other female musicians to erroneously similar female musicians because there are so few influential female artists to even discuss and we need to encourage women to create. We need to make people realize that the harp is super-gendered as an instrument. And we most importantly need to make people realize that it’s not OK to demean music by female artists simply because they are female and you’re a sexist jerk.

FIVE INTERESTING DEVELOPMENTS FROM THIS INTERVIEW DURING THE YS ERA WHICH ARE RELEVANT TO THIS BLOG:

1. She does not like the Björk comparisons because she does not understand them and she was in no way influenced by her, but she has accepted them because Björk is a true artist. I have talked about this again and again: she is only compared to her because of the gender-binary. There are plenty of men who revolutionized music with their unique visions and voices, but yet, where are those comparisons?
2. “Only Skin” is a synthesis of all the other songs, which are inspired by four, biographical, yet highly fictionalized, events. This will affect any further analyses I do for Ys. Do you guys have any ideas for the synthesis? I have always seen “Sawdust & Diamonds” and “Only Skin” as inherently and overtly linked, but all the others linked by broad themes: prisons/freedom, water, death, rebirth, loss.
3. We had a question about “Monkey & Bear” a while back and our opinions on whether bear died at the end or not. I answered that’s it was up in the air, but it didn’t really matter. Joanna Newsom feels the same way: she is either liberated from her former life or just liberated from life itself. It’s also interesting that she says the song is about a journey of decadence and manipulation. The song is about being liberated from work and just feasting. Rachel has discussed these points previously.
4. “We have to talk about Van Dyke Parks” says the male interviewer. Do we, really? Joanna made sure to tell the interviewer that she gave him very explicit instructions. The story of their collaboration is pretty extraordinary, though. He requested that she record her final harp tracks and vocal tracks separately. That’s amazing. She wanted to record it live with an orchestra, but she supposedly varied her performances too much because she’s so awesome. She wouldn’t have been too nervous. She valued the freedom and spontaneity. That goes with the themes, too. The orchestra would have been a prison, of sorts.
5. Two women as major influences: Ruth Crawford Seeger and Texas Gladden. Seeger, according to Newsom, did not see a difference between folk and arty music. Joanna sees this a cultural goal. But then she says that she does not identify as a folk musician and she doesn’t want to be part of a scene. Are people too quick to put her into a box? Into a gender-binary box, into a genre box? What is the matter with music journalism?

(via stokewithoutsound)

Here is a response from an Anonymous user to a post of mine about Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush. My own response is after the jump.

Excellent article, and I agree that we must get away from sexism when it comes to our amazingly talented sisters. Bjork comes to mind as another woman whose been called a witch due to her unique artistic vision. I feel like “some” of this sexism is not malicious or disrespectful, as much as an inability to find the right words to describe their talent. A genius is also a creature steeped in magic and mystery; the word being related to genie. The problem lies that Bush, Newsom, Bjork, and Joni Mitchell for that matter are all women who embrace and are unafraid of their female energy —they exude this goddess aura. Their words and sound represent the “Sensual World” of love, relationships, beauty, nature and the spirit. Much of contemporary music is driven by masculine energy, whether it be in a male or female form. One energy is not better than the other; they are different and equally important and need to be respected as such.

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