International Women’s Day 2021 – #ChooseToChallenge

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Today, we’re bringing you some thoughts from Sarah Yule, who is an MIA Board Director and the Director of Sales and Marketing at Audio-Technica for EMEA. Here, Sarah shares why International Women’s Day is important. You can also learn how the MIA will be  honouring women in the world of MI this week.

“A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change. So let’s all #ChooseToChallenge”

–   (IWD Website, www.internationalwomensday.com, 2021)

The aptly worded theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, is one that can surely resonate with us all, no matter our gender identity. What we have learnt across our panoptic population these past 12 months, is that challenge certainly does bore change. It has been a year of mammoth change, not just to our daily habits, but also to the very inner workings of our economy and to the fabric of our broader society. Have the impacts of Brexit and C-19 made us more alert? Yes, undoubtably they have. The challenges they have brought to many of our businesses, have made us much more alert, and have drove significant change to our businesses and to our operations.

Whereas some of the forced changes upon us over the last 12 months have been unwelcome, there have also been significant progressions achieved in amongst the challenges. So, if change were a rhythm, then last year’s tempo was prestissimo. If challenge were a melody, last years played in D Minor.

However, we know that change is usually inevitable. The one true constant of nature. Without change there is no evolution and with no evolution we become extinct. There are so many instances where challenges to the status quo have brought about many meaningful, significant or historic changes, innovations, movements and cultures.

There are however some things that do not change as quickly as they should. In the world around us, there are opinions or social norms that are not challenged enough. In these instances, we need to be more alert and together play an active part in the change we want to see in the world.

In follow up to this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, I wanted to give recognition to some women who through history did challenge and did change the world around them. Plus, they did it in our world of music and sound.

Daphne Oram encapsulated the true meaning of the word “pioneer”. A keen pianist, organist and composer; she turned down the opportunity to study at the Royal College of Music to take a job as a sound engineer at the BBC. During her time there, not only did she get promoted to Studio Manager, her interest in synthetic sounds and electronic music enabled her to be one of the core team to establish the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Although focused primarily on sound effects and theme music, the radiophonic workshop experimented with many new techniques. She continued to compose creating compositional ideas much ahead of her time. Her orchestral composition “Still Point” remained unheard and unperformed for 70 years. In 2016, the piece that was written for turntables, double orchestra and five microphones was performed at the BBC proms – receiving much acclaim.

One of her most fascinating projects was her development of the concept of “Oramics” which was a drawn sound technique and a very early type of electronic music production. Using this technique, she composed for many films, exhibitions, radio, tv and theatre.

Ethel Smyth was a key figure in the early twentieth century women’s suffrage movement. Despite “The March of the Women” becoming the anthem of many involved in that cause; the work and achievements of Ethel Smyth stretch far beyond a single composition. She produced a huge body of work during her lifetime. She also frequently faced criticism of being “too masculine” to be a “female” composer. It was a label or prefix she found hard to disassociate herself from and instead stayed true to her style, including producing some of the most important operatic pieces of the time. She was made a Dame in 1922 in recognition of her work, becoming the first female composer ever to have achieved a damehood.

Winifred Atwell was originally from the island of Trinidad but came to the UK after achieving a place at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She went on to become one of the most successful piano players of the 1950’s and pioneered the “Honky-Tonk” piano sound that became synonymous with fifties Ragtime and Boogie-Woogie records. At the height of her career, she was selling 30,000 records a week in the UK, and her 1954 hit “Let’s have another party” was the first ever piano instrumental to reach number one in the UK singles chart. She still holds the record as the only person to have achieved two gold discs and two silver discs for piano music in Britain, and the only female pianist ever to have hit the number 1 spot in the singles chart. She is estimated to have sold over 20 million records and millions of copies of her sheet music.

Across this week, the MIA will be honouring women in the world of MI from our present. Hearing about their current contributions and passions, whilst celebrating their achievements to date.

It is our intention ongoing, to continue amplifying the voice of women in our industry. As a sound engineer originally by profession, I can liken this to ensuring there is a well-balanced mix for us all to enjoy. That even if a part currently only occupies a narrow frequency band within our mix, we still need it to be heard and appreciated. It doesn’t mean this part is more important than the other parts; it means it is equally important. It just needs the space to be heard. Therefore, we will continue to dedicate some of our spectrum to be a sounding board particularly for women in MI, until we have achieved a better balance in this industry that we love and share.

What will you #ChooseToChallenge?