This Woman’s Work: Essays on Music

Hachette. May 2022. 272p. ed. by Sinéad Gleeson & Kim Gordon. ISBN 9780306829000. $29. MUSIC
In this glorious collection of essays by and about women in music, editors Gleeson (Constellations: Reflections from Life) and former Sonic Youth bassist/vocalist Gordon (author of the memoir Girl in a Band) make clear that women musicians might have some things in common (passion; experience navigating a male-dominated field) but are wildly individual. Heather Leigh sets the stage with the introduction, which expresses how music is an at-once unifying and deeply personal experience (e.g., songs can be individualized by a listener’s misheard lyric). Many of the contributors celebrate other women artists (Anne Enright’s essay on mixed-media artist Laurie Anderson; Gordon’s interview with Boredoms’ drummer Yoshimi; Gleeson’s examination of the enigmatic, innovative composer Wendy Carlos; Margo Jefferson’s tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, in which she mulls the importance of seeing a Black woman performer sweating; Liz Pelly’s fascinating piece on Agnes “Sis” Cunningham’s politics). In some essays, contributors consider their own relationships to music, such as Leslie Jamison’s chronicle of three decades of meaningful mixtapes, Ottessa Moshfegh’s discussion of taking piano lessons, and Zakia Sewell’s musings on her complicated family history.
VERDICT Intimate and accessible, the essays will resonate with audiophiles and inspire budding musicians.
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