When was the last time you went out to enjoy live music and saw an all-female band on stage? I’m not just talking about the pretty, glammed up lead lead singer. I mean girls on the drums, playing the sax, or shredding a guitar. Through her all-female concert series, The Hum, New Yorker Rachael Pazdan is redefining the experience.
“There is an emotional connection in music that gets switched on when it's experienced live. There are vibrations that you can feel under your skin, there’s eye contact from the artist, mistakes being made, improvisation, and so many other wonderful things happening. On the most basic level, it's real human connection through this mysterious and beautiful medium," says Pazdan, whose love of music runs deep. “I've had a close relationship with music ever since I can remember,” she adds.
From her musician father’s amazing record collection to choreographing dance to music she loved in college, to now bringing together New York City’s most talented female artists for The Hum - all of this has contributed to the infinite playlist that makes up the soundtrack to Pazdan’s life.
The Hum invites female musicians who have never played together before to collaborate on a 30 minute set. It's a month long residency during which Pazdan brings together about 12-20 new "dream bands." To date, Pazdan has brought together over 200 musicians, including Joan As Police Woman, Kaki King, Miho Hatori from Cibo Matto, and more. Her personal favorite collaboration to date? “When Kimbra, Anna Wise, Madame Gandhi, Olga Bell (Dirty Projectors), Tif Lamson (LCD Soundsystem) and Alissia Benveniste got together in season four at Manhattan Inn and improvised the entire time.”
There is a spirit of intimacy, vulnerability, and community at The Hum’s sessions, which typically include artists performing covers, rearrangements of their songs, and improvisational pieces - an experience unique to the usual set that you would see anywhere else. “There is excitement in the air at these sessions because most of these collaborations happen only once,” says Pazdan.
“I think being a musician, or artist for that matter, is genderless."
The space for women in the music industry is one that’s constantly stunted by gender stereotypes. But through The Hum, Pazdan has created an intimate and empowering community that’s making noise (literally), and changing the landscape for female artists. As well as allowing them the opportunity to work on something new with new people, the series also gives its musicians an opportunity to be connected with other women in the industry.
“Many women who play in the series tell me they’ve never collaborated with another woman before. It's controversial to say that the music women make is different to the music men make, and I don't think that's the case. However, I do think there is a difference in the collaborative process when women work with other women. That support system is an incubator for new music to be made,” Pazdan explains, adding that it’s an ongoing challenge for her to balance two different approaches; First, using the label “women” to empower what The Hum is doing. Second, not acknowledging gender in music in order to eliminate that double standard.
“My hope is that audiences walk away from these shows thinking, "Wow, that music was incredible!" versus "Wow, women really can make incredible music!" like they needed convincing,” says Pazdan. “In order for people to know what The Hum is, I have to call it an "all female" music series and use descriptors like "female musician.” I don't really care for that description because I think being a musician, or artist for that matter, is genderless.”
If you're in New York City and want to check out live music by some of the city’s baddest BISHes, head over to The Hum's website to find out who's playing and where.
Photographer: Valine Brana