Ex Omnibus Linguis Reviews of
|Her Voices: Rocklyrics
Turid Lundqvist, Eva Dahlgreen & Kajsa Grytt
Review in RPM#26 (Summer 1998)
Hennes röster is Hillevi Ganetz's doctoral thesis, in which she is studying rock lyrics written by three famous Swedish female rock musicians: Turid Lundqvist (born 1949), Eva Dahlgren (born 1960) and Kajsa Grytt (born 1961). All of them have worked as singers, instrumentalists, text writers and composers. The lyrics on focus are written, performed and recorded between 1971 and 1995.
Ganetz has two main questions, when she begins her study. What themes and motifs can be identified in the lyrics, what are they about and why? To interpret and understand the lyrics four main theoretical traditions have been used: cultural studies, theories about modernity, psychoanalysis and feminist literary and media theory. Ganetz discusses also how the concept of rock lyrics can be characterised. She says that rock lyrics are mediated communication, elements of Popular Music, which is a part of popular culture. Rock lyrics are not a genre of their own, but the verbal aspect of the genre rock music. They are material for the voice and the importance of the lyrics varies in rock music. Sometimes rock lyrics can be considered as "poetry" but they can also be clearly subordinate to the music.
The voice in the focus of the study is not the sound but the voice of the lyrics, the "I" whos speaking through a female voice in a musical contexts. The "I" is bound to the sound in a very complex way. According to Frith there can be found four aspects of the concept voice: voice as a musical instrument, as a body, as a person and as a role. Voice is a special instrument, because its reflecting the sex and body, which usually are considered as a person by the listeners. Voice is also a role that the singer is playing.
When contextualising the background to the lyrics of Lundqvist, Dahlgren and Grytt Ganetz brings up two main questions. In which aesthetic, social and psychological circumstances are texts written, and how do these circumstances change historically? And, under which circumstances are rock lyrics written, and what is the space for women in rock?
After a serious study, what did Hillevi Ganetz find out? She concludes her thesis that she didnt find a female rock text but a textual polyphony and she didnt find a female voice but a polyphony of female voices. She didnt find a single popular culture but a cultural polyphony.
I found this book very enjoyable reading and an important study. Women in rock music and as rock musicians have too long been in the shadow of the great "male stars". Also the subject, the rock lyrics, hasnt been very popular object to study, though their importance to the music cant be denied. At least we all are expecting to hear a text when we are listening to rock music.
Many thoughts I had had during the earlier years when I was organising a national rock lyrics contest in Finland got a confirmation. I suppose the conclusions Ganetz has made can also be seen even more universal. What if there isnt a polyphony of female rock texts and female voices but only a polyphony of rock texts and human voices sometimes carried by a female voice, sometimes by a male voice? Whos the first one to continue studying? Im the first one to buy the book.
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Last update 29-August-1999 Heinz-Peter Katlewski