OK folks, as promised here are the replies from Billy O'Connell and Kristin Hersh concerning the "femininity in rock" debate.
First up is Billy O'Connell, Kristin's manager and husband...
Believe it or not, you're talking about something that I know Kristin feels strongly about in her music. She has referred to this "femininity" in music in interviews for years now. Oddly enough, it's also a term she's used in relation to certain male musicians almost more frequently than female.
The whole idea of the masculine and feminine in music is a very real one. Masculine forms have ruled rock music for years, only recently have we noticed a growing acceptance of that which is feminine in music. This femininity is evident maybe most significantly , in Kurt Cobain's songs. The confusion (in Nirvana's case not in form, but content) and the expression of what Kristin calls "messy" or opposing emotions that often conflict within themselves, are distinctly feminine.
A lack of narrative, a stream of images and emotion, an embracing of the earthier, "dirtier", more essential elements of our lives, all commonly thought to be "tough" or "macho" characteristics in the world, this is the "feminine" as it exists in songs. "Female rhythms" are spontaneous and unpredictable, often not in "real time", like the Velvets and the Raincoats.
Often dismissed as "confusing", "naive", or "ungrounded", this is feminine music when it is it's most truthful and real. I hope I haven't "gone off" and lost your interest along the way, countless discussions on this very topic have filled me to bursting with opinions and feelings.
Anyway, I'm sure Kristin would like to participate in this "talk", and if it would be helpful in any way, please feel free to call me on xxx.xxx.xxxx, or continue to e-mail me (us) here. And yes, we'd love to see the posts (and the review too).
Thanks for asking,
My response to the feminine/masculine question has always been that, yeah, I think that there is a very real difference. More importantly, though, a good musician is capable of embracing a song in either form... even better, to be balanced. The Femmes, Velvets, Nirvana, Sugar, REM, Pixies, Scarce (Chick Graning's new band )... these are all males with a good grasp of the feminine in music, something that has always been considered a "deviation" from the norm.
This is why one of the few things that really bugs me on this planet is people saying that Red Heaven wasn't "feminine enough ". It is a VERY masculine record and it's great. If I don't care that a woman made it, neither should anyone else.
I started playing guitar when I was nine. When I later took a bunch of classes in theory, etc., it nearly ruined my playing; I found it limiting, boring and false. I had to learn to listen to something else; I'm not sure what that is, but I know it doesn't lie. (As for the guy who said women's hands are smaller, I bet mine are bigger than his)
Has this helped at all?
P.S. My rhythm section is male, but they have to play along with the rhythms I write. Neither of them seem to mind.