5 reasons to read and offer the feminist nugget “All for music” at Christmas

Journalist and author Chloé Thibaud returns at the end of the year with a 3rd book that offers a feminist history of music. We devoured it for you, and we’ll explain why it’s THE gift to give (to you) for Christmas.

Vhere comes the home stretch until Christmas: you only have a few days left, and, behind your screen, you are perhaps one of the 10% of French‧es who have been doing it for the very last week, said a 2021 Ifop poll. Forget the impersonal “well-being” or “gastronomy” boxes that are always relegated to the back of a cupboard, do not give in to the ease of a tasteless box of chocolates or yet another mug with a message: we have found for you, the book to put in everyone’s hands, whether your target is a music lover, a history buff or an early feminist! We prove to you by A + B why the book All for music by Chloe Thibaud published by Hugo Image editions – must be found under the Christmas tree on December 25, but also in your library for the rest of the year.

1. This is the first book to offer a feminist history of music

Any pioneering project deserves attention: if there were already books devoted to the place of women in musical creation, these tended to focus on a specific genre – classical musicthe French song – and none had yet tackled the encyclopedic project of drawing up a history of music through the prism of women. Chloé Thibaud’s book thus embraces the ambitious objective of delivering “a pop and feminist history of music” in order to show “how artists have always used music to defend and claim their rights”.

The journalist therefore scrolls before our eyes the milestones in the evolution of women in the musical world, according to a chronological course organized in 5 main parts : from Antiquity to the beginning of the 20th century, from the 20s to the 70s, the 80snineties in the 2000s, and the years 2010 to present. To help us understand the challenges of these highlights, these parts are divided into thematic chapters dedicated to the different musical genres (jazz, rock, rap, classical music…).

All interspersed with exclusive interviews with musicians, singers, composers, who come to breathe liveliness and exemplify more theoretical developments, thereby updating the historical issues distilled over the chapters. If the chronological sequence is horizontal, the author does not fail to establish bridges between eras to analyze, in mirror, the issues at stake.

2. It is an educational book and accessible to non-specialists

If the encyclopedic aspect of a feminist history of music can be frightening, or the a priori “niche” character of the theme, it is not so: we easily appropriate the subject (even when we have zero musical culture like me 😅) because the book is very educational, both in terms of writing and structure. Chloé Thibaud wields a slender pen that doesn’t lack spice, thereby establishing a connection with the reader who doesn’t feel like we’re coming to give her a history lesson.

On the structural side, the texts are accompanied by explanatory inserts – who decipher a specific concept, linger on the portrait of a personality or on the story of an anecdote – but also illustrated through photos, paintings, press clippings and song excerpts. Finally, the analyzes are very documented and sourced, but made accessible to a first-time reader through outreach work of the author. All pimped by pop graphics which electrify the eye! As for the a priori “niche” side, do not reserve this book for music lovers, musicians or seasoned feminists: it is above all a story of societal changes which is told to us, which shows us that music is an eminently political art.

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3. It is a committed book in content as well as in form

“I dream that the younger generations hear the work and the voice of women in their true measure” : it is in the name of this hope that the author undertook the writing of this resolutely committed book, as announced in the foreword. To do this, Chloé Thibaud does not content herself with exposing the roles, major or minor, that women have played in musical creation over the decades, but she studies the way in which they have seized on this medium to bring their claims.

She also questions the semantics and representations that infuse the musical universe: the concepts of the muse, the groupies, the pygmalion, the diva or even the girl band are thus deciphered in terms of what they say about the treatment of women in the music industry, and their stigmatization.

The book assumes even in its form its desire to carry high the feminist banner, by essentially promoting speeches by experts : “Feminism is the fight for the defense of equality between men and women. It is therefore precisely to compensate for age-old inequalities that I have decided to cite mainly women’s work” explains the author in her foreword.

4. It’s a book that questions (us) about feminism

Chloé Thibaud’s picture of this musical history is far from monochromatic: it is made up of contrasts, contradictions, divergent voices. This is perhaps the best way to give pride of place to feminism: to move away from a univocal, categorical discourse, to celebrate the nuance and diversity of experiences. It is in this perspective that the author gives the floor to the main parties concerned, a project posed from the very beginning of the reading: “I give the floor to fifteen artists of different ages and backgrounds. All have agreed to confide in their experience of sexism in the music industry and on how they see, or not, song as a medium of feminist engagement”.

Thus, parading at his microphone are professionals with very different profiles and backgrounds: LeoKatia Labèque, Claire Gibault, Yseult or Sheila. Whether singer, pianist or conductor, they all have a very specific vision of feminism and its issues in the musical contexta vision inherent in the era in which they evolved and marked by their professional trajectory.

If the journalist gives voice to these women with nuanced opinions, it nevertheless retains a critical overhang. Thus, Françoise Hardy’s point of view can be finely questioned a few pages later: when Chloé Thibaud asks her about the way in which Michel Berger was qualified as “pygmalion“for France Gall, asking her if this expression does not minimize the importance of these women who are, more than muses, artists in their own right, here is what the interviewee answers:

“Did France and Jane make songs? No. They shared the life of song geniuses who wanted to have them as performers. France Gall absolutely wanted to meet Michel Berger, but he refused to see her. Fortunately, the agent from France insisted, because she was a perfect interpreter for him. It is not about minimization, but about complementarity.”

A pirouette that the author will question in her chapter “Ni muses ni groupies”: because this “complementarity” mentioned by Françoise Hardy seems to be valued in one direction.

“And what about the duo France Gall and Michel Berger? What would the author be without his interpreter? A hymn such as “Résiste” would not have had the same resonance in the mouth of a man…However, everything happens as if the credit constantly had to go to one and only one person” writes Chloé Thibaud. An analysis that she supports with the words of Marie Buscatto, professor and researcher in the sociology of gender, who explains that music, as a productive activity, is deeply collective, but that this aspect only benefits male artists.

5. It’s a book that offers an intimate vision

Last but not least! What seduces from the start, in this work, this is the way in which Chloé Thibaud personally engages in her text. The a priori encyclopaedic aspect of a chronological sequence could make us fear a deletion of the author, in favor of facts and a theoretical discourse. But it is indeed an “I” that takes us on this temporal journey, that of the journalistwhich collects, sorts and analyzes information; that of the music lover, the instrumentalist, the pianist who spent 15 years at the Conservatory playing exclusively male pieces, in spite of herself; that of the young woman whose ears bathed in a musical culture steeped in sexism and patriarchal dictates.

“I imagine generations of women must have danced to it and some may have seen it as a feminist anthem. I discern only male gauze and mansplaining.” she writes about the song Be a woman by Michel Sardou. Or again: “My reading prism prevents me from waddling on a chorus that associates women with emotional dependence and fragility, but on reflection, I think this is due to the fact that this story is told by a man. ”, she analyzes about Liberated womanwhich she regrets that the lyrics were written by a woman, Joëlle Kopf.

By associating the theoretical with the experience, the universal with the personal, Chloé Thibaud allows us to appropriate the issues raised in her work.. It is moreover with great lucidity and honesty that she examines, in a reflective manner, her own feminist journey, her apprehension of the texts and the sharpening of her critical spirit.

You will have understood it, you have had proof of it by 5: we can only recommend you to go for it and get All for music : whether it’s a gift to yourself or a present for Christmas, this book can only make its recipient vibrate!

Read also
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5 reasons to read and offer the feminist nugget “All for music” at Christmas