SNARE DRUM AT MY WOMB: THE ROLE OF ROCK AND HEAVY METAL MOTHERING
Joan Jocson and Julie Turley
“After giving birth, I told the doctor I needed to leave the hospital for five hours. Our band was opening for Johnny Thunders. I think I was on an adrenaline rush.”
Cynthia, 67, B-Girls, Renegades, New York Junk
Musicking, a term first coined by professor-musician Christopher Small (1998), is the active way in which we take part in the creation of music and in establishing relationships with society–a form of engagement and meaning-making. While scholarly literature regarding popular culture about mothers supporting their “musicking” children exists, there is a lack of literature on “musicking” mothers and their experiences. From previous thesis work on women and their participation in NY’s extreme metal music subculture, Joan Jocson-Singh saw the concept of motherhood come up as a recurring pattern during participant interviews. From her time spent in rock venues in Manhattan, Julie Turley encountered women whose identity as rockers who said that future motherhood would challenge lifestyles that have traditionally been set in opposition to motherhood.
This study in progress, undertaken by the two librarians—who themselves musick as mothers—puts an ethnographic lens on women who identify as rock and metal music mothers. Utilizing participant observation, semi-structured one-on-one interviews, and an online survey, they explore music-informed motherhood identity and the influence of cultural practice within the rock and metal subculture. They are particularly interested in how musical mothering transgresses iterations of motherhood and how the participation of mothers challenges rock and metal masculinity.
Of note to Joan and Julie is reflecting on what mothering and motherhood means to them. It has and continues to be a traumatic, visceral and all-encompassing experience. One moment humbling and quiet, and then–boom–dynamic and bombastic. Most immediately, it’s been the global pandemic and all the new ways we’re all learning to cope and adjust to what has taken over daily life. The normal tasks of being busy with work, caring for kids and trying to make room for self-care took precedence. It won’t come as a surprise to say there’s nothing more extremely metal than birthing and the changes that happen to the body and mind. As mothers, we are both inside and outside this body, afflicted with a self-imposed alienation that places us in a liminal space of outsideness, or rather insideness that is othered; a “grotesque realism” Bakhtin ( 1984:19), that equally offers liberation and catharsis of the mudune in motherhood.
The data gathered from this study underscores this. Overall, the data has been powerful and moving, and confirms Joan and Julie’s tentative assumptions: that identification and involvement in these subcultures, conventionally hostile to women and profoundly incongruous to motherhood, is essential to these mothers’ practice of self care and empowerment.
Songs to keep in your ear
Survey link: You can still take Joan and Julie’s survey on rock and metal mothers here.
- Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich, and Mikhail Bakhtin. Rabelais and his world. Vol. 341. Indiana University Press, 1984.
- Joy, Rose M. Music of Motherhood: History, Healing, Activism. Demeter Press, 2017.
- Linda M. G. Zerilli. “A Process without a Subject: Simone De Beauvoir and Julia Kristeva on Maternity.” Signs 18, no. 1 (1992): 111-35. Accessed April 25, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3174729.
- Rich, Adrienne. Of woman born: Motherhood as experience and institution. WW Norton & Company, 1995