Ethel Smyth

Impressions That Remained,


To me personally, Johannes Brahms was very kind and fatherly in his awkward way, chiefly, no doubt, because of the place I held in the heart of our mutual friend Lisl; but after a very slight acquaintance, I guessed he would never take a woman writer seriously, and I had no desire, though kindly urged by him to do so, to show him my work. At last one day, without asking my leave, Lisl showed him a little fugue of mine, and when I came in and found them looking at it, he began analyzing it, simply, gravely, and appreciatively, saying this development was good, that modulation curious, and so on. Carried away by surprise and delight, I lost my head, and pointing out a constructive detail that had greatly fussed my teacher—the sort of thing that made him call me a bad pupil—asked eagerly, “Don’t you think if I feel it that way, I have a right to end on the dominant?” Suddenly the scene changed, back came the ironic smile, and stroking his mustache he said in a voice charged with kindly contempt, “I am quite sure, dear child, you may end when and where you please!” There it was! He had suddenly remembered I was a girl, to take whom seriously was beneath a man’s dignity, and the quality of the work, which had I been an obscure male he would have upheld against anyone, simply passed from his mind.


Interview in Pitchfork,


I have nothing against Kanye West. Help me with this—I’m not dissing him—this is about how people talk about him. With the last album he did, he got all the best beat makers on the planet at the time to make beats for him. A lot of the time, he wasn’t even there. Yet no one would question his authorship for a second. I did 80 percent of the beats on my album Vespertine, and it took me three years to work on that album because it was all microbeats—it was like doing a huge embroidery piece. The band Matmos came in the last two weeks and added percussion on top of the songs, but they didn’t do any of the main parts, and they are credited everywhere as having done the whole album. Matmos’ Drew Daniel is a close friend of mine, and in every single interview he did, he corrected it. And they don’t even listen to him. It really is strange. I want to support young girls who are in their twenties now and tell them, “You’re not just imagining things.” It’s tough. Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times. I’ve been guilty of one thing: after being the only girl in bands for ten years, I learned—the hard way—that if I was going to get my ideas through, I was going to have to pretend that they—men—had the ideas. I became really good at this, and I don’t even notice it myself.

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