Recon­cil­ing music and men­stru­ation? Artist and fem­in­ist Alex­an­dra Vil­dosola has suc­cess­fully united that. A topic that is still taboo in today’s soci­ety is rein­ter­preted in “dia­logue with a rose“. In this guest art­icle, Alex­an­dra takes you on a con­cert against the period taboo:

Now we have actu­ally fin­ished the pro­ject: a pro­ject where art and period merge. It was beau­ti­ful, a unique exper­i­ence, and all those emo­tional terms we artists love to use. But for me, it was also insuf­fi­cient. Not the per­form­ance, but the dialogue.
We won the award for re-per­form­ab­il­ity at D-BÜ 2020 with great feed­back on research, pro­cessing, cos­tume, and the concept of unit­ing music and men­stru­ation. But we just haven’t had a “dia­logue with a rose” con­cert yet. Without an audi­ence, a link is miss­ing, and so it reminded me more of theater dia­logue than conversation.

Musik und Menstruation, Periodenkonzert, Kunst und Periode, dialogue with a rose, Menstruationsdialog, Menstruation Musik, menstruation and music, period conceret, art and menstruation, art and period, menstruation dialogue, Vulvani, Photo Credits: Alexandra Vildosola

Photo Cred­its: Alex­an­dra Vildosola

I already know so much

When I first star­ted talk­ing about men­stru­ation, I con­sidered myself open and enlightened: I no longer “dealt” with tam­pons. And if someone asked me about my bad mood, I was per­fectly cap­able of say­ing that I was men­stru­at­ing. Sud­denly, I found out so much more. Accord­ingly, I then packed as much as I could into this con­cert to com­bine music and men­stru­ation. And I can only recom­mend that every per­son embarks on this jour­ney: to read for them­selves, research, and ser­i­ously recon­sider our com­mu­nic­a­tion on the sub­ject of men­stru­ation in every­day life.

A jour­ney worth recommending

On the one hand, there are the dif­fer­ent exper­i­ences of the women with whom I was able to talk. On the other hand, there is also the med­ical aspect: back­ground know­ledge, which should actu­ally be gen­eral edu­ca­tion and – this is extremely shock­ing – is com­pletely irrel­ev­ant in gyneco­logy. Then there is also the polit­ical and eco­nomic aspect. Right now, the topic of “Period Poverty” is also very present in our coun­try. I had fin­ished writ­ing the first ver­sion of the concept Music and Men­stru­ation, but some­how I was still not happy. Espe­cially the third part was both­er­ing me. My grandma recom­men­ded a book from the eighties: “Das Schwar­z­mond Tabu.” This book moved me per­son­ally the most; it is a mys­tical jour­ney to the men­stru­ation of the mat­ri­archy. The cul­tural import­ance of men­stru­ation for any idea of the ori­gin of the world is shown here. In addi­tion, the res­ult­ing suprem­acy of the men­stru­at­ors with dif­fer­ent excav­a­tion find­ings and research. This got me involved in an ancient priest­ess cult, which we promptly brought to the stage.

The dia­logue begins to recon­cile music and menstruation

After that, we went into the con­ver­sa­tion. I sud­denly had so much know­ledge; between each lead­ing ques­tion inter­view, I read new things, learned new things, and so the inter­views got longer and longer. Some inter­views even las­ted 2 hours, which made the edit­ing of the inter­views much longer. I talked to friends and fel­low stu­dents. Women also came for­ward that I didn’t know before, or at least not well.

Musik und Menstruation, Periodenkonzert, Kunst und Periode, dialogue with a rose, Menstruationsdialog, Menstruation Musik, menstruation and music, period conceret, art and menstruation, art and period, menstruation dialogue, Vulvani, Photo Credits: Alexandra Vildosola
Musik und Menstruation, Periodenkonzert, Kunst und Periode, dialogue with a rose, Menstruationsdialog, Menstruation Musik, menstruation and music, period conceret, art and menstruation, art and period, menstruation dialogue, Vulvani, Photo Credits: Alexandra Vildosola
Photo Cred­its: Alex­an­dra Vildosola 

I should have talked more about it

The inter­views with my mom and grand­mother were extraordin­ary for me. I under­stood many things in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent way, from my own child­hood and the way I dealt with the sub­ject in my par­ental home. At the end of the inter­view with my grand­mother, I asked her what she would like to tell her mother about men­stru­ation. Her response was, “That she should have just talked about it more.” So I also asked what she would like to tell her daugh­ter. That’s when she smirked, “That I should have talked to her more about it.”

Music and men­stru­ation is diverse

In ret­ro­spect, it’s a bit of a shame for me that no men respon­ded to my call. I sin­cerely hope that mov­ing for­ward, non-men­stru­at­ors will be inter­ested in this con­ver­sa­tion. I would like to see more diversity for the resumption.

We had many con­ver­sa­tions in the team. The Dia­logue of the Rose meant to us that, in any case, ONE woman should be involved. But the people involved in the con­ver­sa­tion are vari­able, after all. After all, we can’t exclude half of soci­ety when the claim is to sens­it­ize soci­ety in a uni­fied way. Men­stru­ation is also a sens­it­ive topic for trans people.

The voice of society

From all these inter­views, we wanted to make a chorus of men­stru­ation. That’s why the voices of non-men­stru­at­ors are so import­ant. Ques­tions, wor­ries, doubts that a father has, a lov­ing per­son, a brother. Ignor­ance leads to help­less reactions.

There were dif­fer­ent thoughts about this choir: On the one hand, from the begin­ning, it was the idea of the voice of soci­ety – con­sciously out­side from our artist envir­on­ment. A dia­logue needs this coun­ter­part, and we didn’t know how that could look with an audi­ence in this performance.

The choir is often music­ally uni­form, a loud voice, but with us, dif­fer­ent voices became loud. It was essen­tial to me not to choose only hor­ror stor­ies. The first scene focuses on a beau­ti­ful story: a young girl who exper­i­enced this day as an excep­tional women’s day.

Dia­logue with a rose: The women dis­cover a power within themselves

And then, as the third ele­ment of music and men­stru­ation, our cel­list Kiara Kon­stantinou joined us. She offered me right in the first con­ver­sa­tion to com­pose elec­tronic music for the sound­scapes. First, there is the piece “Curse and Poison” about the his­tory of men­stru­ation. It is the lead-in to our priest­ess scene. Mys­tical, the women dis­cover power in them­selves and their menstruation.

The second piece is called “Pro­Mens” and is an empower­ing sum­mary of our research, dia­logue, and con­cert. The women in the inter­views gave us solid and form­at­ive sen­tences – a magical moment that moves us to tears every time.

Musik und Menstruation, Periodenkonzert, Kunst und Periode, dialogue with a rose, Menstruationsdialog, Menstruation Musik, menstruation and music, period conceret, art and menstruation, art and period, menstruation dialogue, Vulvani, Photo Credits: Alexandra Vildosola
Musik und Menstruation, Periodenkonzert, Kunst und Periode, dialogue with a rose, Menstruationsdialog, Menstruation Musik, menstruation and music, period conceret, art and menstruation, art and period, menstruation dialogue, Vulvani, Photo Credits: Alexandra Vildosola

Photo Cred­its: Alex­an­dra Vildosola

Yes, we bleed; get used to it

The genre of song is quite old, so are its lyr­ics. Mag­diel Baptistin Vail­lant arranged the clas­sical pieces writ­ten for piano for the string quar­tet. We wanted to stay as close as pos­sible to the ori­ginal, yet the dif­fer­ence between a piano and a string quar­tet is gigantic. This meant a lot of work for the four musi­cians. So we searched and searched together for bet­ter and bet­ter vari­ations. Here a voice was exchanged last minute, or there a tone was added.

Three own com­pos­i­tions for the string quar­tet also came from Mag­diel. “Bleed­ing” starts imme­di­ately after the heal­ing sound­scape “Pro Mens”. Clearly more aggress­ive: the blood pulses through the veins, vital, we are not afraid of it. Yes, we bleed. Get used to it.

Big and small accidents

In the end, the biggest chal­lenge was the com­plex room acous­tics. The sound in the aud­it­or­ium – breath­tak­ing. On stage – a blurry wobble that made it vir­tu­ally impossible to fol­low the singing of the quar­tet. Even more extreme for a piece where the musi­cians were sup­posed to make music together with the sound­scape. So here I had to come up with an emer­gency solu­tion: spon­tan­eously, I took the sound­scape from the inter­face with head­phones and con­duc­ted it.

Of course, sig­ni­fic­ant and minor acci­dents are not miss­ing in such a pro­duc­tion. There were two fixed cam­eras dur­ing the video shoot: one was dir­ectly in front of me, the other diag­on­ally in the room. The cam­era­man was at the diag­onal for the entire con­cert. Every now and then, he would look at the long shot to check the image and then go back.

So I stand to con­duct: With head­phones in my ears and sheet music in front of my nose, so I couldn’t move an inch to the side. Then I give the cue, and the cam­era­man moves right in front of me and stays there con­sist­ently for the whole piece. I worked up quite a sweat, try­ing to tip­toe my arms up high enough. After all, I have to be vis­ible to my musi­cian some­how. I don’t think any of us believed we were really together until we heard the recording.

Musik und Menstruation, Periodenkonzert, Kunst und Periode, dialogue with a rose, Menstruationsdialog, Menstruation Musik, menstruation and music, period conceret, art and menstruation, art and period, menstruation dialogue, Vulvani, Photo Credits: Alexandra Vildosola
Musik und Menstruation, Periodenkonzert, Kunst und Periode, dialogue with a rose, Menstruationsdialog, Menstruation Musik, menstruation and music, period conceret, art and menstruation, art and period, menstruation dialogue, Vulvani, Photo Credits: Alexandra Vildosola

Photo Cred­its: Alex­an­dra Vildosola

I do not want to be ashamed

I can con­sider myself lucky that I got pre­cisely the five mem­bers I wanted for the concept. Five very dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, and it was my pleas­ure to use them a little bit as well: whether they were mil­it­ant, inno­cent, or curi­ous. We were even able to include a per­sonal story, which I won’t reveal here. And there were also inter­est­ing dis­cus­sions in rehears­als. One scene in which Mara is assaul­ted by the other musi­cians to take away the joy of her first men­stru­ation and impose shame on her. Mara’s reac­tion to this was, “Well, I’m get­ting angry right now. I don’t want to feel ashamed”. We had a con­ver­sa­tion about how it was 10 years ago, we want to show this devel­op­ment at the con­cert. For me, this is an ele­ment­ary part of the work as a team, which we will undoubtedly con­tinue to cul­tiv­ate. We are also in dia­logue with each other and with ourselves.

Three rehears­als less to get through

It was only a few months before we received the con­firm­a­tion for the com­pet­i­tion finals. And with it the sup­port of the uni­ver­sity to pro­duce the con­cert. So we made a pre­cise sched­ule, which was very tight. Then two of our musi­cians fell ill with Corona, and three rehears­als were can­celed without replace­ment. Sud­denly we were under tre­mend­ous time pres­sure. It was just a mat­ter of get­ting a full con­cert on stage; devel­op­ment would have to wait. That’s the bit­ter truth of the music busi­ness in the corona pan­demic. The real work hap­pens in togeth­er­ness, which was and is so dif­fi­cult these days.

Musik und Menstruation, Periodenkonzert, Kunst und Periode, dialogue with a rose, Menstruationsdialog, Menstruation Musik, menstruation and music, period conceret, art and menstruation, art and period, menstruation dialogue, Vulvani, Photo Credits: Alexandra Vildosola

Photo Cred­its: Alex­an­dra Vildosola

Music and men­stru­ation has touched us all

Work­ing on the pro­ject has moved and per­haps changed all of us as an ensemble. I now keep a cycle diary, which is good for myself and my rela­tion­ship. I have expan­ded and changed my com­mu­nic­a­tion. Espe­cially excit­ing for me are the con­ver­sa­tions with my brothers.

I am happy about situ­ations where men­stru­at­ing and non-men­stru­at­ing people have told me that it now makes them think. How they want to talk to their daugh­ters about men­stru­ation, make them­selves under­stood to their part­ner, and catch up on a con­ver­sa­tion with their par­ents. But actu­ally, I would like to see more of a plat­form for this dia­logue, and I would like to get more people on board. We are now talk­ing about an expand­ing dia­logue. We had this one with ourselves, and this is a start. It’s like explor­ing, feel­ing, and smelling your own blood.

We had the dia­logue with each other as an ensemble, and I had it in the inter­views with indi­vidual women. There is a lack of exten­sion. It was an extraordin­ary exper­i­ence to see a cre­ated concept for a live dia­logue con­ver­ted into a video. But I’m not sure if it sat­is­fies me.

You can’t play the same con­cert twice

Where do we go from here? We decided as a team to make “dia­logue with a rose” our con­cert series. At the moment, we are all stuck in the organ­iz­a­tion, but the concept of music and men­stru­ation is alive and devel­op­ing. Because the devel­op­ment in clas­sical music is essen­tial to me. If we claim that it is not dead, we must also treat it as some­thing liv­ing, breath­ing, chan­ging. Loosely based on Her­ac­litus, “You can’t play the same con­certo twice.”

Musik und Menstruation, Periodenkonzert, Kunst und Periode, dialogue with a rose, Menstruationsdialog, Menstruation Musik, menstruation and music, period conceret, art and menstruation, art and period, menstruation dialogue, Vulvani, Photo Credits: Alexandra Vildosola

Photo Cred­its: Alex­an­dra Vildosola

Alexandra Vildosola, Dialogue with a rose, Konzert über Periode, Konzert über Menstruation, Perioden-Tabu, Periodentabu, Menstruationstabu, Sängerin, klassische Musik, Streichquartett, Komponist, Rose Symbol Vulva, Rose Symbol Menstruation, Periode Tabu, Menstruation Tabu, Konzert, Konzertdesignerin, Vulvani
Alexandra 
Con­cert designer | Web­site | + posts

Bold, wild, exist­en­tial - this is how Alex­an­dra Vil­dosola makes con­certs, con­stantly search­ing for places, themes and music that pro­voke con­cert exper­i­ence as a com­plete work of art. The Ber­liner by choice doesn't want to miss any­thing - lit­er­at­ure, cul­ture, polit­ics and her world, because that's what she makes con­certs out of. Alex­an­dra Vil­dosola stud­ied clas­sical singing at the HfM in Nurem­berg, Ger­many and is now begin­ning to explore the exper­i­mental music industry as a con­cert designer.