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May 29, 1976 - Image 6

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-05-29

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Page Six


Saturday, May 29, 1976

concerts in three days in three different
places for Williamson and her musical
companions Jackie Robbins, who plays
cello and fretless electric bass, and
June Millington who plays acoustical
guitar and drums. Despite their exhaus-
tion, "Los Angeles flu" and frustration
with the inadequate sound system, they
later perform energetically and beauti-
fully. The only sign of fatigue during
their performance is the religious chug-
ging of orange juice and berhal tea be-
tween songs.
Although her music has obvious ties
to contemporaries such as Ella Fitz-
gerald, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan and Eric
Anderson, the influences of classical
music, in particular, Chopin, are most
readily apparent.
"A GOOD COMPOSITION is one where
there are different moods in one
song connected in such a way that you
don't notice the transitions. Ideally, it
will bring you back full circle, but hope-
fully to a higher place," says William-
son characterizing both classical music
and her own.
Williamson's enormously v e r s a t il e
voice range, not unlike that of Joni Mit-
chell, easily accommodates those deli-
cate mood changes, as do her graphic
"You know, my face changes so much
sometimes that people do not recognize
me," Williamson declares as a photog-
rapher catches her bringing a container
of orange juice to her lips. "Sometimes
not even my own mother. My mother
doesn't like too many of the pictures I
send her. I had to warn her about the
cover of my new album (The Changer
and the Changed). I said, 'Mom, you're
not gonna like this because I don't have
a shirt on'."
Williamson, who received seven years
of formal music and voice training and
has been singing professionally for 12
years, cut her first record in high school
in Colorado as a folk singer. She started
to do rock 'n roll after a trip to San
Francisco during her sophomore year
at University of Denver, where she was
told that folk was on the way out and
rock 'n roll was the up and coming
thing. When she came back to Denver
she joined a rock band because she
"didn't want to be left behind."
" WAS A LEAD chick singer," she
says, smiling. "Those were hippie
times. I said 'chick' too. Those were
happy wonderful days and, at the time,
a real high. I was constantly in awe and'
constantly learning.

Cris Wilimson:
not just a "sister"

CRIS WILLIAMSON 1 e a n s on one
shoulder against a wooden corridor
wall outside the Union ballroom 45 min-
utes before her concert time, as women
pour in through the doors. Exhausted
from a four hour sound test session and
a two month tour, she hooks her thumbs
in her tight blue jean pockets, and speaks
softly, warmly, but assuredly, seeming-
ly unaware that these women are filling
in the halls to see her.
"I never call myself part of the wo-
men's movement b e c a u s e it is not
enough. I cannot categorize myself or
my music. My roots are in the mountains
of Wyoming and Colorado where I grew
up-not the feminist movement."
As she speaks, a calm vitality over-
takes the tiredness in her voice. I forget
that minutes before she was stretched
out beneath her keyboard waiting for

sound errors to be corrected. I forget
about the fine line of frustration she had
walked during the sound tests-patient
with the inefficient sound technician one
moment, and near explosion the next.
"I WANT TO GIVE (my voice) a cosmic
perspective. I do not want to limit
myself to only a women's perspective. I
want to be a flyer rather than sitting on
earh. I can see better from flying over
head, rather than being a cow in a
"I have mystical leanings,"-she adds
confidently but slowly as if she's still
contemplating exactly what this means
to her. "I am concerned with spirit and
transforming energy. A concert is a
transcedent experience where I am able
to use energy in a positive way. It is
possible to take trauma and transform
its energy into high places."
A good deal of trauma indeed-three

"I was always treated with respect,"
she continues. "I suffered more from
women wanting more from me than I
was able to give to the women's move-
ment than from chauvinistic men," she
adds with a hint of pain in her voice.
Two years ago Williamson's life took
a drastic change. Her father, who she
calls her "spiritual other," died. His
death marked her exit from childhood
as well as her new and growing interest
in women's music.
"I was out of time before then. Now
I am on a river, growing older. I am in
time and it feels good. My music feels
good." She pauses, looks puzzlingly at
me for a moment and adds, "I am
drowning less and less. You drown less,
you know, when you can forget."
Williamson's involvement with Olivia
Records, a national women's recording
company christened in 1973, helped to
focus her energy on making and defin-
ing women's music. Olivia Records,
originated by a collective of five women,
including Meg Christian, is run cooper-
atively as a vehicle by which a woman
can have a real voice in determining
her own working conditions, acquisition
of skills and salary. The company pro-
fesses that group work keeps one wo-
man's viewpoint from providing the sole
context for decision making.
The owners of the company are
the women who work for it. All money
garnered through record sales and con-
tributions go towards the purchase of
their own studio, the production of future
records, and the training and salaries
of the women involved in Olivia.
"The difference between working with
women now and with men from my rock
'n roll past is that now it is like a school
where we are all struggling and learn-
ing. I am accepted as both teacher and
student. It is again the same idea as
being on a river-being the changer and
the changed," she says.
SINCE THE WOMEN of Olivia see their
company as an alternative to the
larger, more traditionaltones, they do
not plug into the conventional distribu-
tors. They have about 60 distributors of
their own around the country. Likewise,
Olivia does not promote their artists.
However, Betsy Ehrenberg, Olivia dis-
tributor for the Ann Arbor area, did
take on the responsibility of producing
Williamson's concert. Although she got
backing from the International Women's
Year Committee, the Commission for
Women, and the Women's Programs Co-
ordinator's office, she financed the con-
cert herself. Though a certain risk was
involved, the standing room only con-
cert crowd proved that it was one well
worth taking. All profits will go to local
feminist organizations.
But the women in Ann Arbor are not
unique in their support of Williamson.
Others on her concert route, some back-
ed by organizations and some not, have
successfully taken the same risks.
"What is most important to me is
to have an effect on things in life, as
they have had on me," explains Wil-
liamson. "And I can see that this is
starting to happen. I cannot help but
be cheerful because I am constantly
surrounded by, working with people -
women - who are giving me their sp-
Williamson will head back to Los An-
geles after concerts in Chicago and Col-
orado. She will try her hand at acting
in a western musical, "Calamity Jane."
Other hopes include writing for tele-
vision, producing in a record studio, and
creating musical scores for films.
While she reflects positively about her
near future, she can dream also of those
days which are far ahead of her.
"AT 80, I HOPE I'm wise and sitting
on a porch of a home for aging per-
formers with my friends, smoking a
joint. I hope I am humble, with beauty

and some grace."
Laurie Young is a Daily staff writer.

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