Western Astrology

Neptune: Music

Neptune: Music

Neptune's realm is the intangible -- it's what you can't touch. Nebulous and fluid, this planet governs the aspects of life that are not black and white.

Women in the music industry are especially influenced by Neptune, and sometimes the underworld lure of drugs becomes part of the mix. Both music and drugs offer a potent and alluring escape. The siren song may result in extraordinary music that moves the soul, a cry that articulates the pain and pleasure of life. Or it may be a magnet for destructive behavior.

Janis Joplin personifies the power of music mixed with the dark layer of drug use. Her soul was etched on the airwaves, her voice rocked concert halls, and she articulated the yearning, the sexual exploration, the rebel spirit of a generation. She was one of the most powerful female performers to emerge from the rock scene.

"You can sing sweet and get the song sung but to get to the third dimension you have to sing it rough, hurt the tune a little. Put enough strength to it that the notes slip. Then something else happens. The song gets large." -- Tess Gallagher

The early jazz movement gave women a chance to shine in a musical field. Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone and many others made the soulful woman's voice a recognizable feature in the clubs.

In the first rock bands and rhythm and blues groups, women tended to be back-up singers for the male leads. Suzi Quatro was one who broke through in the early years. Now, female lead singers tell the stories from a woman's point of view, gather huge followings, and become cultural icons like Madonna and Sheryl Crow.

These women emerged from a predominantly male musical history. Boys would sing soprano parts, and there was even a tradition of castrati in Europe. Rather than letting women sing, society dictated that male performers be altered, distorted to portray the feminine character on stage.

When women began to break the glass ceiling as singers, the instruments they played were still confined, for the most part, to acoustic guitars in the folk realm, and violins, cellos and reeds in the classical. Only now are we beginning to see women in rock groups as strong guitar players, drummers and keyboard maestras.

Astrologically, music is ruled by Pisces, the Twelfth House, which represents getting in sync with a group. Music is a way for people to collaborate in bands and combos. People gather together around bonfires and listen to acoustic guitar music. The audience can be an intimate group or a huge body of people. Music speaks to our emotions, allowing groups of people to share an experience that goes to their depths. This is the intuitive realm. It's about connection, sensitivity to the vibe, the feeling, the rhythm of life. Music is the perfect expression of this zone.

In this century, women have been able to express themselves, become known and have power in the culture through music. In the '60s, along with Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, came Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Grace Slick, Aretha Franklin and others. As blues moved into rock, other women appeared, wearing the male persona. Linda Ronstadt, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt and Nanci Griffith developed their own followings. In country music, women were revered as icons by their audiences -- the Judds (Naomi and Wynonna), Emmylou Harris and Tammy Wynette.

Gospel, a musical form that's associated with spirituality and religion, is a passionate, emotional music. Spirituals -- the songs -- became a means to communicate for slaves who were taken from their own land, brought to America on ships and forbidden to talk to one another. They could express their pain, their longing and their hope through song.

Motown evolved out of gospel and women played a big role in those groups. Diana Ross and the Supremes, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were vivid, sexy, energetic women who sang about love, but from the point of view of a strong woman who could get what she wanted.

Two singing duos in which the woman really took power were Sonny and Cher and Ike and Tina Turner.

Now, the potential exists for one songwriter, whose songs are very personal -- coming out of one situation like a heartbreak -- to achieve cultural recognition and adoration. Artists such as Lauryn Hill and Sarah McLachlan create entire oeuvres that become a part of many people's emotional memories. This situation represents the power of the medium and its accessibility to contemporary women.