A woman who writes music : a creative feminist autobiography
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In the male-dominated profession of composition, women may find themselves having to surmount extra hurdles because the industry and society itself circumscribes their role. These challenges stand between women and their creative goals, and it may require great courage and long periods of time in the wilderness of non-acceptance before success at any level becomes possible. I stopped composing for almost twenty years. When I returned I discovered that I was not alone in having abandoned my chosen path. I found many women composers historically whose careers had not progressed with the same levels of exposure as their male counterparts, and many who had also stopped composing either temporarily or permanently. This dissertation and portfolio takes the form of a creative feminist autobiography and is presented as a website in order to facilitate the process of storytelling through a multimedia format. By composing The Poetess, a music theatre work for actors and an instrumental ensemble; Out of the Snowstorm, an Owl for string quartet; Mycorrhizal Ecology for two pianos; What The Living Do for solo piano; I Lay Down By The Riverside And Dreamed for large instrumental ensemble; and Let Me Speak for solo clarinet with poetry, I represent my own and other women’s lives creatively, covering themes including abuse, bereavement, transformation, and love. These works form a living enquiry into women’s experiences. Through an imagined dialogue between myself and composers Ethel Smyth, Ruth Crawford, Avril Coleridge-Taylor, Enid Luff and Laurie Anderson, using their own words taken from their various autobiographies, letters, journals and interviews, I investigate shared issues in women composers’ lives and their struggles for creative self-expression. These stories show how it is ultimately possible to find one’s voice as a woman in music, and how I, in particular, returned from the wilderness, and became a composer again.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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