Re-dress: Women Composers

With Radio 3’s excellent focus on programming women composers since 2014, there has been an increasing awareness of the gaps in our knowledge of works written by women. Orchestras and ensembles have been trying to programme more works by women, with a commitment from orchestras such as Southbank Sinfonia to programme 20 pieces by women in 9 months. However it is extremely difficult to obtain useful information, parts and recordings of many of these works, some of which are still unpublished, and rarely if ever performed. Most ensembles do not have time or money to spend long in researching such repertoire, and so it remains unplayed, despite goodwill. 

Changes in thinking come through education, as well as availability. There are few works by women composers included in university courses, and few if any taught in schools. Generations of girls with an interest in music grown up without performing works by women, or even being aware of the possibility of a career as a female composer.

This is an extraordinary omission in the twenty first century. If we think across other disciplines, we aren’t aware of JK Rowling being a ‘woman author’, or of Tracy Emin as a ‘woman artist.’ And yet not only do we designate women composers as a special, rather suspected and neglected category, we hardly even know who they are. We know even less about women composers from across the globe- the project will aim to be as inclusive as possible, examining work by European and American women alongside female composers of the Global South.

The BBC and Oxford University, led by Dr Kate Kennedy at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, will work together to address this imbalance in multiple and creative ways, using cutting-edge digital technology, and reaching many thousands through radio, live performance and television.

This project aims to change our understanding of the canon of classical music, and its overwhelmingly male appearance. It will allow access to a whole new repertoire of music by women, presented using innovative and state-of-the-art technologies, and accessible to everyone from school children to managers of professional orchestras. It has huge impact, and will be advertised across the BBC, and will be available globally. We will be creating a research base that allows us to find other material that has hardly been used, and to make it accessible. Through the website and the app we will be creating a research resource to harvest the public’s opinions on this new music. We can obtain data on which pieces are preferred, and what people are saying about them. This is vital information for concert programmers, and will help them programme pieces that might have seemed a financial risk, but that they can have confidence in appealing to audiences. It aims to investigate the forgotten identity of women composers, and to redress the balance. Its ultimate aim would be to erase the need for the distinction of ‘female’ composer entirely.

We will be using artificial intelligence to make inferences and decisions based on what it finds. AI notices correlations. Machine learning and AI watch what we do, and learn from it. Working with researchers from Oxford, we can create the AI to track what people listen to, respond to and how often they return to it. We can then build a data set and make it available to other humanities researchers, with the possibility for a whole new wealth of research to emerge. We will experiment with haptic, visual and audio elements to create new experiences of sensory immersion. We will create performances that can be heard and even touched, in unusual spaces.

News
Events

The latest from Wolfson College

21 January 2019
Professor Tarje Nissen-Meyer to deliver Annual London Lecture at Lincoln's Inn

Wolfson College is privileged to have Professor Tarje Nissen-Meyer deliver the Annual London Lecture.

18 January 2019
Jon Stallworthy Poetry Prize 2019 Winner Announced

Wolfson College is honoured to announce that the winner of this year's competition was Andrew Wynn Owen for Lines of Decline.

17 January 2019
The Academics at Risk campaign

Last term the College raised almost £25,000 to place an academic at risk and their family at Wolfson.

Our upcoming events

Lectures and Seminars
22 - 22
Jan Jan
Weinrebe Lecture 1, Notes from the Silence: writing the lives of women composers
Tuesday 22 January - 5:30pm to 7:00pm

Due to the tireless work of musicologists such as Anna Beer, a rich legacy of music by women has been, and continues to be, unearthed. The tide is, however, beginning to turn and we are hearing more female composers. But how can we, indeed how should we, write these composers' lives? In the first Weinrebe Lecture of 2019, Anna will share her insights into gender, creativity and life-writing.

Networking
23 - 23
Jan Jan
Digital Research Cluster Lunch
Wednesday 23 January - 12:30pm to 1:30pm

Do you use, or are you interested in using, digital technologies for research in any discipline? The lunch is an opportunity to meet and discuss your work with technology specialists and other academics, and to explore further opportunities in the College and Oxford. Contact David Robey (david.robey@wolfson.ox.ac.uk) for further information.

Lectures and Seminars
23 - 23
Jan Jan
AWRC Lunch Table and Talk - Dr Elise Morero
Wednesday 23 January - 1:15pm to 2:00pm

Lunch Table in Hall from 12:30, followed by a talk in the Florey Room at 13:15 delivered by Dr Elise Morero (Postdoc researcher at the Khalili Research Centre) on The contribution of ancient technology analysis to the history and history of art: the study of relief-carving on medieval Islamic rock crystal vessels (9-12th c.). Coffee and cakes will be served.

Lunch Table open to Cluster members.

Talk open to ALL.