Deep Listening: The Strategic Practice of Female Experimental Composers post 1945

Deep Listening: The Strategic Practice of Female Experimental Composers post 1945

PhD Research Degree

Louise Marshall

Completed 2018

New developments in music technology, alongside a more porous understanding of the nature of sound and its performance, have opened experimental and contemporary music to many new expressions since 1945. It might therefore be expected that the revolutionary compositional ingenuity demonstrated by many of female composers shaping this new transmission of music-making would by now be carefully documented in the historiography. Yet this has not been the case, and their absence is symptomatic of a still active antipathy to women entering and participating in professional and artistic arenas that remain structured in gender terms.

Taking my title from Pauline Oliveros’s practice of Deep Listening, my research analyses the compositional strategies of an indicative group of five female composers, with the intention of redressing this knowledge gap. I do this from a practice base, in which interviews with Éliane Radigue, Oliveros, Annea Lockwood, Joan La Barbara and Ellen Fullman are analysed through a methodology built from the intersections between psychoanalysis, oral history, and sound studies. From this, I propose the concept of the sonic artefact that results from the methodologically-focused encounter between researcher and narrator. Analysis of the communicative space within which the sonic artefact operates offers, I argue, a new methodology for gleaning ontological meaning from the sonic utterance of speech. This is extended to researchers as a method in which to theorise and to achieve a ‘deeper listening’ that attends to the historical depth of who is making sound and how they might be better heard. The audio interviews made during my research and additional documents share a focus with the Her Noise Archive at the University of the Arts London’s Special Archives and will be lodged there.


A digital copy of this thesis and supporting documents are available from the UAL Research Online repository.

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