Gendered musical responses to First World War experiences

Laura Seddon

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This article investigates how women composers have responded to and commemorated the First World War. It juxtaposes works written between 1915 and 1916 by Susan Spain-Dunk, Morfydd Owen and Adela Maddison, with contemporary responses as part of the centenary commemorations (2014-18) by Cecilia MacDowall, Catherine Kontz and Susan Philipz. Pierre Nora’s concept of ‘sites of memory’, Benedict Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’ and Judith Butler’s theory of mourning provide a framework in order to analyse the different functions of this music in terms of our collective memory of the War. The article ultimately argues that this music contributes to a re-evaluation of how female composers experience the cultural impact of the War. By anachronistically discussing these stylistically disparate works alongside one another, there is the possibility of disrupting the progressively linear canonical musical tradition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages16
JournalWomen’s History Review
Early online date28 Feb 2017
Publication statusEarly online - 28 Feb 2017


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