1st Edition

British Women Composers and Instrumental Chamber Music in the Early Twentieth Century

ISBN 9781138249639
Published October 9, 2016 by Routledge
248 Pages

USD $62.95

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Book Description

This is the first full-length study of British women's instrumental chamber music in the early twentieth century. Laura Seddon argues that the Cobbett competitions, instigated by Walter Willson Cobbett in 1905, and the formation of the Society of Women Musicians in 1911 contributed to the explosion of instrumental music written by women in this period and highlighted women's place in British musical society in the years leading up to and during the First World War. Seddon investigates the relationship between Cobbett, the Society of Women Musicians and women composers themselves. The book’s six case studies - of Adela Maddison (1866-1929), Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), Morfydd Owen (1891-1918), Ethel Barns (1880-1948), Alice Verne-Bredt (1868-1958) and Susan Spain-Dunk (1880-1962) - offer valuable insight into the women’s musical education and compositional careers. Seddon’s discussion of their chamber works for differing instrumental combinations includes an exploration of formal procedures, an issue much discussed by contemporary sources. The individual composers' reactions to the debate instigated by the Society of Women Musicians, on the future of women's music, is considered in relation to their lives, careers and the chamber music itself. As the composers in this study were not a cohesive group, creatively or ideologically, the book draws on primary sources, as well as the writings of contemporary commentators, to assess the legacy of the chamber works produced.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; Contexts: the lives of women composers; Women and chamber music; The society of women musicians; The other side of London’s musical society: Adela Maddison, Ethel Smyth and Morfydd Owen; The early 20th-century phantasy; Epilogue; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.

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Laura Seddon received her PhD from City University, London in February 2011, and continues to research in the area of gender and music. She is Director of the organisation Contemporary Connections which instigates musical projects combining historical research and contemporary compositional practice. She also teaches musicology and research/analytical skills.


’... she fully succeeds in achieving her aim, which is to uncover some neglected works and place them in the context of early twentieth-century British music. Seddon is to be commended for focusing on several composers who have been overshadowed by the dominance of Smyth. Her highly detailed and well researched study of the Society of Women Musicians, for which she includes detailed appendices listing SWM members through 1920, a comprehensive list of instrumental chamber works composed by women between 1905 and 1920, as well as an excerpt from Katherine Eggar’s address for the society’s inaugural meeting, is substantial in breadth, and is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in the institution’s history’. NABMSA