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The instrumental music of British Women Composers in the Early Twentieth Century

Seddon, Laura (2011). The instrumental music of British Women Composers in the Early Twentieth Century. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This study focuses in detail on instrumental chamber music produced by women in the early twentieth century, a particularly fertile and under-represented period with regard to this topic and it draws on aspects of women’s history, British music history and feminist musicology. It 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, including phantasies, written by women in this period. It highlights women’s place in British musical society leading up to and during the First World War and investigates the relationship between Cobbett, the Society of Women Musicians and women composers themselves. Chamber works for a variety of instrumental combinations by six composers, 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) (all at different stages in their compositional careers at this time) are analysed. This is undertaken particularly with reference to their formal procedures, an issue much discussed by contemporary sources. The individual composers’ reactions (or lack of them) 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 chamber music itself. As the composers in this study were not a cohesive group, creatively or ideologically, the dissertation draws on primary sources, especially the archives of the Society of Women Musicians and Marion Scott, as well as the writings of contemporary commentators, to assess the legacy of the chamber works produced.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: © 2011 Laura Seddon
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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