Melbourne Conservatorium of Music - Theses

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    Composer, wife and mother: Margaret Sutherland as conflicted subject
    GRAHAM, JILLIAN ( 2001)
    Margaret Sutherland (1897-1984) is regarded as one of the most innovative and influential Australian composers of the first half of the twentieth century. As early as the 1920s, she could be compared with contemporary composers in Europe who were reacting against aspects of the Romantic style of the nineteenth century. Sutherland was brought up in the midst of a liberal, intellectual, creative and artistic family, in which her principal role models were single women and intellectual men, and her musical aspirations were encouraged and fostered. Having studied for two years in Europe (1923-1925), she returned to Australia, where she expected to develop her vocation as a composer. In 1927 she married, and had two children, the first in 1929 and the second in 1931.During her troubled marriage she experienced conflict beyond her expectations in combining the pursuit of her musical aspirations with her domestic responsibilities as wife and mother. To date, an in-depth feminist biographical study of Sutherland has not been attempted, yet the challenges women face in successfully combining marriage, motherhood and career can only be revealed through closer inspection of this female experience. Using a methodology derived from contemporary feminist biographical theory, the basis for and manifestation of the conflict Sutherland experienced between her public, musical and her private, domestic roles will be explored. It will be shown that in spite of the difficulties faced as a woman composer and in her private life, she managed to achieve a considerable amount, making contributions which should be valued, both in the private, domestic sphere, and in her public life as composer and champion of the interests of Australian composers and Australian music in general. The nature of her achievements suggests that she had the tenacity to avoid being smothered by the unhappiness of her circumstances, or to allow her individuality and ambitions to be thwarted by domesticity.
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    Composing biographies of four Australian women: feminism, motherhood and music
    GRAHAM, JILLIAN ( 2009)
    This thesis examines the impact of gender, feminism and motherhood on the careers of four Australian composers: Margaret Sutherland (1897–1984), Ann Carr-Boyd (b. 1938), Elena Kats-Chernin (b. 1957) and Katy Abbott (b. 1971). Aspects of the biographies of each of these women are explored, and I situate their narratives within the cultural and musical contexts of their eras, in order to achieve heightened understanding of the ideologies and external influences that have contributed to their choices and experiences. Methodologies derived from feminist biography and oral history/ethnography underpin this study. Theorists who inform this work include Marcia Citron, Daphne de Marneffe, Sherna Gluck, Carolyn Heilbrun, Anne Manne, Ann Oakley, Alessandro Portelli, Adrienne Rich and Robert Stake, along with many others. The demands traditionally placed on women through motherhood and domesticity have led to a lack of time and creative space being available to develop their careers. Thus they have faced significant challenges in gaining public recognition as serious composers. There is a need for biographical analysis of these women’s lives, in order to consider their experiences and the encumbrances they have faced through attempting to combine their creative and mothering roles. Previous scholarship has concentrated more on their compositions than on the women who created them, and the impact of private lives on public lives has not been considered worthy of consideration. Three broad themes are investigated. First, the ways in which each composer’s family background, upbringing and education have impacted on their decision to enter the traditionally male field of composition are explored. The positive influence from family and other mentors, and opportunities for a sound musical education, are factors particularly necessary for aspiring female composers. I argue that all four women have benefited from upbringings in families where education and artistic endeavour have been valued highly. The second theme concerns the extent to which the feminist movement has influenced the women’s lives as composers and mothers, and the levels of frustration, and/or satisfaction or pleasure each has felt in blending motherhood with composition. I contend that all four composers have led feminist lives in the sense that they have exercised agency and a sense of entitlement in choices regarding their domestic and work lives. The three living composers have reaped the benefits of second-wave feminism, but have eschewed complete engagement with its agenda, especially its repudiation of motherhood. They can more readily be identified with the currently evolving third wave of feminism, which advocates women’s freedom to choose how to balance the equally-valued roles of motherhood and the public world of work. I assert that Sutherland was a third-wave prototype, a position that was atypical of her era. The third and final theme comprises an investigation of the ways in which historical and enduring negative attitudes towards women as musical creators have played out in the musical careers in these composers. It is contested that Sutherland experienced greater challenges than her successors in the areas of dissemination, composition for larger forces, and critical reception, but appears to have been more comfortable in promoting her work. The exploration of their careers demonstrates that all four of these creative mothers are well-respected and recognised composers. They are ‘third-wave’ women who have considerably enriched Australia’s musical landscape.