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Dr Christopher Wiley gives talk on Ethel Smyth’s opera The Boatswain’s Mate for Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group

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Ethel SmythDr Christopher Wiley delivered a talk entitled ‘Ethel Smyth’s (feminist?) opera, The Boatswain’s Mate at the Millmead Centre, Guildford on 27 February 2017, for Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group.

The Boatswain’s Mate was the fourth of six operas composed by Smyth (who suffered from distorted hearing and deafness for the last several decades of her life), and was the most popular and most frequently performed during her own lifetime. It was recently released in its first complete modern recording by Retrospect Opera (of which Dr Wiley is a part).

An acknowledged expert on Smyth, Dr Wiley provided an outline of the circumstances of the composition of The Boatswain’s Mate, its plot, and interesting features of the music. He also discussed the extent to which the work constitutes a ‘feminist opera’, as has previously been suggested.

This is the second time that Dr Wiley has addressed Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group, having delivered a presentation on Smyth’s life and works two years ago in January 2015. Dr Wiley has also recently given talks on Smyth at The Guildford Institute and at the composer’s childhood home in Frimley Green.

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Dr Christopher Wiley contributes book chapter to new volume on music historiography

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Critical Music Historiography: Probing Canons, Ideologies and InstitutionsAn essay written by Dr Christopher Wiley, entitled ‘Musical Biography and the Myth of the Muse’, has appeared as the final chapter of a new anthology in which 17 international musicologists subject the writing of music history to groundbreaking scrutiny.

Critical Music Historiography: Probing Canons, Ideologies and Institutions is edited by Vesa Kurkela and Markus Mantere, and developed from the Radical Music History Symposium held at the Sibelius Academy, Finland (now part of the University of the Arts Helsinki) in December 2011, at which Dr Wiley presented a paper.

Dr Wiley’s essay explores the pattern in musical biography of specific female characters being cast in the role of ‘muse’ to a male genius, rising to prominence at specific points in that person’s life story as a signifier of their productivity and increasing artistic powers. Such women were thereby portrayed as having inspired their associated composer to greater heights, while implicitly denied the possibility of undertaking analogous creative activity themselves.

Further information

Listing of the volume on the publisher’s website: http://www.ashgate.com/default.aspx?page=637&title_id=19817&edition_id=1209349954&calcTitle=1

Listing of the volume on amazon.co.uk: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Critical-Music-Historiography-Ideologies-Institutions/dp/1472414195/

Bibliographic citation

Wiley, Christopher. ‘Musical Biography and the Myth of the Muse’, in Vesa Kurkela and Markus Mantere eds. Critical Music Historiography: Probing Canons, Ideologies and Institutions. Farnham: Ashgate, 2015, pp. 251–61.

Full text

The full text is available for free download under licence from Surrey Research Insight Open Access: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/803216/

 

Dr Christopher Wiley gives talk on Dame Ethel Smyth for Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group

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Ethel SmythDr Christopher Wiley presented a talk entitled ‘The Composer Dame Ethel Smyth and her Deafness’ at the Millmead Centre, Guildford on 26 January 2015, for Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group.

Smyth, who was active as composer, writer, and suffragette, was afflicted by distorted hearing and deafness for the last several decades of her life, particularly from the later 1910s until her death in 1944.

An acknowledged expert on Smyth, Dr Wiley has previously given public talks on the artist at the University of Surrey and The Women’s Library, London, as well as writing for the OUP Blog and organizing a recital of Smyth’s music to commemorate the 70th anniversary of her death last year.

Ethel Smyth Symposium at the University of Surrey features Dr Christopher Wiley as speaker and performer

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Dr Christopher Wiley addresses Ethel Smyth SymposiumDr Christopher Wiley contributed to a Symposium dedicated to Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), the Surrey-based composer and writer also noted for her suffrage activity in the early 1910s, which was held in the Performing Arts Technology Studios at the University of Surrey on 19 February. This was the University’s first ever event for LGBT History Month, for which Smyth was named as one of the faces of the 2014 theme of Music.

Introduced by Professor Diane Watt, Head of the University’s School of English and Languages, the Symposium commenced with a talk by Dr Wiley entitled ‘Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944): In Search of a Lesbian Identity in Music and Literature’, in which he discussed possible ways of interpreting Smyth’s artistic output as reflecting her sexual identity and feminist sensibilities, with musical illustrations provided by Maureen Galea (piano) and the University Chamber Choir. 

A drinks reception followed the talk, during which audience members were able to view the ‘Musical Passions’ exhibition celebrating the life of Ethel Smyth, provided courtesy of Surrey History Centre.

Drinks Reception at Ethel Smyth Symposium

The Symposium closed with a concert of solo, chamber, and vocal works by Ethel Smyth, featuring staff and students of the University including pianists Maureen Galea and Margaret Roberts, Isabella Stocchetti (flute), and Christopher Wiley (oboe), as well as the University Chamber Choir. Highlights included a performance of Smyth’s Violin Sonata with guest artist Sophie Langdon and the Head of Performance, Professor Clive Williamson. The full programme was as follows:

  • Two Interlinked French Folk Melodies (1928, from the opera Entente cordiale) for flute, oboe, and piano (Isabella Stocchetti, flute; Christopher Wiley, oboe; Margaret Roberts, piano)
  • Aus der Jugendzeit!! E. v. H. (c.1878–80) (Maureen Galea, piano)
  • Ethel Smyth TrioNocturne (Kanon in Gegenbewegung) (c.1877–80) (Maureen Galea, piano)
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano in A minor, Op. 7 (1877) (Sophie Langdon, violin; Clive Williamson, piano)
  • Variations on Bonny Sweet Robin (Ophelia’s Song) (1928) (Isabella Stocchetti, flute; Christopher Wiley, oboe; Margaret Roberts, piano)
  • Overture to the opera The Boatswain’s Mate, Piano transcription (1913–14) (Maureen Galea, piano)
  • ‘Laggard Dawn’ and ‘The March of the Women’ (Nos. 1 & 3 from Songs of Sunrise, 1910) (University Chamber Choir, cond. Isabella Stocchetti, dir. Russell Keable; Maureen Galea, piano)

Audience at Ethel Smyth SymposiumThe Symposium was held in association with the University of Surrey Equality and Diversity, the School of Arts, the School of English and Languages, LGBT History Month, and Surrey History Centre. Both the talk and the concert were attended by around 50 people, including staff and students of the University and external visitors.

Further information

Event website: http://www.surrey.ac.uk/arts/music/events/ethel_smyth.htm
Poster: http://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/LGBT-History-Month-Final-2014-21-01-14.pdf
Surrey History Centre: http://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/lgbt-2014/

Update

An academic response to Dr Wiley’s talk, ‘Musical Inversions: Ethel Smyth’ by Dr Heike Bauer (Birkbeck University of London), appeared on the blog A Violent World of Difference on 21 February 2014: http://violentworldofdifference.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/21-feb-2014-musical-inversions-ethel-smyth/

Dr Christopher Wiley presents research seminar at the University of Surrey

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Ethel Smyth and Virginia Woolf (R-L)Dr Christopher Wiley presented a research seminar based on his paper ‘Music and Literature: Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and “The First Woman to Write an Opera”’ at a research seminar hosted by the School of Arts at the University of Surrey on 20 November 2013.

Dr Wiley joined the University of Surrey in September 2013 following a nine-year tenure at City University London. One aspect of his research concerns the intellectual dialogue between Ethel Smyth and Virginia Woolf (pictured, R-L). The article on which his paper is based is being published in the refereed journal The Musical Quarterly.

Dr Christopher Wiley publishes major article in The Musical Quarterly

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The Musical Quarterly Volume 96 Issue 2A major article by Dr Christopher Wiley, ‘Music and Literature: Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and “The First Woman to Write an Opera”’ (doi: 10.1093/musqtl/gdt012), has been published in The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 96.

Dr Wiley’s article calls into question the impression of the extent of women’s contributions to music composition given by Smyth’s published literature. He examines the traces of revisionism evident between her earlier and later prose writings, asking whether Smyth may have sought to present herself as essentially unique given her status as a female composer. Dr Wiley also explores the differences between music and literature as professions to which creative women aspired in the early twentieth century, with reference to Smyth’s Female Pipings in Eden and Woolf’s Three Guineas.

Founded in 1915 and published by Oxford University Press, The Musical Quarterly has long been cited as the foremost scholarly musical journal in the United States.

Bibliographic citation

Wiley, Christopher. ‘Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and “The First Woman to Write an Opera”’, The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 96, No. 2 (Summer 2013), pp. 263–95.

Full text

The full text is available for free download under licence from Surrey Research Insight Open Access: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/800523/

Update: Dr Wiley’s article reached no.1 in The Musical Quarterly’s monthly ranking of most-read articles (based on full-text and PDF views) throughout the final quarter of 2014, and continued to hold the top spot at the start of 2015. http://mq.oxfordjournals.org/reports/most-read

Dr Christopher Wiley presents paper at the Sibelius Academy, Finland

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Sibelius Academy logoDr Christopher Wiley has presented a paper at the Radical Music History Symposium 2011 hosted by the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki on 8-9 December 2011. His paper was entitled ‘Musical Biography and the Myth of the Muse’, and discussed the portrayal of women in biographies of the Great Composers who, though silenced throughout much of the text, suddenly came into view at critical junctures in life-writing on their male associates as rhetorical signifiers of the increasing power of their creative genius. Chris argued that musical biography thereby became complicit in women’s historical effacement by casting them in the role of vessels for the stimulation of artistic creation in men, implicitly denying them the possibility of undertaking such activities themselves while simultaneously linking them inextricably to those of associated male composers. Chris concluded by demonstrating some ways in which this model, for its longevity and the robustness with which it has been perpetuated, yields profound consequences for more recent writing of the lives of women composers as well as for contemporary feminist musicology’s project to deconstruct and critique musical canon.

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