Emily Doolittle

Athenaeum Research Fellow, Lecturer in Composition


Canadian-born, Scotland-based composer Emily Doolittle grew up in Halifax Nova Scotia and was educated at Dalhousie University, the Koninklijk Conservatorium in the Hague, Indiana University and Princeton University. From 2008-2015 she was  Assistant/Associate Professor of Composition and Theory at Cornish College of the Arts. She now lives in Glasgow, UK, where she is an Athenaeum Research Fellow and Lecturer in Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Professional highlights

Emily Doolittle has written for such ensembles as the Vancouver Symphony, Orchestre Métropolitain (Montreal), Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (Toronto), Symphony Nova Scotia, the Vancouver Island Symphony, Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, the Kapten Trio, the Motion Ensemble and Paragon, and such soloists as sopranos Suzie LeBlanc, Janice Jackson, Patricia Green and Helen Pridmore, pianist Rachel Iwaasa, violinist Annette-Barbara Vogel, viola d'amorist Thomas Georgi and viola da gambist Karin Preslmayr.

Doolittle was awarded a 2016 Opera America Discovery Grant, as well as funding from the Hinrichsen Foundation and the Canada Council of the Arts, for the development of her chamber opera Jan Tait and the Bear, which was premiered by Ensemble Thing, with Alan McHugh, Catherine Backhouse, and Brian McBride, conducted by Tom Butler and directed by Stasi Schaeffer, at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow. Jan Tait and the Bear received further funding from Creative Scotland, the Hope Scott Foundation, and an RCS Athenaeum Award for performance in the Made in Scotland Showcase at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Doolittle is currently collaborating with Greenlight Creative to create an animated video of Jan Tait and the Bear with funding from an RCS Knowledge Exchange grant.

Other recent pieces include Reedbirds (2019), commissioned by the Vancouver Symphony and premiered at the 2019 Vancouver Symphony New Music Festival; Bowheads (2019), commissioned by Chamber Music Scotland for the Kapten Trio; Palouse Songbook (2019), commissioned by Sophia Tegart with funding from a Washington State University New Faculty Seed Grant; Woodwings (2018), commissioned by the Fifth Wind Quintet with funding from a Canada Council New Chapter Grant; Field Guide (2017), commissioned by the Fair Trade String Trio; Conversation (2017), based on poetry by Eleonore Schönmaier and research on grey seal vocalizations, commissioned for the St Andrews University New Music Ensemble, conducted by Bede Williams, with funding from the Royal Society of Edinburgh; and Three Summer Wassails written and researched with the support of a Canada Council for the Arts Grant to Professionals.

Doolittle has a long-standing interest in the relationship between animal songs and human music. Recent articles on this topic include "Scarce inferior to the nightingale": hermit thrush song and American cultural identity" (written 2020, publication upcoming in Animal Utterances, edited by Francesca Mackenney); Quick Guide: Zöomusicology (Current Biology, 2015), co-authored with cognitive biologist Bruno Gingras; Music Theory is for the Birds (Conrad Grebel Review, 2014), and Overtone-based pitch selection in hermit thrush song: Unexpected convergence with scale construction in human music (2014, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014). She is interested in developing interdisciplinary research generally, and is the founder of SHARE (Science, Humanities and Arts Research Exchange), which seeks to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations between people in the arts and people in the sciences or humanities at RCS, St Andrews, and beyond. She was awarded a 2020 Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Workshop grant, together with Dr Sarah Hopfinger and Dr Stuart MacRae to organize a series of three workshops on Art-Making in the Anthropocene

She is currently supervising two PhD students, Alex South (co-supervised with Luke Rendell and Ellen Garland at St Andrews University), who is studying humpback whale song from an interdisciplianry music/science perspective, and Lisa Robertson, who is a composer.

Supervision interests

Emily is interested in supervising research degree projects focusing on:
• Composition
• Zöomusicology
• Ecomusicology
• Animal songs and music
• Composition and interdisciplinary collaboration
• Gender and music
• Parenthood and music/creativity

Research interests

Emily Doolittle has an ongoing research interest in zoomusicology, the study of the relationship between human music and animal songs. She recently spent 3 months as composer-in-residence at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany. Other interests include the traditional music of various cultures, community music-making, music as a vehicle for social change, music and gender, and creativity and parenthood.

Supervisor for

Beyond the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland...