How Biography Informs Musical Analysis – A Reflective Process

Research output: Contributions to conferencesPaper



New thinking in feminist musical analysis is bringing together biographical details of women composers and the technical understanding of their compositions to gain a better understanding of their work. In Ellie Hisama’s “Gendering Musical Modernism” she draws on Showalter’s idea of a double-voiced discourse to show how an analysis of the third movement of Ruth Crawford’s String Quartet of 1931 reflects her experiences as a women composer working in a modernist style which was male dominated at that time. Writers about Crawford’s life disagree regarding the extent to which her experiences as a woman led to her abandoning modernist composition shortly after she wrote this piece. My own experiences as a woman composer share some similarities with Crawford’s. By understanding Crawford through her biography and her music I aim to gain a better understanding of my own output, and as a result, to reflect back on what may have happened to Crawford. My paper will examine Hisama’s thinking about Crawford’s String Quartet and consider how the biographers interpret the life events that surround this piece. It will also examine my String Quartet of 1985 and consider my own life events at that time. If Hisama’s method throws new light on meanings in Crawford’s music, can the same process shed new light on meanings in my own music? Do my reflections on my own life story and music generate new ideas about what may have happened to Crawford?


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 9 Apr 2015
EventMusical biography: National ideology, Narrative technique, and the Nature of myth - Institute of Musical Research, Malet Street, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Apr 201511 Apr 2015


ConferenceMusical biography: National ideology, Narrative technique, and the Nature of myth
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

Author keywords

  • reflective practice, feminist musicology