Waulking Songs: For six pianos and electronics

Research output: Performances, compositions and other non-textual formsComposition



Waulking songs (Scottish Gaelic: Òrain Luaidh) were working songs that were sung by groups of women in the Highlands and islands of Scotland as they waulked (beat) tweed by hand to shrink it. The songs were traditionally sung as communal activities to pass the time and were usually led by one woman singing a verse with the rest of the women taking over in the chorus. The waulking songs would start at a slow pace and gather speed as the tweed softened, always staying in time with the repetitive synchronised beating of the cloth.

The intention of this piece is to bring waulking songs into a new musical conversation, juxtaposing historic and present-day women’s labour relations by mirroring a musical performance of labour with a performance of musical labour. By mirroring the movements and physical arrangement of the waulking process (six pianists opposite each other as if they are at a table waulking the cloth), I hope to explore the musical, communal, and physical aspects of this tradition in order to understand how they may relate to contemporary female identity and labour relations.


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 2021