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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Voices of Women

Voices of Women: Materialities, Cultural Transfer and Musical Authorship

Music concert programs and festival stages rarely feature works composed by women, yet why does this persist? Why are women’s voices in music so understudied and underrepresented in the musical canon? What does this mean for women’s agency in their music? How can we contribute to facilitating a more inclusive space for women to flourish musically?

These are some of the questions and concerts motivating the Voices of Women (VOW) project. VOW project is an Erasmus+ funded joint project with the University of Groningen, the University of Stavanger, the Arctic University of Norway (Tromsø), and the University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar. The main purpose of this project is to raise cultural awareness of women’s musical and creative output, given the lack of attention paid not only in showcasing women’s compositions but also within academic and professional fields such as in forms of analysis, interpretation, and performance. By aiming to contextualize inclusivity, transnational education, and societal engagement in Europe’s relationship to the arts, VOW will provide innovative courses that will strengthen the connection between practice, research, and EU policy to provide more visibility but also opportunities for women’s voices in music.

The VOW project at the University of Groningen is an initiative of Dr. Janke Klok, Dr.h.c. Petra Broomans and Dr. Kristin McGee. In December 2022, the VOW project organizes a two-day symposium at the University of Groningen to explore this theme of authorship in relation to the sub-themes of music materialities and cultural transfer.

For the upcoming two-day conference, we begin on the first day (December 1st) with a series of workshops for students and educators at the graduate level. The second day (December 2nd) consists of a series of panels with academic papers on the themes of authorship, agency, cultural transfer, and music materialities featuring a keynote by Dr. Mimi Haddon of the University of Sussex and a live podcast with Andrea van Pol and Rae Milford who host the “Nooit van gehoord?!” (“Never heard of?!”) podcast that centres women’s voices in music. We invite all participants to attend both workshops and panels.

This meeting will be the second event organized by the VOW Erasmus+ project in relation to music education at the graduate level. The first training activity was organized in June of 2022 at the University of Stavanger at the Performing Arts School.

Workshops - 1 December 2022

During the first day, workshops are provided which engage with women’s musical authorship and agency in relation to forms of cultural transfer used and or needed to broaden recognition of women’s voices. Here we welcome participation in workshops concerned with and/or employing such techniques as:

  • Practice-based research on note-worthy women’s voices;
  • New bibliographic research methods for researching women composers and authors (e.g. RESCAPE);
  • Listening workshops to increase sensitivity to women’s authorial voices, timbres, or improvisational styles.

Conference call – 2 December 2022

VOW invites paper presentations from teachers, graduate students, and scholars interested in the theme of musical authorship in connection to women’s voices. We understand voices metaphorically, artistically, and literally to include women or women-identifying genders in a variety of roles whose creative musical ‘voices’ contribute to the authorship of a particular body of work.


Authorship and Agency of Women's Voices

We welcome presentations highlighting the role of women authors in all genres of music from classical to popular, folk, electronic, and jazz, as well as the role of female composers and performers in the genre of art songs in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Especially of interest are the ways that women’s voices exhibit forms of artistic agency in a variety of capacities including but not limited to distinctive performance styles, musical improvisational vocabularies, or the unique production aesthetics of musical recordings. The symposium seeks to expand and complicate traditional notions of authorship typically connected to understandings of composition within the Western art music canon.

Cultural Transfer

Cultural transfer studies are developed from the field of comparative literature. The basic understanding of cultural transfer relates to the process of mediating and/or translating a literary, cultural, or historical text from one linguistic area to another. In the framework of the project Voices of Women, we also investigate transfer from other areas, such as from one artistic form to another, or from one mediated format to another.

In connection to forms of musical authorship, we seek to examine how forms of cultural transfer (such as the canonization of established male composers within Western art music) lead to the valorisation or omission of women’s contributions to musical cultures. Papers exploring these dynamics in relation to both novel and more traditional forms of cultural transfer are welcome.

Music Materialities

Women’s voices can be read as contributing to the material culture of music, from the corporeal bodies of performers to the economic rewards gained from compositional, performance, or publishing royalties. Therefore we welcome papers which examine the various ways that gender and authorship impact music’s materialities.

Other possible paper themes:

Other paper themes which particularly explore women’s voices more broadly and how they contribute to ways of authoring music not conventionally understood as musical composition might include:

  • Women performers whose instrumental style contributes to a unique artistic voice;
  • Forms of musical ownership related to particular performance practices;
  • The performance of non-cisgender genders including trans and non-binary voices;
  • Music production as authorship;
  • The practice of top lining in the music studio;
  • Art song in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty first century
  • Compositions authored or co-authored by women;
  • The intersections of race, class, and sexuality with gender in music’s materialities or compositional structures;
  • Women’s unique singing voices as critical signatures of songs composed by others (e.g. Billie Holiday);
  • Women as creative agents in the cultural transfer of music cultures and genres identified with women’s musical output;
  • Improvisation as a form of musical authorship.


Please send an abstract or proposal of less than 300 words summarizing your presentation to Dr Kristin McGee at (k.a.mcgee and Caroline van Wijngaarden (c.van.wijngaarden before Oct. 15th, 2022. A short bio of less than 50 words is also requested.


Dr. Janke Klok
Dr.h.c. Petra Broomans
Dr. Kristin McGee
Caroline van Wijngaarden

Logos of the organizing institutions
Last modified:24 October 2022 3.02 p.m.