BIRDS and other Stories (2017)
BIRDS and other Stories was commissioned by POW! Thanet as part of the celebrations around International Women’s Day to celebrate and explore issues around feminism, women and girls. BIRDS and other Stories examines the age-old argument of women being referred to, treated like and pet-named as ‘birds’ and explores how women are viewed in society today. At the premiere BIRDS and other Stories was performed by men, women and children who expressed their views through song and story telling with megaphones, alongside an exhibition of submitted stories and the large-scale graphic score. BIRDS and other Stories is a development of BIRDS (2016) and can also exhibit as a video installation.
BIRDS and other Stories was a community event that engaged 80 people from across the UK in expressing their views on how women are viewed in society today. People were invited to participate through an open call for singers and stories to either feature in the work or exhibited during the premiere. Men were asked to submit stories about women they respect and admire, and women were asked to submit stories about times they had been compared to birds. The performers of BIRDS and other Stories were taught the work in two rehearsals. BIRDS and other Stories is an indeterminate work comprising fragments of sung and spoken sections that were inspired by submitted stories, singers’ personal experiences, newspaper headlines, and bird documentaries. Each fragment is mixed and matched, layered and structured in any order chosen by performers. The work is notated as a graphic score, standing at 5 foot tall, that is exhibited alongside performances and video installations of the work. Audiences are encouraged not to view each element of the work as an individual component but to embrace the entire picture.
Members of the public were invited to submit stories about women they admired, or times they have been referred to as a bird. Stories were exhibited on the performance day.
|4-5 March 2017||Workshop and informal performance||CoMA (Contemporary Music for All), Singing Adventures: Exploring Contemporary Classical Vocal Music. Baden Powell House, Kensington, London.|
|11 March 2017||Premiere and day-long exhibit||Turner Contemporary|
|10 May 2017||Video installation||Phd Composer’s Showcase. St Gregory’s Centre for Music, Canterbury Christ Church University.|
‘BIRDS is one of the weirdest and one of the most brilliantly feminist pieces I’ve ever been involved with. Emily’s stuff quite often is, but this one’s brilliant the way it’s getting women to talk about their experience of being compared to birds, and getting men to talk about how they feel about women and how they can be compared to birds. I think it’s brilliant that Emily has got other people to come together from the community the way she has and the way that feeds into the music changes what we think of as music is really weird but really interesting’ – Female performer
‘Great juxtaposition between the men and the women and the different perspectives’ – Male performer
‘Flying and soaring on the current is a very close to my heart. In the multiple dreadful relationships I have had over the years my wings have always been clipped, my last partner when I told him I needed to spread my wings and fly he told me not to be so stupid I do not have wings… but I do! I really hope you understand the significance of this and what your piece of music meant to me’ – Female performer.
‘It’s come together fantastically. What we’ve managed to do is see inside [the composer’s] head and how [they’ve] understood it. It’s taken us a while to see just what [they’re] trying to create and it’s absolutely beautiful. I’m a complete convert’ – Male performer
‘I’d like to say that [the composer] is utterly bonkers, in an amazing way, initiating everyone else in bonker-dom. It’s great’ – Female performer
‘I’ve really enjoyed working with BIRDS and working with [the composer]. [They] have really encouraged me and lifted me out and just helped me to be confident and enjoy singing’ – Female performer
‘Found the experience very interesting and thought provoking’ – Male story contributor
‘I really enjoyed the performance and was very grateful for the opportunity of having my work included. It has given me a real boost’ – Female story contributor
Commissioned by POW! Thanet in partnership with Turner Contemporary.