BIRDS and other Stories (2017)
11 March 2017, Turner Contemporary, Margate, Kent
BIRDS and other Stories is a collaborative community project that resulted in the creation of a choral work with graphic score and an exhibition of stories from 30 members of the public. BIRDS and other Stories explores how women are viewed today, and the experience familiar to many women of being referred to, treated like and pet-named as ‘birds’. It was created in response to stories submitted by members of the public, personal reflections on being called a ‘bird’, and draws upon birdcalls, newspaper headlines, and wildlife documentary narratives to exemplify parallels used in language to describe both women and birds. At its premiere, the graphic score was interpreted by a project community choir of 50 singers. Singers explored the work two rehearsals. Each element of the graphic score can be realised in sound and mixed and matched, layered and structured in any order chosen by performers. Audiences are encouraged not to view each element of the work as an individual component but to embrace the entire picture. BIRDS and other Stories was inspired by my previous work, BIRDS (2016).
Materials: A0 graphic score: Pencil and ink, created in response to stories submitted by members of the public. Each element of the score can be realised as sound resulting in an indeterminate choral work for sung and spoken mixed voices, with optional megaphones [beaks]. Circa. Unlimited. Storyboards: Ten A2 storyboards containing stories that inspired the work. Learning Folder: Performers are provided with a learning folder containing an A1 copy of the score [folded], A4 cards of expanded individual score sections, lyrics, stories and a rehearsal CD.
PhD: BIRDS and other Stories is included in my PhD ‘Creating Accessible, Inclusive and Engaging Musical Works Through Experimental Processes in the Community‘.
Commissioned by: POW! to celebrate International Women’s Day. POW! Festival takes place in Thanet, Kent and explores issues around feminism, women and girls.
Team: Lead artist & composer: Emily Peasgood. Graphic score by Joe Inkpen and Emily Peasgood. Photography and film: Richard Maxted.
Awards: 2017 Ivor Novello Composer’s Award nominee (prev. British Composer Awards) for Community Music or Educational Project.
People were invited to take part in BIRDS and other Stories through an open-call campaign for performers and story-contributors. Women were asked to submit stories about times they have been compared to birds, and men were asked to submit stories about women they respect and admit.
The open call for stories resulted in the creation of ten A2 storyboards that exhibited at the premiere performance. Click on the tool bar at the bottom of the PDF viewer below to navigate and view each storyboard.
The following resources were created to support singers in learning BIRDS and other Stories.
Audio learning resources
These rough demos made learning the work accessible to participants to learn without the requirement to read sheet music.
Score and Cue Card
Singers could opt to learn the work by ear, from the graphic score with the assistance of the Learning Folder and/or with the cue card demonstrated below. The Learning Folder will be available to view in July 2020.
Rehearsals & Premiere Performance
Images by Richard Maxted.
Installation in LIVING SOUND (2019)
Images by Katie McGown.
Performances and Exhibitions
4-5 March 2017: Workshop and informal performance as part of a COMA (Contemporary Music for All) singing event: Singing Adventures: Exploring Contemporary Classical Vocal Music at Baden Powell House, Kensington, London.
11 March 2017: Premiere performance and exhibition of graphic score and storyboards as part of POW! at Turner Contemporary, Margate, Kent.
12 January – 23 February 2019: Sound, graphic score and storyboard installation at Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury at Emily Peasgood: LIVING SOUND exhibition, Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, Kent.
“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
Click on the tool bar at the bottom of the PDF viewer below to navigate and view each page of the programme.