Emergence – listening/looking beyond gender in new opera performance - Felicity Wilcox

Dr. Wilcox will discuss the Emergence project's goals: transforming systems marginalizing women and gender-diverse music creators, fostering non-gendered musical expression, promoting inclusive global operatic practices, and using gender data for socially engaged art.

Presented by: Felicity Wilcox


Dr Felicity Wilcox is the recipient of a substantial Australian Research Council grant that aims to centre traditionally marginalised genders in reimagining approaches to opera narrative and composition. The key outcome of her research project is a new contemporary opera titled EMERGENC/y – currently in development. A key aim of Dr Wilcox’s research is to investigate ways to amplify the voices of diverse composers by offering creative practice solutions to the widespread and long-standing marginalisation of female and gender-diverse music creators. In this talk Dr Wilcox will outline the Emergence project’s broad goals in investigating: how the systems of practice that have traditionally marginalised women and gender-diverse music creators can be transformed; how new methodologies and approaches can include diverse agents in the creation and performance of contemporary opera; how new interfaces for musical expression can engage musical creativity through a non-gendered lens; how emerging, global operatic practice is engaging with inclusive, interactive and interdisciplinary creative approaches; and how data about gender in music can be translated into socially engaged art that contributes to cultural change.

These solutions encompass more inclusive frameworks for the creation of opera that support distributed creativity, which Dr Wilcox will discuss. These include guided improvisation and ‘deep listening’ (Oliveros 2005; 2011) as well as other methodologies that embrace feminist listening (Lehmann & Palme 2022) and acoustic ecology (Westerkamp 2002), due to the alignment of these fields with non-hierarchical approaches to the creation and reception of music/sound works. This type of listening also has broad resonances across global Indigenous knowledge systems (see Neale & Kelly 2020; Robinson 2020), and the composer will discuss her recent experiences with First Nations Australians regarding using invasive biometric monitoring tools for data sonification in her interaction design in the work under discussion.

Dr Wilcox will then go on to detail the application of new technologies that are currently in development in her opera, where she invites performers to manipulate their vocal pitch and timbre to defy gendered stereotypes to do with voice. She will present the in-progress interaction methodologies she is developing and share sound and images generated in recent workshops with performers through real-time manipulation of voice using wearable gestural controllers.

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