Sarah Hughes

Throughout the month of March, in support of International Women's Day 2018, Sound and Music is showcasing incredibly talented women in music. On the British Music Collection we will be celebrating female composers both past and present, with a different profile featured every day.

Today, we recognize Sarah Hughes and her significant contribution to new music.

Sarah Hughes- “I think it’s important for composition to provoke, to do something, to activate, and give the performer or listener agency to make decisions and to contribute.”

Sarah Hughes has a unique and refreshing approach to composition and music performance; her work explores the boundaries of interdisciplinary practice, often moving between sculpture, installation, composition and music. In her own words, she believes that “composition has the ability to ask questions about site, space, language, and sound, but also broader questions about working in association, and finding new ways to approach situations or ideas.”

In light of her fascinating current work, we spoke with Sarah about how she identifies with the title ‘composer’, and what it means to her to be a woman composer today:

“The word ‘composer’ has the virtue of being very broad yet is predominantly understood as an activity within the field of music. This means that people immediately think that I write musical compositions, which I do, but it doesn’t translate to sculptural installation or collage, although I consider these to be as much a composition as a written score. The inadequacy of the word provides the opportunity to explore the crossovers and ask questions about the nature of compositional practice.”

“Whilst I’m confident that everyone who works within the community I’m familiar with is supportive of equality, this doesn’t always translate to opportunity or representation. Wandelweiser, for example, has a very small percentage of female members. Festivals and concert series, overall, still have a higher percentage of male composers and performers and, in my experience, concert organisers are most often men.

The only way to really achieve and celebrate gender equality is if opportunities are, overall, equal. That doesn’t mean that concert programmes that are predominantly male should be criticised, but that concert programmes of mostly female composers and performers shouldn’t be unusual, or need to be specifically organised to highlight a lack of equality.

I am, as a female composer, almost always in the minority.”


Sarah Hughes's British Music Collection records can be found online via here.


Composer Profile: Sarah Hughes