Ailie Robertson discusses new work 'Motherhood'

Motherhood is a 45-minute new piece written for 3 female vocalists, community choir and recorded voices, that I have spent the last 9 months developing. It is a deeply personal work, both for myself and the many women who so kindly agreed to be interviewed and share their stories as part of the project. 

When I was appointed Composer in Residence for sound, I thought a lot about what I wanted to be able to do in the role, and I realised that I really wanted to use the opportunity to provoke awareness and discussion around various social and political issues that particularly affect women. As our western canon of classical music has been so dominated by male composers, there are relatively few pieces that directly address topics from a female perspective, and even fewer that look at domestic issues. As a woman in her 30’s, it is hard to avoid the topic of motherhood. Whether you decide to have children or not, indeed whether you can have children or not, whether your experiences are good or bad, opinions are rife, and there can be a huge amount of insensitivity around understanding different people’s opinions and experiences. 

We see the picture-perfect family photos on Facebook, but often don’t see the difficult truth behind many of them. We don’t talk about the reality that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss. Most people have heard the term ‘baby blues’ used to describe a mild short, period of depression which many women experience after childbirth yet fewer people are aware that as many as 10% of all postpartum women develop postnatal depression. I carried out interviews with over 50 women to build a varied and multi-faceted portrait of these experiences. The results are documented in both a sound installation which is at the Suttie Art Space at ARI, and in the performance that will take place on Oct 23rd at The Lemon Tree.

Essentially, I wanted to use this platform to try and break some of the stigma and shame that so often surrounds women when it comes to issues around motherhood. Each and every woman above a certain age has some sort of story to tell about their own experiences around this subject, often joyful, often heartbreakingly painful. We don't talk enough about these things. We often have a culture of silence around subjects that really matter. This is my tiny contribution towards breaking that silence.

"Delicately poised between concert and theatre Motherhood explores the complexities surrounding motherhood for women. The work pairs contemporary performance with musical composition to construct a revealing portrait of what is often left unspoken.

Musings, diatribes, recollections and hindsight find voice as three performer–vocalists are fused in choral counterpoint with an assembly of pre-recorded voices, offering multiple perspectives on the contemporary experience of motherhood; issues around infertility, miscarriage, birth, joy, regret, isolation, complex relationships.

Built from interviews with people of all ages, Motherhood interweaves the complexities, parallels and paradoxes of this most universal of relationships – manifested through the speaking, sounding, singing human voice."

Motherhood has been co-commissioned by sound and Aberdeen Performing Arts. It will be premiered by singers from EXAUDI and local choir Tutti Voices on 23 October 2019 at the Lemon Tree. 

Age recommendation: 16+
The work contains sensitive and potentially emotive material. 

The second half of the concert features works by Linda Catlin Smith, Jürg Frey, Christopher Fox and Cassandra Miller.

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