Setting Agendas: text-setting and the libretto in contemporary British music

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University of Southampton
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Confirmed speakers include: Ignacio Agrimbau, Richard Baker, Stephen Benson, Michael Finnissy, Lavinia Greenlaw, Michael Zev Gordon, John Habron, Irene Morra
Julian Philips

For many modern writers and composers, music and literature make an ungainly combination. Stravinsky notoriously regarded his text-settings as a sin, whilst T.S. Eliot refused to demean himself by working as a librettist for Michael Tippett. Yet recent years have seen British composers enlist a series of high-profile literary collaborators for operatic works, from Ian McEwan and Simon Armitage to Seamus Heaney and Vikram Seth. How might this change the relationship between the libretto and the performed work? What questions does the raise about the way modern operatic music is being listened to and disseminated? What are the pragmatics of interdisciplinary collaboration?

This unique conference will approach these questions in a variety of ways. A series of poets and composers who have worked together will offer their own perspectives on collaborative projects, academics whose work has focused on the British libretto will trace recent developments in the form, and leading British composers will explore how practical and aesthetic considerations inform their use of the written word. The conference will conclude with a short chamber performance
A limited amount of delegate places are now available for what promises to be a unique event. The conference fee is £25 and includes full lunch, refreshments, and an evening wine reception. In addition, five postgraduate bursaries are available to subsidise the costs of conference registration and travel. To register or for conference enquires please email Will May(

For more information about the conference location, please see