Sasha Millwood

Electronic mail: s.millwood.1@research.[the GLA domain]

*Photograph courtesy of Gregor Forbes.

Research title

The Music of Thea Musgrave: an analysis based on the archival sources

Research summary




In late-2008, the British Library purchased the papers of the Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave (born 1928), and has since continued to purchase further material as it is made available. This developing archive offers a wealth of primary-source material, including music manuscripts, correspondence, opera libretti, programmes, and photographs. Much of this material is unique and was heretofore unavailable to researchers.

The remit of the present doctorate, operating under the auspices of an Arts & Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between the British Library and the University of Glasgow, is two-fold: to design a working schema for the archive and its catalogue; and also to explore the intellectual and musicological potential of this resource.

My research is drawing on Theatre Studies and genetic criticism. Theatre Studies is helping elucidate Musgrave’s strong engagement with the dramatic, manifested in both her operatic and her non-operatic output. For example, an interest in the theatrical gestures latent in musical performance — often choreographed in some detail — emerged in her scores at a time when this was unusual in classical music. Concepts from genetic criticism are furnishing a framework for interrogating the tensions that exist between in the positivist ambitions of cataloguing finished works and the inherently incomplete and provisional nature of sketch material.


Millwood, Sasha Valeri. ‘Affirming the composer's prerogative: case studies from Thea Musgrave's collaborations’, ed. Pace and Wiley Writing about Contemporary Musicians: Promotion, Advocacy, Disinterest, Censure (Abingdon: Routledge, forthcoming)

Millwood, Sasha Valeri: three ‘blog-posts for the British Library Music ‘Blog:

Maddocks, F. and Millwood, S.V.: ‘Should you go to a concert with a cough?’, The Observer (Observer Review), 7th December 2014, 4.

Attlee, E. and Millwood, S.V.: Extracts from Learning lines [a composition by Millwood to words by Attlee], with preface, Litmus (ISSN: 2054‒8915) Issue 2 (October 2014), 16–26.

Affirming the composer’s prerogative: case
studies from Thea Musgrave’s





  • March 2016: "A contemporary archive: taxonomical and syntactical challenges in curating and researching the papers of Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave", presented at the conference Global Voices in the Archive (British Library) and at the University of Glasgow Music postgraduate discussion group
  • March 2017: "Compositional workshopping in Musgrave’s oeuvre", presented at the University of Glasgow Music postgraduate discussion group
  • April 2017: "The Thea Musgrave archive: organising, cataloguing, and researching a living composer", presented at the Using Archives Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Consortium cohort‐development event (The National Archives)
  • May 2017: "Choreography in the orchestra: an interrogation of Musgrave’s “dramatic-abstract” style", presented at the University of Glasgow TFTS Postgraduate Conference
  • June 2017: "Comparing the hermeneutics and aspirations of archiving the compositional output of Thea Musgrave in various collections", presented at the conference The Stuff of Research (Kelvinhall, Glasgow)
  • September 2017: "Performative and compositional pragmatics and hermeneutics in Musgrave’s passages of ad libitum writing", presented at the International Conference on Music Since 1900 / Surrey Music Analysis Conference (University of Surrey)
  • October 2017: "Affirming the composer’s prerogative: case studies from Thea Musgrave’s workshops with performers", presented at the conference Writing About Contemporary Artists: Challenges, Practices and Complexities (University of Surrey)
  • December 2017: panellist for the session on "Doing PhD research at the British Library: the student perspective", at the British Library doctoral open day for Music
  • April 2018: "Key signatures (or the lack thereof) in contemporary notational praxis: a tale of two solo-pianoforte works by Musgrave composed in 2009", presented at the University of Glasgow Music postgraduate symposium
  • May 2018: "Diegesis in Musgrave’s operas, and the role of on-stage musicians", presented at the University of Glasgow TFTS Postgraduate Conference


September–December 2016: Aesthetics & Philosophy of Music [undergrduate course] (lecturing, leading seminars/tutorials, and marking)

July 2017: Theories of Knowledge [postgraduate discussion fora] (facilitating online fora)

September–December 2017: Opera [undergraduate course] (lecturing, leading seminars/tutorials, and marking)

November 2017: Musical Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century [undergraduate course] (lecturing)