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Dr Barbara Underwood: Creativity and Invisibility: Gender and Music

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St Mary’s University, Philosophy

Royal Institute of Philosophy Public Lecture

Wednesday 26 March 2014 5.15-6.45pm followed by a drinks reception


Jacques Attali wrote that “… naturalization is one of the functions of ideology. It occurs when the assumptions of a community or social order are allowed to remain invisible as assumptions, making them appear true and beyond question. Beliefs are naturalized when they seem to reflect the very order of thing”. We can illustrate this idea by using the example of gender and music. For two and half thousand years it was thought that Pythagoras ‘discovered’ ratios in music; and, in the West at least, only men seemed to be able to compose this music. This view has been naturalized over the years and so appears to be true beyond question. I will devote some time to suggesting that not only is music not a fixed pitch but that, like gender, it is fluid.

About the Speaker

Dr Barbara Underwood had an early career as studio session singer, as Barbie Benson, and later with her own jazz band in the clubs of London. As a teacher, she coached all kinds of singers from rock musicians to opera singers and music colleagues. In 1987 she became interested in philosophy, subsequently completing a degree at the University of York, an MA in Philosophy of Religion at King’s College London, a PhD on Plato, music and gender at the University of Manchester, and an MA in Music at Open University. Now formally retired, she has started a philosophy club in Barnes, London.


All lectures are free and open to the public without registration. Lectures start at 5.15pm and last for 50 minutes, with 40 minutes for questions. This is then followed by a wine reception.


Senior Common Room, St Mary’s University, Waldegrave Road, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham TW1 4SX

Directions to the University can be found at www.smuc.ac.uk/contact/directions.htm


For further information please contact: Dr Stephen Rainey – stephen.rainey@smuc.ac.uk