“It’s like rewriting in my own head all these assumptions that I made…finding my own place, as a woman and as a performer.”
International Women’s Day this year seemed to bring even more of an outpouring and support and solidarity with and for women everywhere. It has been so striking that Katie has dedicated her micropodcast episode this week to talking about this global coming together and celebration.
At Music Works we are continuing our own celebration of the amazing women we’ve welcomed on the podcast since we first went live on 26 September last year.
Naomi Pohl of the Musicians’ Union joined us in Season One Episode 13 to describe how their Safe Space facility is helping victims of sexual harassment.
Noami came back to join Julia Rowan of The Ivors Academy for a critical look at the complexities of the royalties artists receive from the streaming of their music. You can listen to this episode here.
Harriet Wybor of PRS for Music opened Season Two with a great episode on the ins and outs of performing rights.
Recent graduates Anna Kent and Rebecca Milford spoke to us about their experiences leaving university and the conservatoire & entering the professional world of the classical music industry. You can find this episode here.
We round up today’s post as we began: with soprano, Rebecca Hardwick, who shared her interest in contemporary music and how, when Covid shut down live music, her explorations of Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments led her to take up a DMus in contemporary performance at The Guildhall.
Keep following us for when we bring you our final round up of Music Works’s International Women’s Day Hall of Fame!
To celebrate International Women’s Day we want to share some of the amazing women we’ve welcomed on the Music Works podcast.
Our first guest was one of Polyphony Arts’s own composers: Ella JarmanPinto, talking about inclusivity & the creative process and her own podcast Beyond the Chameleon. You can hear Ella’s episode for Music Works here: (Music Works fact: Ella composed the podcast theme music.)
Ella came back later in the season for an open and honest discussion with Katie ranging from periods to parenting and what it means to be female in the music business. You can find this conversation here.
Pianist, composer & audio-visual artist Nina Danon spoke in her episode about finding supportive spaces as a female composer & performer & developing her creative practice as a woman & a parent.
We carried on Ella’s exploration of diversity in the music with Elizabeth de Brito of The Daffodil Perspective on tokenism and the wealth of female, black, Asian, and ethnically diverse composers who otherwise go overlooked and almost unheard, and why we need to radically rethink programming if we want to make classical music truly representative – listen here.
CEO & co-founder of SWAP_ra – Supporting Women and Parents in Opera, director, Sophie Gilpin gave us the lowdown on why we need better working structures for women in music – you can listen to Sophie here.
Hannah Fiddy of Alternative Classical has always been a true ally and a real champon of women and minorities in the music business. (See what she had to say about Katie and Polyphony Arts today. ) She talked to us here about producing concerts in non-traditional settings and how the future requires a radical rethink of the conventions of the classical music performance.
We’ll be posting more about the amazing women we’ve welcomed on the Music Works podcast over the next few days so keep checking back for the Music Works International Women’s Day Hall of Feminist Fame!
“The theft of intellectual property has been the dirty little secret of the film world for a very, very long time.”
When Julia Kogan was an undergraduate studying music and English Literature and struggling with the challenges of the coloratura soprano’s repertoire, she discovered Florence Foster Jenkins – a figure who was to change her life.
She remembers the experience to the very day.
“I was in the music building of the Conservatory of my university, and I was walking down the corridor…and one of my friends a countertenor, was sitting on the floor and he had a boom box and…it was blaring out Florence Foster Jenkins singing the Queen of the Night aria and [it] had to be one of the funniest things I’d ever heard.“
The seeds of the idea that was to become the screenplay to the hit movie “Florence Foster Jenkins” were sown then and were to accompany Julia as she developed an international career – one that also saw her singing at Jenkins’s own favoured venue – Carnegie Hall.
“The challenge was how to create a feature film around the story of an old woman who sings badly in the same way over and over again?”
Enter Nicholas Martin who was to become Julia’s partner in crime. Or rather in life as in fiction. And it was to him that Julia pitched the idea for the screenplay.
It was a difficult time for both of them: Julia had been horribly injured in a near fatal car accident which had put her singing career on hold; Martin had just lost his job writing for the TV series Midsomer Murders; money was running out for both of them.
As Julia explained to the Music Works podcast, buying an extra copy of Final Draft, the screenwriting software, for her own computer seemed an unnecessary extravagance so Julia worked on Martin’s computer, which was already equipped with the programme.
It was an economy she would come to regret.
The resulting screenplay was pitched successfully, and both Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant were signed up to the project as the eponymous heroine and her pseudo-husband. The film was made, launched and became a box office success.
But by then Julia Kogan and Nicholas Martin were no longer a couple and, in 2016, Martin took pre-emptive legal action to prevent Julia claiming any right to a share of the credit in the screenplay.
It was a court case that would go through three separate trials, redefine the law on joint authorship, and finally, in a judgment published in January this year, see Julia acknowledged as having made a 20% contribution to the work.
It was a victory, but a bitter one, and one that had taken its toll. For Julia it was a matter of creative integrity and recognition:
“When you’re in this kind of situation, more than anything else in the world, you want to be believed…”
Julia’s description of the conduct of the trial is a tale of pain, misogyny and years of a systematic attempt to discredit her as a writer and an artist.
It is a story that will resonate with many women as she describes the pressure placed on her to downplay her creative contribution in order to sustain her romantic relationship.
“It’s something that happens; someone essentially rewrites your identity.”
A lot of people would be discouraged and embittered by this experience, and Julia acknowledges the trauma she still carries as a result of the days of interrogation in which the final trial judge preferred the testimony of Nicholas Martin in the face what seemed compelling evidence in support of Julia’s case.
But this is not, in the end, a story of victimhood and loss, as Julia has emerged stronger, even more creative, and determined to build an enhanced career as a writer and publisher alongside her established name as a brilliant coloratura soprano.
“These years have been probably the most creative time of my life. I’ve gotten so much writing and singing done in the years fighting this case. And I think if I hadn’t fought this case, if I hadn’t stood up for myself, I don’t think I could have continued to write.”
This is one of the podcast’s most compelling episodes as Julia, a natural storyteller, takes us on an extraordinary journey through the machinations of the movie industry and the tortuous processes of the English legal system.