Music Works Episode 2.2 – When live music stopped; how one singer turned from performance to a Doctorate.

“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. To share my experience with a new kind generation of other people and singers who are interested in contemporary classical music.”

For the second episode of Season 2, Soprano, Rebecca Hardwick, talked to Music Works about 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 doctorate in contemporary performance at The Guildhall.

Rebecca, who studied at York and then the RCM, has long held a fascination with the ways music from the mid-twentieth century on has offered performers the possibility of interrogating traditional modes of vocal performance. She is a founding member of Vocal Constructivists, a liberal arts collective which draws together people from different disciplines, working exclusively with graphic notation and extended compositional writing techniques which provided the impetus towards her DMus topic.

Rebecca explains: “From that, I decided that I wanted to focus on my own strand of approaching ways in which you can perform content, contemporary classical music. And because of my formal training and my sort of nerdy tendencies, I decided that I wanted particularly to approach music that’s considered to be quite vocally difficult.”

That led her, via a creative residency at Aldeburgh, to a deep dive into the challenges of Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments: a setting for soprano and violin of 40 short extracts from the author’s writings.
When the pandemic hit, Rebecca had just returned from the USA where she had been on tour with Monteverdi choir to find all her work disappear overnight.
“I was in my bedroom in Camden thinking, oh my goodness, what am I going to do? I need a creative outlet. And, and so I just turned back to catalogue and to Kafka, and started reading around the topic. And the more I read, the more I realised that actually it was quite an extensive project, and maybe I could do a doctorate about it, but as a performer.”

It’s an inspiring story of finding positivity and a new creative outlet in the face of the devastating impact of the pandemic on live performance, and one that Rebecca hopes will help further inform her practice as a singer and interpreter of the contemporary repertoire.

Even if you are not a singer or even an especial enthusiast for the kind of music Rebecca finds so absorbing, this episode is a fascinating and encouraging listening.
You can find Music Works and this episode here on the website: or you can listen on all the usual podcast channels.