Sonic Intimacies and Queer Resonances: Beethoven Was a Lesbian (a lecture performance in response to Pauline Oliveros)

a blurred image of people playing pianos
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In 1974, Pauline Oliveros collaborated with her friend Alison Knowles on a series of postcards containing witty declarative statements such as ‘Beethoven Was a Lesbian’ and ‘Brahms Was a Two-Penny Harlot’. This ‘postcard theatre’, as they called it, took cynical aim at the marginal status of women in music and demanded an alternative proposition. Sent to friends, the postcards remind us of mail art and event scores, but importantly also become extensions of feminist and queer community, then and now.

Seita and Woo take Oliveros and Knowles’s ‘postcard theatre’ as an invitation to reinvent their photographs and texts as scripts for performance. These postcards also lead them to other queer women who worked to expand what we mean by listening and who join them in a musical and poetic séance.

Through playful dialogue and promiscuous citation, the performance seduces the tropes of classical music in order to dominate them. Performers conduct and are conducted, listen, flirt, sing, play, recline, read, die tragically, and bask in the soprano’s voice.

This performance is part of Woo and Seita’s ongoing collaboration, which re-imagines and translates the work of neglected historical female and queer artists, musicians, writers, and philosophers into experimental performances that blend music, poetry, research, and live art.

Between lecture-performance and love letter, their performances forge an imagined collective spanning varied cultural, historical, and linguistic backgrounds. These works reflect on borders, being seen or obscured—on screen and off, taking up space in language and with one’s body, oppositions in pendulum, on keeping time, dwelling on words, what eludes our perception, what we can and can’t grasp, and how to stay awake to the mist.

This event is part of Sonic Intimacies and Queer Resonances, a programme that explores sonics' transformational qualities and materialises as a series of encounters, as an ensemble of notes and voices, a score to imagine new possibilities of thinking the multidirectional and multilinear pasts and futures. It looks into the embodied and affective connections that arise from encounters across sound waves, an intimacy predicted not by physical proximity but by the commitment to articulating the dynamics of how bodies and voices interact and relate. Bringing together practices that build and tie together politics of representation and sparked a method of listening that centres queer sonic intimacies across time and space.

About the event

Free. Limited Capacity.

Booking is required.

Seating is available.


Find information about getting here and our building access and facilities here.

Speakers will use microphones.

This event is wheelchair accessible.

If you have any questions around access or have specific access requirements we can accommodate, please get in touch with us by emailing or phoning 0115 948 9750.

Sophie Seita is an artist working with writing, performance, sound, and textiles.

Naomi Woo is a conductor, pianist, and performer.

Supported by:

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