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Wild Card: the Dorothy Hewett song cycle by Moya Henderson: a musical reading of an autobiographical text

posted on 12.05.2021, 22:22 by Helen Mary Duggan
This study seeks to demonstrate that Wild Card: the Dorothy Hewett song cycle for soprano,cello and piano by Moya Henderson, which consists of fifteen settings of short extracts from the first volume of Dorothy Hewett's autobiography, is an autobiographical work on the part
of the composer, in terms of both the product and the process by which it was created.
In the latter half of the twentieth century, autobiography came to be understood among literary critics more as an expression of subjective experience than of objective observation, and it is in the light of that literary-critical account of the nature and content of autobiography and the
experience of the reader, seen in the work of scholars such as James Olney, John Colmer and Estelle Jelinek that Henderson's song cycle is examined. Relying exclusively on information available in the public domain, the potential for Hewett's words to become an element of Henderson's own autobiographical expression is explored through a comparison of the life stories of the two women. The particular text choices Henderson made are then examined, and ways in which they can be understood to relate to an
aspect of her own life story distinct from that of Hewett are presented. Finally, eight of the fifteen songs are analysed using a method which allows for extra-musical meanings to be identified, in order to show that Henderson's musical readings of Hewett's texts can be deemed to be autobiographical.


Principal supervisor

Joel Crotty

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and Performance


Master of Arts

Degree Type

Master by research

Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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