This concert series showcases music that inspired Virginia Woolf’s writing and that directly responds to her work, including new commissions, world premieres, and little-known music by women composers.

Virginia Woolf famously stated ‘I always think of my books as music before I write them,’ and her writing continues to influence composers who have set her words or been inspired by her novels. This concert series explores the role of music in Woolf’s work, life and afterlives. It highlights, through concert programmes, public lectures, broadcasts and study days, the central role of music in the literary experiments – and in the feminism, pacifism and cosmopolitanism – of this seminal modernist writer. Later concerts explore music’s role in the creative and social lives of the Bloomsbury Group more widely. The series is a collaboration between pianist Lana Bode (Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London) and Dr Emma Sutton (University of St Andrews).

Music, Creativity & Mental Health: Public Talks & Informal Concert

Wednesday 27 September 2017, Studio Theatre, Byre Theatre, St Andrews, 2.30pm

FREE – tea & scones provided


Psychologist Dr Maggie Ellis, literary critic Dr Emma Sutton and pianist Lana Bode explore music’s role in mental illness and creativity. Emma Sutton and Lana Bode discuss Virginia Woolf’s experiences of and treatment for mental illness. Their talk, illustrated with musical examples, introduces Woolf’s musical hallucinations and her writing about music. They also consider ideas about the effects of mental illness on the working practices of some of the classical composers Woolf loved. Maggie Ellis explores the special place of music in the lives of individuals living with dementia, providing powerful examples from her own research. She explains the ways music can provide a way to communicate with others when speech becomes difficult, and how it taps into dearly held memories.

Presented in collaboration with the Music Research Seminar Series.