Arts / Broadcaster and critic to speak about ‘radical’ new classical music book in Bigton

A BBC Radio 3 presenter and journalist is set to give a talk about her latest book – which challenges the way people think of classical music – in Bigton this weekend.

Kate Molleson, who has had by-lines in publications such as the Guardian and the Herald, will speak at Hymhus on Sunday at 11am.

Kate Molleson. Photo: David Grinly.

Her 2022 book Sound Within Sound, which has been described as “radical”, shines a light on composers who “dared to challenge the conventional world of classical music in the twentieth century”.

Speaking to Shetland News ahead of the event, Molleston said the book focuses on mainly women from across the world who find themselves outside the usual classical circles.

“I suppose it’s imagining a different sort of way of telling classical music history, which in my experience has always drawn its borders quite narrowly and left a lot of characters out,” she said.


“That might be because they didn’t fit a stereotype of what a composer looks like.”

Included in the book are composers from countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Ethiopia.

The writer and broadcaster, who grew up with classic and folk music, said she has been pleased with how the book has been received.

“I wasn’t sure if there would be a lot of resistance, a lot of hesitation. I think sometimes people feel that if you’re trying to suggest there were alternatives, you don’t want to hear the music that everybody knows and loves anymore. And that’s definitely not the case.

“It’s just a case of saying there are others as well, and the music is amazing. Let’s open our ears a little bit wider.”

Molleson stressed though that Sound Within Sound is not intended just for classical listeners, with universal issues underpinning the book.

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“It’s supposed to be for anybody who’s interested in any aspect of 20th century history or life experiences. Some of themes that come out through the book are really universal, like what it is to be a mother and try to work.

“There’s people grappling with their faith and how to channel that into their art, there’s sort of environmental protest that’s really prominent in one of the composers works, there’s political protest, there’s a story of cultural identity – all sorts of aspects that are relevent to anybody thinking about what it is to be a person in the world and to relate to each other.”

She will be playing examples of music at the event to highlight the composers in the book, as well as taking questions. “It will be a bit like a radio show – I can’t help but make everything like a radio show in the end.”


The writer said she is looking forward to returning to Shetland having visited in the past – her husband is Lau fiddler Aidan O’Rourke, who has links having played plenty of times in the isles over the years.

Molleson meanwhile added that she has also known Alice Ritch of the Bigton Collective, which runs Hymhus, since she was about 16.

“She was a student at Edinburgh University, and she was looking for someone to play clarinet in an Edinburgh Festival production of a Mozart opera,” she said. “It was great, and it was a bit mad.”

There are no tickets for Sunday’s event but there is a suggested donation of £5.

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