Monday, February 4, 2013

composer, singer, mother margot glassett murdoch

i met margot ten years ago, as the soprano lead in the opera my husband, composer christian asplund, and i were producing with seattle experimental opera.  margot has a meltingly, mind-blowingly beautiful voice.  and then there's more.  she's also a composer and composer/performer who pushes boundaries, works in electronic music, and does the hard, hard job of raising three little boys.  any one of these things is impressive, of course, but margot does them all.  and, i think female composers are even more rare than female film directors.  correct me if i'm wrong.  definitely check out her music and her performances whenever you get a chance!

Margot Glassett Murdoch, composer and extended vocalist, received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Brigham Young University and received her Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 2011.  Her dissertation included an analysis of Luciano Berio’s Sequenza III and a cataloging of extended vocal techniques, as well as a piece for electronics, soprano and string quartet.  She has written for a wide variety of ensembles and written most extensively for voice, harp, and electronics.  An enthusiastic teacher, Margot has taught everything from toddler music classes to music theory and ear training at the university level.  As an extended technique vocalist, she has performed with Seattle Experimental Opera, Uba, a Utah based improvisation group, and as an independent soloist performing her own works as well as works of Cage and Berio.  Margot is currently involved with the Salty Cricket Composer’s Collective in Salt Lake City and sings with Ars Nova, a choir dedicated to performing new music.  She is the mother of three young sons and currently resides in Utah.    

You can listen to some of Margot’s work at

What do you hope to accomplish this year?

I hope to run a couple half marathons, to have a successful premiere of my piece “Omni Voice” for Loop Machine and Extended Voice, to visit the ocean, and to be able to say at the end of the year that I’ve made good progress in helping my children to become well adjusted and educated.

What inspires you?
In the past, I have been inspired mainly by other art forms, but lately I find the most inspiration in the sciences.  The scientific method has been informing my work lately and I’m particularly enthralled with particle physics.  I’m not going to pretend that I understand the math of such a tough subject; I’m more of a Nova/National Geographic/podcast kind of science fan.  Hearing scientists talk about their quest for the recently confirmed Higgs Boson or hearing about different scientist’s positions on string theory is inspiring to me, because these scientist have a logic and process driven faith in their theories.  It motivates my own thinking to be more critical, and to be more process oriented and skeptical about my work as a musician. 

Are you in a tight place, and if so, what are you doing about it?

In some ways, things are great right now, but I recently found myself on my way to run errands singing/composing pointalistic, Webernish twelve tone rows with the phrase “How am I going to get through this time in my life?” so I guess my place is a bit tight.  This particular moment in the car was preceded by an afternoon with a teething baby, a tantrum throwing preschooler and a hyperactive kindergartener.  Motherhood and I aren’t always harmonious and raising three boys is a tall order.  At times, I do enjoy that I am able to imagine, meditate, and mentally organize while I am doing housework.  I appreciate the brain space the job allows and I feel really centered.  Other times I find the day to day tasks of house keeping and dealing with children to be mind numbing.  I’m bothered that I’m not as eloquent as I used to be or as well read as I’d like to be.  I’m worried that having three kids will have put an irreversible stall in my career and that I’m losing my chance at doing what I love, since academic jobs in my field are hard to come by for even candidates who have it all together.  I know there are seasons to life; I’ve had lots of women tell me this and it is true that my kids won’t require this intense level of care forever.  I know this, but I just have a hard time settling myself down and being OK with now.  I have a hard time trusting the future. 
What I’m doing about my tight place is 1) continuing to compose and staying current in my field 2) participating in “therapy sessions” in the form of running and making music with other people.  Running helps dissipate anxiety or aggression I feel (I feel these often), making music cleans out and organizes my brain, and having regular social contact with other adults combats the isolation induced social awkwardness that, for me, is a bi-product of motherhood.  

What is your favorite legwear?

My favorite legwear is super-light running shorts with the underwear built in.  Not only are they a 2-for-1 clothing garment, which is admirably efficient, but I feel they are my legwear mascot, my clothing metaphor.  They were engineered to serve a purpose without feeling like they serve a purpose.  They stay out of your way, but you can trust them to keep you modest.  I wish it were socially acceptable to wear them all day.    

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