The Monstruous Regiment of Women


'Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman'
(King Lear, Act V, Scene3 – quoted in Patsy Rodenberg 'The Right To Speak')


Since my last blog in January, I've been thinking about a number of things, and wondering if the strands could be brought together during this residency. I think that they can. In fact, I'm excited to think that they can. Something is brewing. Something noisy, guttural, stomping, stamping and good. Anyone want to come and play?

Things I've been thinking and reading – and occasionally writing – about:

1. Women's voices. Particularly acceptable or 'beautiful' women's voices. Voice coach Patsy Rodenberg about the myth of the beautiful voice, particularly in the UK – 'the myth of correct elegance in speaking. This is the sort of voice you listen to instead of hearing whatever statement or text it speaks...'. My bloody dulcet tones.

2. Childrens' voices. The unabashedness of the noises, yells, howls, squeaks, grunts and gurgles that they make.

3. Throat singing, particularly from the tradition of Inuit women duetting. I first heard throat singing in the Centre D'Art, Port au Prince, Haiti [that's a whole other story...] in May 2015, from Metis poet and performer Moe Clark. Moe is petite, strong, playful and has the most – yes – beautiful singing voice. She opened her performance with a saw-like series of rhythmic breaths, then looped over guttural grunts, pants and growls, then looped over spoken word and song. It sounded glorious. It sounded alive.  Listen and Watch here: Namoya

4. Throat singing (ii). Via many conversations, and a workshop at the Scottish Poetry Library with Quebecois poet Jonathan Lamy, talking again about children being born with the capacity for any language and the noises they make. Linking throat singing (in his practice) to death and black metal. 

5. Talking about throat singing with Hannah (Lavery, director of CoastWord) and connecting it to sex and to childbirth.

6. Seeing Mairi Campbell's Pulse at Celtic Connections. Her freeing of the voice.

7. Listening to a lot of poems featuring bird women. I've never really felt like a bird. I mostly feel muscular, present, heavy and boisterous. More like – a bear. A raccoon. A bison.

8. Reading about female archetypes in Clarissa Pinkola Estes' 'Women Who Run With The Wolves'. Wolf women and bone women. The Wild Woman/sacred feminine:

'She comes to us through sound as well; through music which vibrates the sternum, excites the heart; it comes through the drum, the whistle, the call and the cry.'

9. Violence against women in the streets. Of Cologne and Stockholm at New Year, in Tahir Square. In Cape Town. Everywhere. Everywhere. Isn't it just easier if we're quiet? Soft, cooing, delicate. Silent. Absent.

10. I don't want to be silent. Or cooing. Or dulcet. Or absent.

11. Writing this piece with Jonathan, and performing it at Rally & Broad in February, starting to break open my own voice, physical and poetic. There is something important in Jonathan being part of this first work. He supported it, brought it to the open, and yes, he is a man. This is not an anti-male work. But it is very pro-female.

Listen here:  'The First Blast To Awaken Women Degenerate'  (Rachel McCrum/Jonathan Lamy, Feb 2016)

12. Back to Dunbar. The sounds again. Children and gulls. Nodding to people in the street, everyone knowing everyone. Back to that small town vibe. And the sea, the wide and open sea. Taking a mooch around the cliffs with Hannah, some sound recordings on the beach, and then the rollicking, open expanse of Belhaven Beach. All that wide open space.


Listen below to Recordings from a cave in Dunbar (March 2016)


13. A space. A stage. An idea. A sound. A stomping, drumming, howling Monstruous Regiment of Women.


Rachel McCrum will be presenting the work from her residency at CoastWord's  Inspired by Dunbar on Sunday 29th May.