Lindsay Cooper Digital Archive

Lindsay Cooper (1951-2013) was a composer and improviser who traversed the worlds of free improvisation, jazz, rock, and contemporary composition. Although she was trained in the classical tradition, winning a coveted scholarship to study bassoon performance at the Royal Academy of Music, Cooper eventually departed that realm for popular music and jazz. “The rock world, or certainly the kind of strange twilight zone of the rock world that I was a part of, . . . was kind of a home for outsiders of all kinds, generally,” she told an interviewer many years later. “It felt like there was more room to maneuver, as a woman, and that there was more chance for one’s voice as a woman to be heard.” She performed in Comus and Ritual Theatre before joining Henry Cow in 1974; to that radical experiment in collective music making Cooper added strong musicianship skills and an improvisational vocabulary that drew on European modernism. Her colleagues in the band urged her to compose music herself, which she began to do in 1977.

That year, she also co-founded (with Maggie Nicols) the Feminist Improvising Group, which existed until 1982. In the 1980s, she was a regular member of the Marx Brothers, News for Babel, David Thomas and the Pedestrians, and the Mike Westbrook Big Band. As a composer, she wrote soundtracks for several figures in the late 1970s feminist film movement in London, including Sally Potter and Sue Clayton. Her later ensemble compositions include Oh Moscow, Sahara Dust, and An Angel on the Bridge.

This collection of musical scores, sketches, notebooks, correspondence, ephemera, and recordings includes materials related to all of Cooper’s commercially released projects. It also contains unreleased live recordings with a number of notable contemporary figures in free improvisation. The Lindsay Cooper collection should interest scholars in a range of disciplines: jazz studies, musicology, film studies, feminist and gender studies, and popular music studies. The collection was assembled in collaboration with the Lindsay Cooper Trust, Adventure Pictures, and the University of the Arts, London, where the physical materials will be housed.