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Faber acquires new landmark alternative history of twentieth-century music by Kate Molleson

Faber will publish the as yet untitled work by Kate Molleson in Spring 2022. Head of Faber Social Alexa von Hirschberg acquired World All Languages rights from John Ash at PEW Literary in a heated four-way auction.


Profiling a dozen pioneering twentieth-century composers – including American modernist Ruth Crawford Seeger (mother of Pete and Peggy Seeger), French electronic artist Éliane Radigue, Soviet visionary Galina Ustvolskaya and Ethiopian pianist Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Gèbrou – Molleson re-examines the musical canon while bringing to life largely forgotten sonic revolutionaries working against a backdrop of seismic geopolitical and social change.

Kate Molleson said:

I’m writing this book out of love and anger. Love for the music; anger for the neglect. Standard music histories still perpetuate the myth of “great works” by “genius” artists – overwhelmingly, that means white men enshrined by an industry with direct commercial interests in sustaining those myths. There isn’t yet a mainstream book that prises open that stronghold, but more fool us! What spectacular sounds we’re missing. I hope my book will spark real conversations about whose histories we tell and how we tell them. I hope it will challenge programmers to think beyond the prescribed “canon” and welcome the happy mess at the margins. I hope it will share some of the most astonishing sounds of the twentieth century with a wide and hungry readership. I’m thrilled to be working with the fearsome team at Faber Social – in particular with Alexa von Hirschberg, who has form in publishing books that meticulously dismantle dominant cultural narratives. Classical music has some serious catching up to do.

This radical, new and truly global work of revisionist history couldn’t be more timely and will serve to challenge the status quo whilst introducing the reader to a world of groundbreaking music.

Kate Molleson is a journalist and broadcaster and one of the UK’s leading commentators on contemporary classical music. She was a classical music critic for the Guardian for seven years, deputy editor of Opera magazine and she currently presents BBC Radio 3’s New Music Show and Music Matters. She has presented documentaries for BBC4 and BBC World Service. She teaches music journalism at the Darmstadt and Dartington international summer schools. She lives in Edinburgh. @KateMolleson