Rachel Beckles Willson is an independent researcher, composer and multi-instrumentalist (oud, saxophone, piano and voice). In her voluntary activism and professional work she specialises in music and displacement, and traditions of the Middle East. Having worked in Palestine, Hungary, and Italy, she is now interested in developing a UK practice, incorporating her concerns about gender and the environment in the unevenly globalised world.
Rachel is co-founder of Today is Good! [www.todayisgood.org], a song-writing project with asylum-seekers in Sicily; and Director of Beyond Mode [www.rachelbeckleswillson.com/beyond-mode], a quartet exploring new music at the boundaries of traditions from around the Mediterranean. She is also founder and editor of Oudmigrations [www.oudmigrations.com], a web-based resource for understanding musical instruments across time and space that has an ongoing concert series in Rome begun in 2018. As an oud player she explored Arab and Iraqi traditions before coming to concentrate on Ottoman repertories and makam, but is most interested in developing new repertories for the instrument.
For 20 years Rachel worked in academia, most recently as Professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she taught courses on Intercultural Performance, Music and Orientalism, and Ensemble Performance among others, and supervised doctoral research on topics from the Hungarian folk revival to Kuwaiti song. As a scholar, she published numerous articles and books, including Orientalism and Musical Mission: Palestine and the West (2013), and Ligeti, Kurtág, and Hungarian Music during the Cold War (2007).
She is Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, University of London.