Composer records sounds of her own surgery for new music

A woman frightened about going under the knife decided to turn her surgery into music.

Award-winning composer Emily Peasgood was anxious about the “grotesque and stressful” idea of her upcoming hip replacement operation.

But she conquered her fear by audio recording the whole thing and plans to turn it into a hip new piece of music.

Now the words and sounds of operating theatres, usually only heard by the public in TV medical dramas, will form the centrepiece of a new gallery exhibition.

While pleased with the recording, Ms Peasgood lamented that her request to keep her old hip bone and turn it into a flute was denied by hospital staff for safety reasons.

Composer records sounds of her own surgery
Composer records sounds of her own surgery

The 38-year-old sound artist, who lives in Ramsgate in Kent, recorded the hip replacement procedure at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate with the blessing of surgeon Richard Slack and theatre staff.

She hopes to create an installation to be presented at a gallery in 2021 or 2022.

Ms Peasgood said: “The thought of having the operation was so frightening to me that the only way I could make it palatable was to turn it into something creative.

“I loved the idea of taking something so grotesque and stressful as this major operation, and making it something beautiful.

“I originally wanted to have my old hip as well to make into a bone flute, but that wasn’t allowed for infection control reasons.

“But the recording was approved and the hospital staff were really helpful.”

She was able to set up a sound recording device in the operating theatre before her procedure, and staff moved it into the recovery area before switching it off.

Ms Peasgood said: “I told them to talk normally, and not to censor themselves, but they said they hardly spoke at all because they felt so self-conscious.

Composer records sounds of her own surgery
Composer records sounds of her own surgery

“I haven’t listened to it yet as I am still recovering but in a few months I will sit down with the recording and start work on creating a piece of sound art.”

At 38, she is relatively young to need a hip replacement but has a condition called congenital hip dysplasia, which means her hip joints did not form properly.

She now has a ceramic hip joint and a metal rod inserted into her femur. The procedure involves drilling and sawing to remove the damaged bone and insert the new joint.

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Richard Slack said: “Emily’s request was certainly unusual but I’m pleased we were able to help.

“It will be interesting to hear the finished result, and in the meantime we wish her well with her recovery.”

Ms Peasgood won a British Composer Award in 2018 for her work Halfway To Heaven, and is nominated for an Ivor Novello Composers Award for Never Again, a piece commemorating the centenary of the First World War commissioned by Ideas Test.