The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Cosey Fanni Tutti Details New Book, 'Re-Sisters', + Exclusive Extract
John Doran , May 18th, 2022 11:00

The Throbbing Gristle legend and 'Art Sex Music' author's new book explores connections between her own work, the recordings of Delia Derbyshire and the writings of Margery Kempe

Cosey Fanni Tutti has a new 300-page book on the way, titled Re-Sisters: The Lives and Recordings Of Delia Derbyshire, Margery Kempe & Cosey Fanni Tutti.

Set to be published in August, the book explores connections between Tutti's own work and the recordings of Delia Derbyshire, as well as the writings of 15th century Christian mystic Margery Kempe. Its roots lie in a 2018 commission that saw Tutti enlisted to soundtrack a film about the late Delia Derbyshire. She began reading about Kempe, who wrote what is widely believed to be the first autobiography in the English language, around the same time and began finding connections between all three women.

Re-Sisters explores how Tutti, Derbyshire and Kempe rebelled against cultural and societal norms within their respective careers. Tutti herself has described it as "the story of three women consumed by their passion for life, a trinity of the sacred and profane, sinners and saints." It is Tutti's second book to date, following her 2017 autobiography Art Sex Music.

Below, you can read an exclusive extract from the new book, in which Tutti explains in more detail the impetus behind the new project.

"The past few years have been some of the busiest, most demanding and exciting I've had. A multitude of creative activities and unexpected opportunities have all contributed to a vast melting pot of ideas that have been gathering momentum, forming some semblance of collective purpose and coherence until the subject for writing this book emerged. The exploration of the lives of three women – myself, the electronic musician Delia Derbyshire and the fifteenth-century mystic and author Margery Kempe – through our 'recordings': my own as a multimedia artist, Delia's music and Margery's autobiography.

"In 2018, I was commissioned to compose the soundtrack for a film about Delia, whom I had long admired. I became immersed in exploring her life and music through the Delia Derbyshire archive at the University of Manchester, discovering her work and that of the remarkable experimental musician Daphne Oram, and meeting many of Delia's surviving friends and colleagues – and for my own curious pleasure I was reading Margery's Book in between working on my own projects. I'd accumulated quite a stack of paperwork and books that I'd take with me on my numerous travels, so Delia and Margery both became a part of my life. Margery's bravery and audacity as a woman living in medieval times was remarkable. From her marriage onwards all stages of her life were unconventional. She didn't fit the female 'type' and wasn't willing to settle for a life lying low, hiding out of the sight and the judgemental aim of 'authorities'. But what made such a huge impression on me was her being the author of the first autobiography in English, making Margery Kempe and her book a 'recording' of monumental historical importance – as are Delia's pioneering experimental sound recordings from her time working for and independent to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

"I was working on two film projects about female fortitude at the time, Delia and one based on my 2017 autobiography, Art Sex Music. So when Margery's book turned up unexpectedly one day while I was out shopping, it seemed to announce her arrival beside myself and Delia – a trinity of the sacred and profane, sinners and saints of a kind. Three defiant women with our individual, unconventional attitude to life. Untameable spirits, progressive thinkers living within the inherent societal constraints of our times but finding our own ways to circumvent them in our pursuit of self-dom. We all pushed against restrictions, compelled by 'visions' of differing kinds and a deep sense of needing to rid ourselves of the unease we felt at being in the 'places' we were expected to accept without question, undaunted by both feeling and being treated as outsiders while embracing and staying true to the outsider in us.

"I felt a sense of connection with both Delia and Margery not only from unexpected coincidences but our like-mindedness, bloody-mindedness, our resistance to inequalities, albeit in differing circumstances, and our determination to retain our sense of self when undermined by societal pressures to accept our 'place', to play our 'part'. We all found ways to traverse the world on our own terms despite facing vilification, rejection and worse for our views, lifestyle and 'works'. Our 'recordings' played a vital role in sustaining us, making our lives meaningful, making us feel whole, ourselves – the processes adopted being the route to a sense of freedom. We weren't afraid to 'record' our presence in the world through our actions and to create something to share. My work on the film soundtrack and this book coexisted. My composing the music provided, in part, a framework for the book.

"Our stories weave through one another, revealing the challenges we encountered as we shifted between 'places' within society and on the fringe. We all stepped outside the norm – Margery six hundred years before me and Delia – each of us driven by a feeling that coping with the demands we faced was sometimes too much, while simultaneously knowing that the life we envisaged and wanted for ourselves was about so much more.

"This book is not simply about the likening of one person's life to another's. It's about individualism. What we choose to 'say', why and how, and when other less troublesome options are open to us, why we seek out alternative ways of living and expressing ourselves despite the difficulties. What's important is that we do it at all."

Faber & Faber will publish Re-Sisters: The Lives and Recordings Of Delia Derbyshire, Margery Kempe & Cosey Fanni Tutti on August 18, 2022.

The book, available in paperback, hardback and limited special edition, can be pre-ordered now