15 July 2022 ListenRead

Maggie Nicols Cassette Archive 1981-85

“Individual and collective liberation is essential if we are to have any hope of surviving and leading dignified, joyous, healthy, meaningful lives” - Maggie Nicols

This summer I had the pleasure of digitizing Maggie Nicols’ cassette tapes from the early 80’s. While transferring her audio, I was able to hear all of her different styles of singing from improvisation to scatting to poetic melodies. These tapes are a reflection of her pure creativity and true expression without limitations. 

Maggie Nicols’ improvising style of singing exemplifies how creative expression is not limited to any certain form but is instead an instinctual act that creates a feeling of freedom. She is heard here live at the Bastille in Paris, France with a improvisors Lindsay Cooper and Joelle Leandre, improvising and using her voice in an incredibly unique way.

Whether she is performing as a solo act or in collaboration with her friends, her passion shines through and she never holds back her raw emotions. Contradictions was a project of Maggie's that turned into a women's workshop where any female identifying person without discrimination could freely express themselves and use their voices in ways that may have never thought of before. In this clip she collaborates with other music and highlights how "too much control is bad for your soul."

‘Surrendering to the creative source’ was a gift that she wanted to help others achieve, so she started her own workshops. In her forthcoming book, Creative Liberation, she emphasizes the power of freeing ourselves from our conscious minds and allowing our mind to free flow. In this music clip we hear Maggie freely improvising about not sensoring ourselves from subconscious thoughts.

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club was a place that she drew inspiration from in the beginning of her career thanks to her mentor Dennis Rose and other musicians she saw perform there. 

One of the first organizations she was a part of that helped her pave her own way in her musical journey was John Stevens’ Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1968. In Creative Liberation, she discusses the impact this group had on her and how it helped her not only musically but spiritually and emotionally. She was heavily influenced by The Workers Revolutionary Party and the feminism of the Women’s Liberation Movement and thus created The Feminist Improvising Group. In this music clip from Bushfires Cabaret In Feburary of '84 she sings about inequality and how women have been mistreated by men and disciminated against.

She also created workshops where a safe space was provided for women to express themselves openly through free improvisation. Maggie Nichols has tested the boundaries of what it means to be a singer and has created her own lane and genre. Her main intention in her life's work was to "honour women in music by challenging male domination on the scene."