Sally Macarthur is a Associate Professor in Musicology and Director of Academic Program, Music, at Western Sydney University. She has researched and written on topics to do with new classical music, women's music and music in spiritual and cross-cultural contexts. Her recent articles appear in Radical Musicology, Australian Feminist Studies, Musicology Australia, Cultural Studies Review and the Journal of Music Research Online. Her books include Towards a Twenty-First-Century Feminist Politics of Music (Ashgate 2010), Feminist Aesthetics in Music (Greenwood 2002), with Bruce Crossman and Ronaldo Morelos a co-edited volume, Intercultural Music: Creation and Interpretation (Australian Music Centre, 2006) and with Cate Poynton, Musics and Feminisms (Australian Music Centre, 1999). Macarthur is currently co-editing with Professors Judy Lochhead (Stoney Brook, NY) and Jennie Shaw (Adelaide) another volume, Music's Immanent Future: Beyond Past and Present. She was recognised by the Centre for the Study of Higher Education, Griffith Institute for Higher Education and Queensland University of Technology in 2007 for fostering an interest in research among her undergraduate students. In 2008, she was highly commended as a member of the Music Research Supervisor's Group for Excellence in Postgraduate Research Training and Supervision in the Vice-Chancellor's Awards.
Macarthur's doctoral work (1997), since published as the book, Feminist Aesthetics in Music, argued for the idea of feminine difference along similar lines to the French feminists (Irigaray in particular), She has since moved away from that idea, not only because it is not really possible to make such arguments for abstract music but also because the argument ends up essentialising 'femininity', and male/female experiences.
Her work currently draws on the work of philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in particular his concept of positive difference. It offers a way forward that is not about polarising male/female, gay/straight or any other binary relationship. It is an immanent philosophy, thus different from thought based in represenation. Her recent book, Towards a Twenty-First-Century Feminist Politics of Music, is a feminist-Deleuzian approach to the woman composer question. It maps the terrain, exploring the ways in which representational modes constrain and limit our understandings of music, critiques the contribution of the feminist work to musicology, looks at the ways in which entrepreneurship/neoliberalism impact negatively on the woman composer, and then offers the idea that thinking differently has its own power to effect change. Macarthur does not aim to find a solution. Rather, she posits a different way to think about the issues. The composers she has more recently focused on are Kats-Chernin, Boyd, and Gubaidulina. She does, however, have a fairly extensive knowledge of women's music.