Department of Music

Doctoral Projects in Music

Browse some of the research projects our PhD students are working on below:

Toyin AdeyinkaThe social cultural implications of Apepe music among the Ijebu Imomo people of Ogun State, Nigeria.

The thesis is a study of Apepe music indigenous to the people of Ijebu Imomo people in Ogun State Nigeria. It appears that indigenous music which is part of the tradition and history of a particular given people is gradually disappearing. Identified reasons for this include cross cultural influence and an up beat youthful society. The thesis thus aim at redefining indigenous music as part of enduring traditions and cultural practices.
This will be achieved by showing its significance as part of the people’s culture. It will further explore its relevance in modern times where it has found its way into contemporary musical performances. To underscore this, it will explore the works of some popular Nigerian Musicians who have incorporated the style and themes into their music.
The thesis will seek to answer the questions of what is indigenous music and why it has endured in spite of external influences.

Daniel BrightSonic Ghosting: interrogating space/place/memory through multimodal sonic fracture

The practice-based research project aims to develop, through experimental practice, the compositional concept of 'sonic ghosting' - a creative act deliberately conjuring up, composing or making foreground secondary images, whereby the form of these 'images' is expressed using a combination of sound and music. It will then employ this concept to interrogate ideas of sonic memory and temporality in relation to ruined, disused and repurposed industrial and post industrial space, and with reference to 'heritage' practices. The project will work across critical theory and critical/reflective creative practice to develop both a critical and conceptual grounding and a body of compositional, performance and installation work that seeks to explore it. Finally, it will culminate in the presentation of a portfolio of works, final exhibition/review, and written thesis outlining the critical foundations, 'sonic ghosting' method or concept, research process, relationship to current practice, and a critical commentary of each of the portfolio works.

Martin Davey"Gypsy music" and "Romani style": ascribing authenticity and identifying commonalities among Romani musics

My thesis is a theoretical exercise drawing on the existing literature within the relevant fields. The first two chapters attempt to unravel the ambiguous generic category of “Gypsy music” and examine the identification of authentic Romani musical features. Firstly, how popular understandings and representations of “Gypsy music” evoke exotic and romantic tropes of ‘Gypsiness’, thus perpetuating simplified conceptions of Romani music, culture, and identity. Secondly, the discourses behind such simplifications and the issues in identifying ‘authentic’ Romani imports and commonalities among the plethora of musics Roma engage with. The last three chapters focus upon how, rather than attempting to identify common musical features, our understanding of Romani musical practice is better improved by examining and comparing the social dynamics at play within musical performance, arguing that although there might be no shared or identifiable “Romani music” per se, there is nevertheless a similar Romani “style” of envisaging, and engaging with, music. The first two of these chapters focus on the different social dynamics of Romani musical performance vis-à-vis Roma themselves and non-Roma within communal and professional performance settings. Finally, I consider how these social dynamics of Romani musical performance and “style” of engaging with music constitute an intrinsic, perhaps uniquely so, aspect of Romani musical practice. 

Alejandro Escobar MundacaTranslating poetics: analysing the connections between Violeta Parra's music, poetry and visual art

Alejandro's research looks at the multifaceted art of the Chilean author Violeta Parra (1917–1967) from an interdisciplinary view of arts. It focuses on the field of music and its relation to other artistic expressions to give light to a comparative hypothesis regarding various levels of interconnections in terms of morphology, thematics, structures, ideology and technique. During the last decade, social events and artists in Chile and around the world seem to convey that Parra's art is still relevant to current issues. Therefore, one may wonder: what does it tell us as artists, scholars, or even as human beings? By breaking down and exposing poetic, musical and visual content, I will give important insights into how Chilean (and Latin American) issues might be depicted with interdisciplinary correspondences. However, the main goal of this article is to provide an aesthetic account of Parra’s contribution to the notion of Chileanness – and probably Americanness

Gemma FarrellArcadian Electrickery: Distinctive characteristics of British psytrance and how the extra-musical aspect of local scenes manifest in their sonic aesthetic 

My PhD research is about Psychedelic Trance (psytrance), a subgenre of electronic dance music, and approaches it from ethnomusicology and cultural studies perspectives. Since it began around 25 years ago psytrance has become a global phenomenon with local cultures established in many geographic locations. For many people it constitutes a lifestyle, a mode of spiritual expression and an integral part of their identity. My research looks at the relationship between the global culture and local cultures in different geographic locations and how global psytrance culture is reassembled with characteristics of local cultures, creating regional styles of music. My thesis focusses on UK psytrance culture as a case study to explore this process and examines it in the context of previous iterations of psychedelic culture and of global psytrance culture.

To address my research questions I undertook a qualitative research study including one-to-one interviews, an online questionnaire, participant observation, practice based research with music production software, and analysis of psytrance music.  

Barnaby Hollington,  A Polychordal Approach to Post-Tonal and Serial Harmony

My research aims to test the effectiveness of a new harmonic system which I have devised, aimed at rendering ostensibly ‘atonal’ or ‘post-tonal’ harmony readily intelligible to the listener. I have named this system the Polychordal Approach. All sets of pitch-classes possess one or more latent tonal centres; all can therefore be spaced so as to maximise the audibility of tonal connections – i.e. spaced as polychords. By consistently illuminating tonal connections, the Polychordal Approach should, in theory, facilitate aural cognition of any conceivable harmonic trajectory within the bounds of equal temperament. I am testing this hypothesis over my composition portfolio.

Information on current and recent projects: My current projects include a new work written through Sound and Music/NMC’s Next Wave initiative. The work – Velvet Revolution – will be premiered by the London Sinfonietta at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November 2014. A recent work for solo piano, The Art of Thinking Clearly, gained an Honourable Mention in the ‘Keyed Up’ Alvarez Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition 2014. Another recent piano work, Prosthesis, is due to be published by Editions Musica Ferrum later this year; the piece will also be recorded by Myrto Akrivou and released..

Alessio MarinoniStaging History. The Quest for Historicism, Reality and Authenticity from 1870 to early 20th Century in Wagner's Ring

This research will define Wagner's desire to find an 'authentic' and 'historical' costume for his Der Ring des Nibelungen. The practical necessity of staging - and dressing - characters belonging to both mythology and history seems to be in contrast with Wagner's desire of absence of time and space. In order to understand this I will retrace the evolution of 'historicism' and 'authenticity' on stage from 1870 to early 20th Century highlighting the relationship between stage elements and philosophical theories

Joe PaxtonCommunication and Interpretation in Classical Ensemble Performance

An investigation into musical communication and interpretation in classical ensemble performance. Through a series of case studies examining live classical ensemble performances and their rehearsal processes; it will seek to build upon previous research into musical communication, meaning and interpretation; aiming to develop a model of musical communication for ensemble performance supported by a method of ethnographic investigation. This model will move beyond previous research with the inclusion of musicians as a listener and audience members as an active agent in music performance as well as being used to, and informed by, the process of negotiation and collaboration in ensemble performance for interpretation.

Anthanasios Polymeneas-LiontirisIm•Medea: Posthumanism and Remediation in Music Theatre

My thesis aims to contextualise and theoretise my endeavors during a creative research process on music theatre. The research was initiated aspiring to observe music theatre performance from a posthuman perspective in which digital technology would have a crucial role in it, as it would be the link between performers and audience. In current experiments technology has reached a ubiquitous post-digital role, as it algorithmically controls the occurrence of the music theatrical events of the entire performance through series of interactive processes. The music theatre performances I have been developing so far are theoretically based on systems studies and more specifically on cybernetics. Currently these performances with all their elements(performers, audience, "author", technology) can be seen as cybernetic organisms, cybernetic performances. The research aspires to theoretise this aspect through the concept of "performance cybernetics", a concept that could potentially be applied on any (music) theatre —or other— performance with immersive, interactive and generative elements. The thesis will also canvass how the music theatre performance in question has been influenced by other disciplines and art practices, such as live art, interactive art and immersive installations, making links between these influences from a remediation theory perspective (Bolter & Grusin).

Joseph WatsonPlaying with tape: a reflective rehearing

A practice based investigation into the production of electronic music for performance, installation and recording using other-than-digital technologies such as modular synthesis and analogue tape, exploring performativity, interaction, emergence, conversation, liveness, becoming, transduction, playfulness and corporeal engagement with the physical environment of production. Drawing on thinking from second order cybernetics, Gordon Pask, Ranulph Glanville, Andrew Pickering, Gilbert Simondon, Karen Barad, Catherine Hayles, Andy Clark, Francisco Varela and others.

Lee WestwoodA Moment Of Clarity – How can the notions of 'blur' and 'focus' be used to reveal hidden forms and structures within the context of contemporary instrumental music?

The essence of this PhD proposal is to carry out composition-based music research in order to examine how a carefully-selected array of writing techniques can be used to explore the notions of 'blur' and 'focus' in contemporary instrumental music, and subsequently how this can be developed into a unified compositional approach that facilitates a sense of 'revelation' during the experience of a musical work. The act of blurring in a musical context can be seen to mean making an element of the composition (e.g. melodic contour; sense of meter or pulse; rhythmic phrases; structural boundaries) smeared, obscured or less distinct. The notion of focus works in opposition to that of blurring, and can be seen to mean the points in a composition where techniques of blurring are lessened to allow the previously affected musical element to be heard clearly, or with definition. The key variants of the study, on an initial, 'surface' level, are how the music is blurred, and when it is brought in or out of focus. In this way, I would like to draw attention to certain critical points in the duration of the musical narrative, by either revealing hidden forms or structures within the composition, or by obscuring them from the listener's perception. Thus, on a secondary, 'deeper' level, the research will seek to examine how some aspect of the identity of the music may be withheld until a pivotal moment in the form of the composition, and how this may initiate a sense of revelation or metamorphosis in terms of the comprehension of the nature of what is being heard. This research will be conducted in the context of orchestral acoustic instruments, and without the use of electronics.