Research in Music

Over 85% of research in the Department of Music has been judged to be ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

This is the result of the national Research Excellence Framework exercise, which assessed research publications and the public impact of research carried out in all universities in the UK, 2008-2014.

For Research Outputs (e.g. published books, articles and compositions) the proportion of the Department's submission judged to be 'Internationally Excellent' was the joint second highest, with Oxford, of any multi-disciplinary submission in the country, and The Times Higher Education Supplement's league table for Outputs placed us at the top of the list of comparable Departments.

Our research community includes approximately ten staff and 45 research students, and we particularly welcome students from the EU and overseas.

Two important areas of our research are given additional focus by the activities of the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research (CEMPR) and the Centre for Composition and Associated Studies (COMPASS).

The Department’s research corresponds to the University’s major research theme ‘Heritage, Cultural Production and Interpretation’. Key themes within our research areas are:

Musical Composition and Sonic Arts

Photograph of two students working with music software on computers

The Department provides exceptional research opportunities in instrumental, vocal, electronic, and mixed composition, under the auspices of the Centre for Composition and Associated Studies (COMPASS), which provides a focal point and forum for creative work in music. On the instrumental side, our longstanding relationship with our 'Ensemble in Association', the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, and a series of workshop and concerts with various ensembles (Hermes Ensemble and EXAUDI in recent years), as well as opportunities to work with our internationally recognised choirs, our new music ensemble, and other orchestras and ensembles, enable postgraduate composers to develop their work at a professional level.

Composers and researchers whose work involves electronic resources will join a department with over three decades of established international leadership in the field. This is particularly true in the area of acousmatic music and live sound diffusion, which we continue to be committed to, but also includes more recent developments in areas such as live electronic music, network music, soundscape composition / phonology, sound studies, sound spatialisation, sound installations, etc. Researchers in all these areas have the opportunity to work with BEAST, one of the world's leading large-scale presentation systems for electroacoustic music, which is capable of mounting systems of around 100 discrete channels both in our 'home base' the Elgar Concert Hall (which was specifically designed with electronic sound in mind), and on tour around the UK and Europe. Our six Electroacoustic Studios feature bespoke acoustic design by Nick Edwards, who also worked on Birmingham Symphony Hall. These offer world class environments for composition and related research, with exceptional opportunities for large-scale multichannel work.

Staff Profiles

Michael Zev Gordon

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Professor Michael Zev Gordon's works have been performed by leading international ensembles, such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, London Sinfonietta, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and EXAUDI. His work demonstrates a particular interest in exploring the relationship between the present and the past through composition, with special attention to the workings of memory. He also focusses on dialogues between Western and non-Western materials in composition, and on the subjects of the musical fragment and time in music, and aims to create a musical syntax that can accommodate a wide range of disparate materials – from tonal to atonal.

Daria Kwiatkowska

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Daria Kwiatkowska’s compositions often make use of unusual resources; for example works combining Western instruments with those of other cultures such as koto or gamelan instruments, or making use of augmented instruments (e.g. quarter-tone flute) and extended techniques. She is also knowledgable in the compositional practices of contemporary Polish music (e.g. Sonorism, etc.). Her music has been performed in Poland, Canada, the Netherlands, US, Japan, and Great Britain.

Scott Wilson

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Scott Wilson's creative work involves a variety of both instrumental and electronic resources, and includes mixed pieces and on occasion sound installations. Recent projects have focussed on live coding, especially in the context of networked music systems (with the Birmingham Ensemble for Electroacoustic Research), and large-scale multichannel acousmatic composition and spatialisation. As well, he is a leading member of the SuperCollider development community, and has co-authored books on SuperCollider and the history of electronic music. His music has been presented and broadcast internationally, including throughout the UK and the rest of Europe, in Canada and the U.S., and in Japan.

Annie Mahtani

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Annie Mahtani's research interests include multichannel acousmatic composition, performance practice of electroacoustic music, live acousmatic performance, soundscape composition, phonography and field recording, site-specific installations and cross disciplinary collaboration. She is the founder and director of SOUNDkitchen, a Birmingham-based organisation presenting experimental sound-based creative work. Her works have become a regular feature at important concert series, events, and festivals around the UK, as well as in Europe and North America.

Global Popular Music

Global popular music studies is one of the department’s newest research areas but has quickly emerged as one of the department’s strongest areas for postgraduate research and undergraduate teaching. Eliot Bates is a member of the Editorial Board for the journal Ethnomusicology, a co-founder of the journal Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture, and a member of the Board of Directors of the US-based Society for Ethnomusicology. His research interests include recording studio cultures and the art of record production (in the Middle East, Europe, and North America), film/TV music production (in Turkey), digital aesthetics in contemporary music genres, and critical organology. His teaching interests extend to include sound studies, music in California, popular music analysis, and ethnomusicology. Luis-Manuel Garcia, who joins the department in January 2016, brings expertise on electronic dance music in Europe and in the Americas, including research on local music scenes and the emerging field of techno tourism in Berlin. His teaching interests also include queer theory and music and globalization.

2015. “At Home, I’m a Tourist: Musical Migration and Affective Citizenship in Berlin.” Journal of Urban Cultural Studies 2 (1+2).

2013. Guest Editor. “Doing Nightlife and EDMC Fieldwork,” Special Issue. Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 5 (1).

2013. “Crowd Solidarity on the Dancefloor in Paris and Berlin” in Musical Performance and the Changing City: Postindustrial Contexts in Europe and the United States, edited by Carsten Wergin and Fabian Holt, 227- 255. New York/London: Routledge.

2011. “Pathological Crowds: Affect and Danger in Responses to the Love Parade Disaster at Duisburg.” Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 2 (1).

British Music

British Music Studies

British music since 1850 is a long-standing department research theme, and one of growing interest today. Edward Elgar was the first Professor of Music at the University, and his legacy is still felt, with the concert hall of our new Bramall Music Building named after him. The leading researchers in the field are Paul Rodmell (social history of music, Stanford, opera in Britain), Matthew Riley (Elgar, nationalism in British music), and Ben Earle (analysis, modernism, British Schoenbergianism). The department hosted the conference on Music in 19th-Century Britain in 2007 and will do so again in 2017. Two research projects on the history of the symphony in Britain are in preparation. Postgraduate students can prepare for their PhD by following the British Music pathway on the department’s taught MA programme.

The University’s Cadbury Research Library holds important collections of documents relating to Edward Elgar, Percy Grainger and the University’s second Professor of Music, Granville Bantock. It also holds many research papers of the late Dr Percy Young, a former Research Fellow of the department, Elgar biographer, and wide-ranging scholar of British music history.

Paul Rodmell’s research on the history of opera in Britain has been funded by an AHRC Fellowship.  He is now undertaking a major project on the reception and influence of French music in Britain between 1830 and 1914.

Ben Earle’s new edition of Arthur Bliss’s 1944 ballet Miracle in the Gorbals was successfully performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet in October 2014 in Birmingham (Hippodrome), London (Sadler’s Wells) and Plymouth (Royal Theatre).

Matthew Riley’s recent project on music and nationalism in Europe and North America is the point of departure for an article in preparation on British art music, national commemoration and musical ‘Englishness’.

Recent or current PhD research projects in the area of British music include ‘The Sales and Marketing of Broadwood Pianos in the early Nineteenth Century’, and British Wagnerism.  Recent MA by Research projects include work on Dorothy Howell. 

Relevant Publications

Paul Rodmell

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Opera in the British Isles 1875–1918. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013.

Charles Villiers Stanford. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002.

Music and Institutions in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012.

‘The Early Operas: Pierrot and Pierrette (1908) and The Enchanted Garden (1915)’. In Paul Watt and Anne-Marie Forbes (eds), Joseph Holbrooke: Composer, Critic and Musical Patriot. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, 93–116.

 ‘“The meretricious charms of melody”? On setting the Nicene Creed in late Victorian England’. Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland 9 (2013–14), 1–40.

‘James Mapleson and the “National Opera House”’. In Paul Rodmell (ed.), Music and Institutions in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012, 99–117.

‘The Antient Concerts Society, Dublin, 1834–64’. In Michael Murphy and Jan Smaczny (eds.), Irish Musical Studies 9: Music in Nineteenth Century Ireland. Dublin: Four Courts Press: 2007, 254–79.

‘“The Italians are Coming”: Opera in mid-Victorian Dublin’. In Rachel Cowgill and Julian Rushton (eds.), Europe, Empire and Spectacle in Nineteenth Century British Music. Aldershot; Ashgate, 2006, 97–112.

‘“Double, double, toil and trouble”: Producing MacBeth in Victorian Britain’. Verdi Forum 30–31 (2003–04), 37–47.

‘A Tale of Two Operas: Stanford’s Savonarola and The Canterbury Pilgrims from Gestation to Production’. Music and Letters 78 (1997), 77–91.

 Matthew Riley

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(ed.) British Music and Modernism, 1895–1960. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.

Edward Elgar and the Nostalgic Imagination. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

(ed.) British Music and Modernism 1895–1960. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.

‘Edward Elgar’s Lecture on Mozart’s Symphony in G Minor K. 550’. Mozart Jahrbuch 2005 (2006), 131–49.

‘Rustling Reeds and Lofty Pines: Elgar and the Music of Nature’. 19th-Century Music 26/2 (2002), 155–77.

‘Liberal Critics and Modern Music in the Post-Victorian Age’. In Matthew Riley (ed.), British Music and Modernism 1895–1960. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.

‘Music for the Machines of the Future: H. G. Wells, Arthur Bliss and Things to Come (1936)’. In Matthew Riley (ed.), British Music and Modernism 1895–1960. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.

‘Heroic Melancholy: Elgar’s Inflected Diatonicism’. In J.P.E. Harper-Scott and Julian Rushton (eds.), Elgar Studies. Cambridge University Press, 2007, 284–307.

‘Elgar the Escapist?’. In Byron Adams (ed.), Edward Elgar and his World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007, 39–57.

Ben Earle

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‘Taste, Power, and Trying to Understand Op. 36: British Attempts to Popularize Schoenberg’, Music & Letters, 84/4 (2003), 608–43.

‘“The Real Thing – At Last”? Historicizing Humphrey Searle’, in Matthew Riley (ed.), British Music and Modernism, 1895–1960 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010), 293–325. 

Music Analysis


The Department pursues innovative research in music analysis at a high level and is also committed to teaching analysis at all levels of the curriculum. Schoenbergian analysis (musical logic, formal function) is a particular focus. Ben Earle and Matthew Riley are both members of the Editorial Board of the journal Music Analysis (Matthew Riley since 2001). Ben Earle’s interests include the interface between analysis, aesthetics and critical theory (especially Adorno). His main focus is twentieth-century repertory, especially the Second Viennese School (Schoenberg, Webern, Berg) and their twelve-note followers (Dallapiccola, Nono, Skalkottas, Lutyens, Searle), but he teaches Schenkerian approaches too. Matthew Riley works with the so-called ‘New Formenlehre’ (formal function, Sonata Theory—the latter with some critical distance), along with eighteenth-century schemata and topics. He aims to preserve something of the critical mode of Donald Francis Tovey and Charles Rosen. His published analytic work deals with Haydn, Mozart and their Viennese contemporaries.

Relevant Publications

Matthew Riley

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The Viennese Minor-Key Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Mozart. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

‘The Sonata Principle Reformulated for Haydn Post-1770 and a Typology of his Recapitulatory Strategies’. Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 140/1 (2015): 1–39.

‘Haydn’s Missing Middles’. Music Analysis 30/1 (2011): 1–21.

‘Hermeneutics and the New Formenlehre: An Interpretation of Haydn’s “Oxford” Symphony, First Movement’. Eighteenth-Century Music 7/2 (2010): 199–219.

‘Sonata Principles’ [Review article of James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, Elements of Sonata Theory]. Music & Letters 89/4 (2008): 590–8.

‘The “Harmonic Major” Mode in Nineteenth-Century Theory and Practice’. Music Analysis 23/1 (2004): 1–26.

‘Ernst Kurth’s Bach: Musical Linearity and Expressionist Aesthetics’. Theoria: Historical Aspects of Music Theory 10 (2003): 69–103.

Ben Earle

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Luigi Dallapiccola and Musical Modernism in Fascist Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

‘Twelve-Note Music as Music: An Essay in Two Parts’. Music Analysis, 34/1 (2015): 91–149.

‘Verdi, Dallapiccola and Operatic “Gesture”: Ottocento Practice in Il prigioniero’. In Lorenzo Frassà and Michela Nicolai (eds.), Verdi Reception. Turnhout: Brepols, 2013: 216–55.

‘Dallapiccola’s Early Synthesis: No. 1, “Vespro, tutto riporti”, from Cinque frammenti di Saffo’. Music Analysis, 25/1–2 (2006): 3–38.


Performance Research

Photograph of the keys in a keyboard instrument

Renaissance - Andrew Kirkman

Late Renaissance to Late Baroque - John Whenham and Colin Timms

Italian Opera and Vocal Music

Three members of staff at the department work on Italian topics

Amy Brosius specialises in Italian singing culture of the Baroque period (1580–1750), more specifically in vocal music, early modern singers and early modern gender construction. Her approach to research on Italian singing culture is interdisciplinary, employing methodologies from art history, critical theory, gender studies, and performance studies. She also runs an Early Modern Vocal Ensemble, which gives students the opportunity to explore Italian vocal chamber music and the issues of performance practices of such music.

Ben Earle works on the analysis, history and criticism of mid twentieth-century Italian music, with a special emphasis on the issue of cultural politics, particularly during the fascist period (1922–45) and its immediate aftermath.

Arman Schwartz’s research on Italian opera focuses on the years between the mid-19th century and the present, considering Verdi, Puccini, and their contemporaries as well as more ‘avant-garde’ figures from the Futurists to Luciano Berio. His approach to this repertoire is informed by his interests in sound and media studies, theatre and performance studies, and by larger debates about realism and modernism. He is a member of the editorial board of Opera Quarterly and scholar-in-residence for the 2016 Bard Music Festival, devoted to ‘Puccini and his World’.

The study of Italian music at the University of Birmingham has a distinguished history, beginning with the appointment in 1959 of the late Nigel Fortune, a noted scholar of Monteverdi and early seventeenth-century monody. Our professors emeritus include Colin Timms and John Whenham, both of whom have published extensively on Italian music of the Baroque period, Timms with a special focus on Agostino Steffani, Whenham on Monteverdi. The Barber Music Library has outstanding holdings not just in seventeenth-century music, but also in twentieth-century Italian repertory, where it benefits from donations from the libraries of the two leading British scholars in the field, the late David Osmond-Smith and John C. G. Waterhouse, of whom Waterhouse worked for many years in the university’s extra-mural department.

Relevant Publications

Amy Brosius

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‘Singers Behaving Badly: Vengeance, Shame and the Singers of Cardinal Antonio Barberini’, Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture, 19 (2015), 45–53.

‘“Il suon, lo sguardo, il canto”: The Function of Portraits of Mid-Seventeenth-Century Virtuose in Rome’, Italian Studies, 63 (2008), 17–40.

Ben Earle 

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‘Puccini, Fascism, and the Case of Turandot’, in Arman Schwartz and Emanuele Senici (eds.), Puccini and His World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, in press).

‘The Politics of the New Music’, review article on Angela Ida De Benedictis and Ulrich Mosch (eds.), Alla ricerca di luce e chiarezza. L’epistolario Helmut Lachenmann – Luigi Nono (1957–1990) (Florence: Olschki, 2012), in Music & Letters, 94 (2013), 664–71.

Luigi Dallapiccola and Musical Modernism in Fascist Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. xvi+304 

‘“In onore della Resistenza”: Mario Zafred and Symphonic Neorealism’, in Robert Adlington (ed.), Red Strains: Music and Communism Outside the Communist Bloc, Proceedings of the British Academy, 185 (Oxford: British Academy/Oxford University Press, 2013), 149–71.

‘Verdi, Dallapiccola and Operatic “Gesture”: Ottocento Practice in Il prigioniero’, in Lorenzo Frassà and Michela Nicolai (eds.), Verdi Reception (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), 217–55. 

Review article on Fiamma Nicolodi (ed.), Luigi Dallapiccola nel suo secolo. Atti del convegni internazionale (Firenze, 10–12 dicembre 2004) (Florence: Olschki, 2007), in Il saggiatore musicale, 15 (2008), 329–42. 

Dallapiccola and the Politics of Commitment: Re-reading Il prigioniero’, Radical Musicology, 2 (2007), 83 pars.

‘Dallapiccola’s Early Synthesis: No. 1, “Vespro, tutto riporti”, from Cinque frammenti di Saffo’, Music Analysis, 25 (2006), 3–38. 

‘The Avant-Garde Artist as Superman: Aesthetics and Politics in Dallapiccola’s Volo di notte’, in Roberto Illiano (ed.), Italian Music during the Fascist Period (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), 657–716. 

Also many prefaces for reprints of rare Italian repertory from the first half of the twentieth century by Leone Sinigaglia, Giovanni Salviucci and Mario Pilati (Munich: Musikproduktion Hoeflich).