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Music Research

Music research within the Department of Humanities

The thriving research community in the Department of Humanities means that research in music at Northumbria involves staff in Music, History and American Studies. In broad terms, we consider how music is made, how it is consumed, and how it relates to broader cultural, social and political change. Northumbria staff have particular strengths in English music of the 16th and 17th centuries, organology, 19th/20th-century opera and American 20th-century music.

How music is made

We can learn a great deal about how music is made from the study of material culture, in particular by examining what has survived of instruments and sources of music from the past. Northumbria is one of only a few universities with research expertise in organology, and particularly the history of baroque stringed instruments. We have staff who undertake significant research on early English manuscript and printed sources containing vocal, consort, lute and keyboard music, as well as on the editing of music sources in the creation of modern, scholarly editions.

How music is consumed

The study of music manuscripts and prints points beyond questions of how to interpret the music contained in them towards the study of manuscript culture. How was material exchanged between users of manuscripts? Why were certain items copied more than others? Who used manuscripts, and to what ends?

The study of manuscript cultures sits within broader cultural concerns that relate to other disciplines within Humanities. Interesting parallels may be drawn between, for example, domestic keyboard playing of 17th-century England and American Roots music.

The consumption of music may involve participation in amateur music-making or the act of listening. In both cases, the development of technologies related both to sound production (instruments, recording) and to the preservation of music (manuscripts, printed music, recording) have a significant effect on the ways in which music is consumed.

Music in relation to cultural, social and political change

We examine the role played by music in all strata of society, drawing distinctions between music intended for public display (for example, in church or at court), domestic music-making and popular music of various periods; and between professional performance of various kinds and amateur music-making.

We seek to understand the diverse range of social functions played by music, and the place of music and the musician in complex webs of interacting cultural, social, religious and political networks.

The study of music in a broader intellectual and sociocultural context leads us to play an active role in fostering connections between disciplines; Music staff belong to interdisciplinary research groups within the Department of Humanities, such as Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS).

Postgraduate Research Opportunities

We offer research degrees at Master’s and doctoral level. We welcome applications from those wishing to pursue practice-led research where the outcome will involve performance. Northumbria is a member of the AHRC-funded Northern Bridge consortium for postgraduate funding as well as offering its own bursary scheme.

Music staff have supervisory expertise in the following broad areas of music:

  • Cultural/sociocultural history of music
  • Editing
  • English music of the 16th and 17th centuries
  • Ballads and popular song
  • Death songs and elegies
  • English émigré Catholic composers
  • Gender
  • Instrumental music
  • Music at court
  • Mythology
  • Opera
  • Philosophy of music
  • Historical performance practice
  • Keyboard music to c.1750
  • Music and literature
  • Musical instrument history (organology)
  • Scottish musicSource studies – manuscript and printed

For more information, please look at the individual staff pages.





Research at Northumbria

Research at Northumbria

Research is the life blood of a University and at Northumbria University we pride ourselves on research that makes a difference; research that has application and affects people's lives.

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