Research seminars and fora

Our weekly research seminars and fora involve a wide range of internationally esteemed invited lecturers, alongside our academic staff and postdoctoral colleagues and our large cohort of postgraduate students, as well as interested undergraduates, and colleagues from across the University and our partner institutions.

While some sessions take the form of traditional seminars on specialist topics, we frequently host structured discussions of key topics and issues within the discipline, usually hosted by one of our core research areas.

These result in lively debate that stimulate both research networking and the development of new collaborations and research relationships.

We have put together another set of stimulating, timely and sometimes controversial research fora for Semester 1 2021–22, which will continue to take place on Thursdays between 4.30pm and 6.30pm.

We are delighted to be able to return to in-person sessions, to be held in G16, Martin Harris Centre, and look forward to welcoming you there in the weeks marked 'in person' in the programme. However, in order to take advantage of the flexibility and international contributions that are facilitated by online Zoom sessions, we have a blended programme this semester, so some sessions will take place virtually, often incorporating contributors from across the globe (marked 'online' in the programme). We anticipate that we will be able to offer dual delivery for in-person sessions so that you will be able to join virtually via Zoom if you cannot attend in person.

We continue to employ the highly successful structure we adopted last year — in which short presentations or position papers from invited speakers act as a catalyst to open up broader debate in roundtable discussions and then plenary sessions — alongside a few 'traditional' sessions with longer individual research papers. The programme looks likely to stimulate lively debate all round!

Sessions include short presentations or position papers from invited speakers from all over the world, which act as catalysts to open up broader debate in roundtable discussions involving staff and postgraduate students working on related topics in our department's core research areas; plenary discussions involving all participants then close the fora, ensuring lively debate all round. 

2021/22 Semester 1 seminars and fora

View our detailed programme of research seminars and fora for Semester 1 of the 2021-22 academic year.

Each event takes place on Thursdays at 4.30pm either at the Martin Harris Centre G16 or online via Zoom. All are welcome.

30 September - in-person: G16

Making Music in Lockdown

Ellie Slorach - Conductor

Leo Geyer - Composer and Conductor

The pandemic has unquestionably presented a host of stubborn obstacles for composers and performers, but it has also initiated changes to the way music is created, performed and consumed that may prove to be both positive and permanent. In our first ‘post-lockdown’ research forum (we hope!), we welcome two of our most successful recent alumni back to Manchester to talk about their experiences of music-making in the pandemic: Leo Geyer discusses the challenges and opportunities of ‘lockdown music’ in relation to his works Cº-VI-dx19, for small ensemble in isolation, and Water Boatman for double bass and loop pedal, alongside Constella OperaBallet’s virtual performance programme for care homes, while Ellie Slorach focuses on her digital lockdown performances with Kantos Chamber Choir, exploring ideas behind creating and commissioning new music when the concert hall doors were closed. 

7 October - online session

The ‘Three Pillars’ of Sustainability and the Music Industries

Tom Wagner - Royal Holloway, London

Kyle Devine - University of Oslo

Anna Morcom - UCLA, Los Angeles

The Climate Crisis has thrust ‘sustainability’ to the forefront of both academic research and the popular consciousness. Yet, what is meant by the term and how the music industries contribute to (or hinder) sustainable practices is not well understood. In this session, Tom Wagner is joined by Kyle Devine and Anna Morcom, who will each give a paper focusing on one of the three ‘pillars’ of sustainability — environmental, cultural, and economic — through case studies in the music industries. The papers will be followed by an open discussion which will draw out the connections between the three viewpoints.

14 October - in-person: G16

Music Inspired by Alan Turing

Josh Brown - University of Manchester

In this session, Dr Joshua Brown will present work from his postdoctoral post as Artist-in-Residence at the John Rylands Research Institute in 2019—20. Josh focused on the work of Alan Turing during his time in Manchester, and in today’s session, he will talk about how he used ideas from the archive — such as patterns in biochemical processes — to develop music for diverse performing forces.

21 October - online session

What makes a Musical Instrument?

Vicky Clarke - Artist in Residence, NOVARS

Matthew Sergeant - Bath Spa University

Kathy Hinde - Freelance sound artist

One of the most dynamic aspects of contemporary music is the way composers and artists are finding so many ways to expand the possibilities of existing instruments, to build new ones (whether virtually through electronics, or acoustically), and to expand the notion of what constitutes a musical instrument. This session offers three different perspectives on this subject and raises important questions about where we might go from here in this respect

28 October - in-person: G16

Musical—Visual Culture

Ellie Chan - University of Manchester

Katie Bank - University of Sheffield

Christina Faraday - University of Cambridge

In this session, we will explore the rapidly developing field of musical—visual culture, and the dialogues between musicology and art history that it aims to provoke by thinking about music as a visual form. Ellie Chan will be joined by Katie Bank and Christina Faraday to explore a series of interactions between music and art in the English Renaissance in particular and will discuss what can be gained by looking at musical and art objects alongside each other.

11 November - in-person: G16

Composing for Film and Television

John Lunn - Composer

Danny Saul - Composer

John Lunn is an Emmy and ASCAP Award-winning, BAFTA and Ivor Novello Award-nominated compo-ser working in film and television, with a career spanning over 30 years. He is perhaps best known for his scores to all six seasons of the global hit TV drama Downton Abbey (and the 2019 movie). For the last few years, University of Manchester graduate Danny Saul has worked with Lunn on multiple TV scores, including The Last Kingdom (Netflix), Jamestown (Sky), Shetland (BBC), and Grantchester (ITV). He also worked with Grammy-nominated composer Ben Onono on music and sound design for the 2020 Paramount Pictures movie Spell, and released an album of library music, Dark Strangeness, through EMI this year. In this forum, Lunn and Saul will talk us through what it is to work as a composer for film and television in the 21st century, with helpful tips for aspiring composers seeking careers in this area.

18 November - in-person: G16

Women’s Song

Laura Tunbridge    University of Oxford

Natasha Loges - Royal College of Music

Does ‘women’s song’ exist, and if so, how can it exist in a way that doesn’t simply reinforce gender essentialism? What happens to a woman’s sense of self when she sings lyric song specifically, as opposed to, say, dramatic roles? What barriers need to be navigated when men’s works envoicing women are performed on today’s concert stages? This joint presentation focuses on two case studies: a 19th-century work — Robert Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben — and a 21st-century one — Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you. These examples are used to examine the seemingly contradictory ways in which women sing themselves through others’ music.

25 November - online session

Building a New Community in New Music

Ruta Vitkauskaite - CoMA Glasgow

In this seminar, Ruta Vitkauskaite talks about establishing and running the CoMA Glasgow organisation — a group open for musicians of all abilities to take part in music-making — while maintaining an active career as a composer in the UK and overseas. She will focus in particular on the differences of directing community-group and professional music ensembles, yet how experiences in both supplement each other. This will serve as the starting point to open up a wider discussion on the importance of belonging to a community in our profession.

2 December - online session

Music Creativity, Literacy and Authorship from behind the Drum Kit

Matt Brennan - University of Glasgow

In this paper, Matt Brennan uses the drum kit and drummers — and their fluctuating status in spheres ranging from copyright law to music education — as a lens to consider how the meanings of everyday concepts such as ‘musician’, ‘literacy’, ‘creativity’, and ‘authorship’ have changed over history and up to the present. In other words, exploring the drum kit can illuminate the complicated network of forces that guide audiences on what to listen for in music, and whom to reward for the musical experiences we enjoy. He will discuss ideas from his recent book, Kick It: A Social History of the Drum Kit, as well as his current dilemma of choosing one of several avenues for future research: (1) a history and political ecology of mass-produced musical instruments; (2) a biography of drummer, composer, and activist Max Roach; and (3) a collection of essays tentatively titled Hit It: Exploring the Drum Kit on Record.

9 December - in-person: G16

Digital Directions for Collected Editions

David Smith - Northumbria University

Rebecca Herissone - University of Manchester

Magnus Williamson - University of Newcastle

Frauke Jurgensen - University of Aberdeen

This session, which forms part of an AHRC-funded networking project, is intended as a forum to explore the potential of digital methodologies to transform the critical, scholarly editing of music. Each of the panel members, who between them represent three collected editions — Musica Britannica, the Purcell Society Edition, and Early English Church Music — will give a position paper outlining what they consider to be the main challenges facing editors and publishers today, where they see the future of the collected edition, and how this might involve digital approaches and online editions. This will serve as a starting point for a broader roundtable discussion involving panel members and contributions from the floor in which we will consider ways in which digital methodologies might allow the collected edition to adapt to serve the needs of musicians and scholars in the twenty-first century.

16 December - in-person: G16

Postgraduate Presentations

This session offers an opportunity for postgraduate students in Musicology and Composition to present some of their ongoing PhD research work.

How to participate in Manchester Music Department’s Online Research Fora

  • The Zoom link for all our online Research Fora is:
    • URL: https://zoom.us/j/99563602012
    • Meeting ID: 995 6360 2012
    • One-tap mobile (UK): +442034815240,,99563602012#
    • Phone number (UK): +44 203 481 5240
  • The format for online sessions may vary slightly and will be explained by the session chair at the beginning of each forum. It will normally use the following protocols:
    • Papers and presentations given by guest lecturers will be presented in real-time using the share-screen and presenter modes on Zoom. Those attending the talk need to turn off their cameras and mute their microphones during the presentation.
    • For roundtable discussions, we will switch to gallery mode. Invited active participants and the session chair will turn on their cameras and unmute their microphones, but other participants normally remain with cameras off and microphones muted, unless asking a question (see below).
    • For plenary discussions, we remain in gallery mode, with all participants turning on cameras and unmuting microphones.
    • Any participant wishing to ask a question should use the ‘raise hand’ facility on Zoom to alert the session chair, who will invite them to speak. Please ensure that you are identified by your real name in order to assist the session chair, and that you remember to unmute your microphone before you start to speak. Please also lower your hand once you have asked your question.

2020/21 Semester 2 seminars and fora

For Semester 2 of the 2020–21 academic year, our detailed programme of research seminars and fora programme can be explored in full here (PDF).

All events will take place on Thursdays at 4.30pm via Zoom (https://zoom.us/j/93123172724). All are welcome.

11 February

MusM Musicology Students: Research Outlines - Led by Rebecca Herrisone

In the first session of our Semester-2 Research Fora, we welcome our MusM postgraduate students in musicology and ethnomusicology, who will give short ‘speed-dissertation’ presentations outlining the research projects they are working on for their Masters’ dissertations.

25 February

Crucible of Song: Music and Musicians at the Collegiate Church of St Omer in the later Middle Ages - Led by Rebecca Herrisone

We are delighted to welcome Professor Andrew Kirkman (University of Birmingham) to the department for this session with a paper presenting aspects of the story of the choir school attached to the collegiate church of St Omer in the city of Saint-Omer, in today’s Pas-de-Calais. While in itself an institution of considerable wealth and musical splendour, St Omer is of particular interest for the exceptionally complete state of its surviving documentation. This treasure trove of information allows us to piece together a picture of a musical community of remarkable detail and affording real personal insights into musical life half a millennium ago. This picture is painted on a broad canvas in Andrew’s newly published book, Music and Musicians at the Collegiate Church of St Omer (Cambridge, 2020); this paper, hosted by the departmental Critical Reception Studies research group, will focus in on some of its more revealing, and colourful, details.

4 March

Troubled Waters - Led by Camden Reeves

In this session, we welcome University of Manchester composers Drs Kevin Malone and Richard Whalley, along with Paulina Kulesza and Dineke Nauta — founding musicians of Amsterdam-based Ebonit Saxophone Quartet — who will discuss their saxophone-quartet music which focuses on the climate emergency, the environment, geography, refugees, gun laws and folk music as reflections of global political and climate instability, and social challenges. Hosted by our Politics, Protest and Power research group, each composer will present a short talk with samples of their work, followed by a Q&A with Ebonit, leading to questions posed by the attendees.

11 March

The Underrepresentation of Women of Colour in the Classical Music Industry, and How We Can Enact Change: Part of 2021 MUSICA Festival - Led by Anne Hyland

As part of the student-led Musica festival, we welcome guest speakers Rebeca Omorida (founder of the African Concert Series), Natalia Franklin Pierce (Executive Director of nonclassical) and Dr Ellie Chan (Leverhulme Research Fellow at the University of Manchester) to discuss the challenges facing the Classical music industry regarding diversity and inclusion. Two of the panelists will present twenty-minute talks on the topic, followed by a roundtable discussion with the rest of the panel. Questions from the audience will conclude the session.

18 March

Music, Sound and Athletic Performance - Led by David Berezan

In this session, hosted by the Sound, Space and Interactive Art research group, Professor Costas Karageorghis (Professor in Sport & Exercise Psychology at Brunel University London) will discuss his research into the psychological, psychophysiological and neurophysiological effects of music in the domain of exercise and sport. He will be joined in discussion by Professor David Berezan (Electroacoustic Composer, University of Manchester) for an update on SoundRunner, an arts-led collaborative project that explores the potential for music and sound to be dynamically created through the act of running. Questions and discussion will follow.

25 March

Beethoven’s French Piano: A Tale of Ambition and Frustration - Led by Barry Cooper

In this session, hosted by the Creative and Performing Practices core research area, we are pleased to welcome Professor Tom Beghin (Orpheus Institute, Ghent) to the department for a lecture-demonstration on Beethoven’s Erard piano and its influence on Beethoven’s technology-related exploration and experi-menttation in the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata, Op. 53. Tom will open the session with a 30-minute presentation, followed by a roundtable discussion involving Dr Marten Noorduin (University of Oxford) as well as members of the department’s Historically and Culturally Informed Analysis research area. The session concludes with an open Q&A. Tom invites attendees to listen in advance to one or both of his recent video-productions on this topic, links to which will be circulated nearer the time.

15 April

Intercultural Musicking: Ensemble Performance, (Inter)Cultural Encounters, and Personal/Professional Transformations - Led by Caroline Bithell

This session features members of our Intercultural Musicking core research area. Professor Caroline Bithell, Robert Szymanek, Richard Fay and Dan Mawson will offer short, complementary research papers exploring intercultural music-making, followed by invited responses and discussion. The department’s gamelan and klezmer ensembles (led by Robert and Dan/Richard) serve as living laboratories for exploring the dynamics of encountering new cultural as well as musical worlds through learning to perform in ensembles playing in unfamiliar styles and/or on ‘new’ instruments. These have their counterpart in the transnational Georgian-singing communities that are the focus of Caroline’s research. The research forum will be preceded by a show-and-tell session (2:00–4:00pm) offering insights into the practices of the ensembles, with contributions from participating students. You are welcome to attend either or both of these sessions! 

22 April

Postgraduate Presentations - Led by Anne Hyland and Camden Reeves

This session offers an opportunity for postgraduate students in Musicology and Composition to present some of their on-going doctoral research work. First, we will hear from Sarah Keirle on the application of animal communication within the context of electroacoustic composition in order to create new sonic means for conservation awareness, public engagement, and nature connection. Sarah will be followed by Philip Robinson tackling the issue of national identity in the case of ‘The Most (Un)Armenian of Composers’, Aram Khachaturian (1903-78). Philip’s paper proposes that an examination of the reception history of Khachaturian’s Armenian works (particularly those of the 1939 Moscow dekada [ten-day festival], dedicated to Armenian national art) and pertinent biographical evidence invites a reassessment of the composer’s national identity. The session is capped by Cameron Biles-Liddel’s presentation, ‘Exploring Stasis and Motion in Composition: The Art of Creating Auditory Illusions’, which raises questions of music’s temporality or ‘time dimension’.

29 April

Micro Theories of Musical Form in the Nineteenth Century - Led by Anne Hyland

This session will explore the limits and possibilities of a theory of musical form in the nineteenth century that is structured as a network of geographically, chronologically and generically localised micro-theories. It will focus on an ongoing case study of sonata form in Viennese chamber music from 1815–1828 by composers including Beethoven, Call, Fesca, Halm, Hänsel, Hirsch, Jansa, Krommer, Mayseder, Onslow, Romberg, Schubert and Spohr. Professor Steven Vande Moortele (University of Toronto) begins the session with a presentation on his recent work in this area, followed by a case-study presentation from Dr Anne Hyland (University of Manchester) focusing on Joseph Mayseder’s (1789–1863) string quartets. These papers will be followed by a roundtable discussion involving members of the department’s Historically and Culturally Informed Analysis research group, followed by questions from the floor.

6 May

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Brahms's Gesang der Parzen - Led by Anne Hyland

In this penultimate session, we are delighted to welcome to the department Professor Nicole Grimes (University of California, Irvine) whose paper considers the rich cultural context for Brahms’s Gesang der Parzen, a one-movement choral work for mixed voices. In his correspondence with a select few friends, Brahms persistently associated Gesang der Parzen with a text from the Book of Job that he had earlier set in the motet Warum ist das Licht gegeben?, Op. 74 No. 1. This juxtaposition of Biblical and mythical tales of divine punishment provides a broader hermeneutic context for the Parzenlied which resonates with certain artworks of the Italian Renaissance (including Titian’s cycle The Four Great Sinners and his Flaying of Marsyas) with which Brahms was particularly preoccupied at the time he was writing Gesang der Parzen. The session begins with a presentation by Nicole considering how the analysis of the work offered in her book, Brahms’s Elegies: the Poetics of Loss in Nineteenth-Century German Culture (Cambridge, 2019) is intricately bound up with the composition’s rich historical and cultural context. This will be followed by a roundtable discussion with members of our Historically and Culturally Informed Analysis core research area, followed by questions from the (virtual) floor.

13 May

Human experiences in contemporary music-making: collaborative composing and presenting process in 48 Hours - Led by Camden Reeves

When a twenty-minute piece takes two weeks to rehearse, can a public presentation of that preparatory creative journey shed new light on the process of music making for audiences? This question, posed by Gemma Bass and Gary Farr (Vonnegut Collective), led commissioning composer Tullis Rennie (City, University of London) to create 48 Hours (2020), a new large-scale concert work for Piano Quintet, Trumpet and Recorded Sound. Together, they collaboratively documented the trajectory of the rehearsal process and the motivations of the performers, as the group tackled the challenges of Thomas Adès’s Piano Quintet (2000). 48 Hours continues Rennie's practice-based research in ‘socio-sonic’ composition methodologies (Rennie 2014), where collaborative and (auto)ethnographic processes are considered both as tools, and as materials, for co-composition. In this session, hosted by the department’s Creative and Performing Practices research area, we welcome Gemma Bass and Tullis Rennie in conversation. Vonnegut Collective’s recordings of Ades’s Piano Quintet and 48 Hours will be released by Moving Furniture Records in 2021.

2020/21 Semester 1 seminars and fora

For Semester 1 of the 2020–21 academic year, our detailed programme of research seminars and fora programme can be explored in full here (PDF). All events will take place on Thursdays at 4.30pm via Zoom. All are welcome.

22 October

Introducing music research at Manchester, led by Rebecca Herissone

29 October

Microtones: New colours and greater resolution, led by Richard Whalley

5 November

Music and mental health, led by Camden Reeves

12 November

Music literacy and the modern university: Perspectives on the continued relevance of specialist knowledge in music studies, led by Anne Hyland

19 November

Decolonising music studies, led by Chloe Alaghband-Zadeh

26 November

Constructing the ‘national’ composer, led by Rebecca Herissone

3 December

Remaking jazz television, led by Alexander Gagatsis

10 December

Shakespeare and music: New interdisciplinary perspectives, led by David Fanning

17 December

Postgraduate presentations, led by Rebecca Herissone and Camden Reeves

How to participate in Manchester Music Department’s online research fora

These sessions are free and open to all who wish to attend. People external to the University of Manchester are warmly welcome; please email anne.hyland@manchester.ac.uk in advance (by 12 noon on the day in question) with the session title in the email subject and your name in the body of the email in order to be admitted onto the Zoom call.

  • The Zoom link for all our Research Fora is:
    • https://zoom.us/j/93123172724
    • Meeting ID: 931 2317 2724
    • One-tap mobile (UK): +442034815240,,93123172724#
    • Phone number (UK): +44 203 481 5240
  • The format for each session may vary slightly and will be explained by the session chair at the beginning of each forum. It will normally use the following protocols:
    • Papers given by guest lecturers will either be given live on Zoom or may be pre-recorded; in both cases, they will be presented in real-time using the share-screen and presenter modes on Zoom. Those attending the talk need to turn off their cameras and mute their microphones during the presentation.
    • For roundtable discussions, we will switch to gallery mode. Invited active participants and the session chair will turn on their cameras and unmute their microphones, but other participants normally remain with cameras off and microphones muted, unless asking a question (see below).
    • For plenary discussions, we remain in gallery mode, with all participants turning on cameras and unmuting microphones.
    • Any participant wishing to ask a question should use the ‘raise hand’ facility on Zoom to alert the session chair, who will invite them to speak. Please ensure that you are identified by your real name in order to assist the session chair, and that you remember to unmute your microphone before you start to speak. Please also lower your hand once you have asked your question.
    • We look forward to welcoming you to these events at Manchester!