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Research in Music

Our research reflects the diversity of the field of musicology and aims to engage with musical practices, communities and organisations beyond academia in countries worldwide. Collaborative work is key to what we do, and we aim to go beyond chronological, geographical and disciplinary boundaries and to challenge previous approaches to musicology. We also have a thriving community of PhD students who contribute to the research environment of the department through their ground-breaking research.

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Our areas of research

Our research engages with a range of methodological approaches and with musical repertoires, cultures and practices from the medieval period to the present day. Our staff have expertise in the following areas: historical musicology, music analysis, film music, ethnomusicology, sound studies, feminist musicology, music technology and composition.

We aim to work across music’s sub-disciplines and with other disciplines in our faculty. Music staff are heavily involved in interdisciplinary research groups within The Open University, such as those concerning:

We enjoy ongoing collaborations with external organisations; members of staff serve many different groups in a variety of positions, including the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, the Handel Institute, the Society for Christian Scholarship and Music, and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Music Studies network.

Our research students

Our current research students are engaged in research encompassing historical musicology, music education, ethnomusicology, music and gender, and more.

We offer a supportive and collaborative research environment to our students, who benefit from the flexible approach to learning offered by the University.

Each student is supported by at least two supervisors, as well as a programme of university-wide training. In addition, the music department offers regular workshops and other research events, which enable students to meet with their peers, present research papers and develop skills relevant to their research and future career. See further details on studying at the OU and how to apply.

How we work with others

The use of our research beyond academia is a priority for our staff and we welcome new partnerships and collaborations. Previous and current examples of our work in this way includes that with:

  • Musicians: The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has been an official partner of OU Music since 2016. Staff have presented lectures for the OAE’s concert series and have also contributed to the OAE’s videos.
  • Curators, librarians and archivists: The development of the Cultural History of Glasgow Research Network has enabled the collaboration of academics and archivists in Glasgow, as well as informing exhibitions.
  • Educators: Our research has informed the development of free online resources for A-Level music teachers. Staff have also acted as consultants on the development of the music school syllabi.
  • Health and wellbeing practitioners: The project Tinnitus, Auditory Knowledge and the Arts is developing tools and resources for the British Tinnitus Association’s support groups in collaboration with the Oxfordshire Visual Arts Development Agency.

Our publications

Our publications reflect the breadth and strengths of our research. The most recent publications can be viewed in the listing below from The Open University’s Open Research Online collection (ORO). We believe research should be as accessible to as many people as possible – you can read some of our publications for free via publishers’ websites and ORO.

Recent BBC collaborations

Since the creation of the OU, our staff have provided input into the design and production process of a number of BBC television and radio programmes. Recent examples include:

Selected current projects

The Listening Experience Database

Street musicians, May 1989, New Orleans. Photo: Brenda Anderson

The outcome of two AHRC-funded research projects, LED is an open and freely searchable database that brings together a mass of data about people’s experiences of listening to music of all kinds, in any historical period and any culture.

George Frideric Handel: Collected Documents

George Frideric Handel: Collected Documents book cover

Enabled by grants from the AHRC and Handel Institute, the five volumes (CUP, 2013-) bring together the texts of all known references from Handel’s lifetime.

Women’s Musical Leadership Online Project (WMLOP)

Jane Evrard and her Orchestre féminin de Paris (Paris, 1930s)

Musical leadership remains one of the most male-dominated musical areas. Although female composers, songwriters, and performers have attracted significant scholarly attention, women’s musical leadership remains intriguingly under researched. Funded by The Open University, WMLOP aims to address this.

Cultural History of Glasgow Research Network

Glasgow Park Circus

Funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, this project creates an interactive network of scholars, without barrier to discipline or research experience, who use the Glasgow City Archives to research any aspect of the city’s cultural history, with a particular slant towards Music.

Tinnitus, Auditory Knowledge and the Arts

An accompanying illustration by F. Strothmann from John Phillip Sousa’s essay ‘the menace of mechanical music’, originally published in Appleton’s Magazine, vol. 8 in 1906.

A two-year AHRC-funded project in collaboration with Oxford Brookes University’s Sonic Arts Research Unit, The British Tinnitus Association and Oxfordshire Visual Arts Development Agency, which will investigate how the arts might help to enrich understandings of tinnitus and the diverse ways it affects listeners.

Find out more

You can find out more about what is going on in OU Music by following us on Twitter, Facebook and by visiting our blog.

Discover our individual researchers and team of academics on our people page.

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