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Dr Manuella Blackburn

Profile summary

Professional biography

Dr Manuella Blackburn is an internationally recognised and multi award-winning composer of sound-based music and digital arts. She has been working with sound for over 15 years and has created projects for fixed media, instruments and electronics, installations, and music for film and audio-visuals. Her music is published on the Montreal-based label, Emprientes DIGITALes and she has received over 250 performances and exhibitions world-wide.

Dr Blackburn’s fixed media research has been extensively awarded in international competitions including: Musicworks (1st Prize, Canada, 2018), Computer Space Award (1st Prize, Bulgaria, 2017), Musica Nova, (1st Prize, Czech Republic, 2016), International Computer Music Association European Regional Award (Australia, 2013), Gaudeamus Music Prize (Finalist, Netherlands 2012), METAMORPHOSIS competition (1st Prize, Brussels, 2012), Musica Viva, (1st Prize, Portugal, 2010) and Digital Arts Awards (Grand Prize, Japan, 2007).

Prior to starting her role at the Open University in 2021, Dr Blackburn held academic posts at Liverpool Hope University (2010-2019) and Keele University (2019-2021).


Research interests

Dr Blackburn's research interests focus on three primary areas: sampling and intertextual procedures, intercultural creativity, and compositional methodologies. She has published numerous journal articles, conference papers and book chapters on these topics and has given keynote addresses at the NAMHE Music – Learning – Technologies conference, (Glasgow, 2013) and the Women Since 1900 Conference (Liverpool, 2013) and the Musicological Society of Australia (Perth, 2018).

Her research has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in an Early Career Fellowship (intercultural Creativity in Electroacoustic Music: Integrating Indian Music Cultural Sound Emblems in new works) in 2012-13 and an ED&I Engagement Fellowship (Overcoming Sonic Stalemates: Representing Cultural Diversity in Sample Packs) awarded in 2021.

She is currently researching the history of sound libraries as a precursor to the contemporary sample pack download and she has recently completed a sound-based work on the Fairlight CMI series II sound library entitled Farewell Fairlight (2021).


Teaching interests

Dr Blackburn is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA, awarded 2019) which recognises experienced educators in academia. This achievement recognises excellence in teaching leadership, management and organisation, as well as recognising innovation in learning and teaching practices. Dr Blackburn's work in embedding collaboration into course design and building content for learning software for digital creativity has been acknowledged in this context.

Her teaching expertise covers compositional approaches, digital tools, sequencing and DAWs, audio-visual creativity, sound design, sound for moving image, sound recording, music production, electronic music and digital media practices.

She is currently supervising PhD in the following areas:

  • Exploring homage in electroacoustic music: exposing the hidden histories and work of early women electroacoustic composers in Europe (1940-70)
  • Defining pastiche – an intertextual procedure

Dr Blackburn is currently External Examiner for Bangor Univerisity BMus and MMus programmes and has been an external examiner at De Montfort University (Phd, 2018), Coventry University, (MPhil 2014) and Rhodes University, South Africa (MA, 2019) and University of Birmingham (MA, 2013).

Impact and engagement

Dr Blackburn has held roles as Unit of Assessment coordinator for REF in two institutions (LHU and Keele). She has a track record in writing four successful REF impact case studies, including her own compositional methods research on The Visual Sound-Shapes methodology, which pioneered the first systemised method for creating electroacoustic music which was articulated as a REF Impact Case Study in REF2014 ( demonstrating the reach and significance of this pedagogical tool for class room learning and beyond.

Her long-term partnership with Milap (the UK’s leading Indian Arts Development trust) has led to ongoing changes in equality, diversity, and inclusion with regards to funding opportunities and academic and community group partnerships. Her collaboration work was used as a case study in the Common Cause report policy document (

Dr Blackburn’s current partnership work with sample pack distribution platforms (including Ableton, Loopmasters and Symphonic Distribution) is focused on shaping good practice in cultural sound representation and fair crediting for musicians.

External collaborations

Dr Manuella Blackburn is currently an elected council member of the Royal Musical Association (RMA) and also belongs to the RMA EDI Working Group (

She sit on the editoral board for Organised Sound Journal (CUP) and has overseen two guest editor issue (

She is regularly invited to guest lecture on creative practice and has recently given talks at:

Ohio State University, Santa Barbara University, City University London and Bath Spa University.



The Terminology of Borrowing (2019-09-24)
Blackburn, Manuella
Organised Sound, 24(2) (pp. 139-156)

Editorial: Borrowing, quotation, sampling and plundering (2019)
Blackburn, Manuella
Organised Sound, 24(2) (pp. 115-120)

Instruments INDIA: A sound archive for educational and compositional use (2014-08)
Blackburn, Manuella
Organised Sound, 19(2) (pp. 146-153)

Editorial (2014-08)
Blackburn, Manuella
Organised Sound, 19(2) (pp. 107-109)

The Visual Sound-Shapes of Spectromorphology: An illustrative guide to composition (2011-02-11)
Blackburn, Manuella
Organised Sound, 16(1) (pp. 5-13)

In Her Own Words: Practitioner Contribution 3 (2021-04-17)
Blackburn, Manuella
In: Laura, Hamer ed. The Cambridge Companion to Women in Music since 1900. Cambridge Companions (pp. 228-234)
ISBN : 9781108556491 | Publisher : Cambridge University Press

Finding the Female Users: A Feminist Historiography of the Fairlight CMI (2022-06)
Blackburn, Manuella and Harkins, Paul
In : Rethinking the History of Technology-based Music (9 Jun 2022, University of Huddersfield)

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Engagement Fellowship Pilot AHRC Funding Scheme Report 2020 - 2022 (2022-03)
Blackburn, Manuella; Coutinho, Kevin and Suviste, Hayley
The Open University