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Dr Naomi Barker

Profile summary

Professional biography

Naomi Barker is a musicologist specialising in late-sixteenth and seventeenth century music. She joined the Open University music department on a part-time basis in 2012 after having been an Associate Lecturer since 2001. As an AL, she taught a number of undergraduate and postgraduate music modules including AA314, A214, A870, A871 and A877. She was appointed Senior Lecturer in 2019. Prior to her full-time appointment at the OU in 2014, she worked extensively in adult education and had part time lecturing positions at Durham University and Manchester University. In addition to academic work, she has been involved in music education at all levels, was manager of a local authority music service and led the Gateshead and South Tyneside Music Education Hub.

Naomi holds a B. Mus (hons) and M.Mus degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.  After working as a professional flautist and teacher in Johannesburg for several years, she was awarded an overseas prestige scholarship which enabled her doctoral studies at Royal Holloway & Bedford New College, University of London. She continues to perform as a baroque flautist whenever possible. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA).


Research interests

Naomi Barker's research focuses on late sixteenth and seventeenth century Italian instrumental music, especially for keyboard, in relation to its contemporary theoretical frameworks, cultural contexts and performance practices. She is particularly interested in the interdisciplinarity of music, art, religion and science. Her most research focuses on music at the Hospital of Santo Spirito in Sassia, Rome and addresses issues relating to musical practice, medicine and religion in that institution. Her book 'Music, Medicine and Religion at the Hospital of Santo Spirito in Sassia, 1550-1750' was released in February 2024. Naomi's new project focuses on the extensive music libary of Santo Spirito in Sassia that includes over 500 manuscripts dating from the 1550s to the 1750s. Articles on the musical architecture of the hospital and on newly discovered music by Paolo Papini are currently in preparation. 

Naomi welcomes applications from potential PhD students with interests in late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century music, including those who wish to be jointly supervised in another discipline through the Medieval and Early Modern Research group.


Teaching interests

Alongside duties as Head of Discipline for Music, Naomi Barker is currently on the module team producing the new MA in Music. She has previously been the music department rep for the interdisciplinary level 1 modules,  A111 'Discovering the arts and humanities'  and A113 'Revolutions', for which she wrote several units. She is also the author of two units in the level 2 music module A234 'Understanding music' and is now co-authoring several units for A890 (part 1 of the MA in Music) and authoring a unit for A891 (part 2 of the MA). 

She is committed to open access learning and has co-written a MOOC called 'From notation to performance: Understanding musical scores' which is also available on OpenLearn She was involved in an ERASMUS funded project to create open access resources on conducting including a MOOC on conducting which is now available worldwide at 

Impact and engagement

Naomi has given pre-concert talks for the Orchestra of the Age of Enligtenment . She continues to support music education in schools and the development of resources for schools by members of the music department.  

Externally funded projects

Music, medicine and religion at the Ospedale di Santo Spirito c. 1550-1700
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Nov 202131 May 2023LEVERHULME The Leverhulme Trust

This study will explore the extent to which music was part of a physical and spiritual healthcare regime at a time of religious reforms and significant shifts in scientific thought. Using previously unpublished manuscript sources, it will provide a new approach to the study of music by establishing connections between the treatment of disease based on the study of medicine, concepts of healing founded on religious thought and the practice of music. It will focus on the Ospedale di Santo Spirito in Sassia, Rome, a unique institution comprising an orphanage, school, convent, hospital and collegiate church, during the period c.1550-1700.

Music at the Ospedale di Santo Spirito, Rome 1600-1630
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Apr 201730 Nov 2018BRITAC British Academy

This study forms part of a larger project which will break new ground in contextualising the keyboard music of Girolamo Frescobaldi within the wider cultural trends of the early seventeenth century. By focusing on the Ospedale di Santo Spirito, it will answer two questions: to what extent was music part of a wider programme of healing? and do the documented activities of musicians demonstrate patterns that support this or do they reflect other concerns? The Ospedale di Santo Spirito is unusual in that from the late 16th century it had a large organ situated in the hospital wards. Listed among the musicians who worked at the Ospedale and its church is the composer Girolamo Frescobaldi, but little is known of his activities there. The presence of music in a space built within a humanist aesthetic framework, and in which Galenic humoral medicine was practiced offers an unexplored context for musical practice. This study will bring new insights to bear on the context for music and the music profession in Rome by exploring the role of music in the hospital environment


[Book Review] Annette Richards, The Temple of Fame & Friendship: Portraits, music, and history in the C.P.E. Bach Circle. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2022 (2024-03)
Barker, Naomi
Journal of the History of Collections, 36(1) (pp. 200-201)

Frescobaldi at the Ospedale di Santo Spirito: a portfolio career in seventeenth-century Rome (2021)
Barker, Naomi J
Early Music, 49, Article caab044(3) (pp. 395-412)

The Italian Keyboard Toccata c. 1615-1650: A Repository for Oral Compositional Practices (2019)
Barker, Naomi J.
Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, 50(1) (pp. 1-28)

Mottos and Metaphors: Towards an Interpretation of the Emblems in Frescobaldi’s Primo libro d’arie musicali (2019)
Barker, Naomi J.
Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music, 25(1)

Music, antiquity and self-fashioning in the Accademia dei Lincei (2015)
Barker, Naomi J.
The Seventeenth Century, 30(4) (pp. 375-390)

Charivari and popular ritual in 17th-century Italy: a source and context for improvised performance? (2013-08)
Barker, Naomi J.
Early Music, 41(3) (pp. 447-459)

Un-discarded images: illustrations of antique musical instruments in 17th- and 18th-century books, their sources and transmission (2007)
Barker, Naomi
Early Music, 35(2) (pp. 191-212)

‘Diverse Passions’: Mode, Interval and Affect in Poussin’s Paintings (2000-03-01)
Barker, Naomi Joy
Music in Art, 25(1-2) (pp. 5-24)

Parody and Provocation: Parade and the Dada Psyche (1996)
Barker, Naomi
Repertoire International d'Iconographie Musicale / Research Center for Musical Iconography Newsletter, 21(1) (pp. 29-31)

In Search of Mannerism: A New Approach to an Old Problem (1992)
Barker, Naomi
South African Journal of Musicology, 12 (pp. 11-19)

Music, Medicine and Religion at the Ospedale di Santo Spirito in Rome 1550–1750 (2024-02)
Barker, Naomi J.
Music in Society and Culture
ISBN : 9781837650651 | Publisher : Boydell Press | Published : Woodbridge

Learning the trade: What did Froberger do in Rome? (2018-07-01)
Barker, Naomi J.
In: Vejvar, Andreas and Grassl, Markus eds. "Avec discrétion": Rethinking Froberger. Wiener Veröffentlichungen zur Musikgeschichte (14) (pp. 205-221)
ISBN : 978-3205207405 | Publisher : Böhlau Verlag | Published : Vienna

The ear of the lynx: The musical legacy of the Accademia dei Lincei (2013)
Barker, Naomi J.
In: Smith, David J. and Taylor, Rachelle eds. Networks of music and culture in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (pp. 59-70)
ISBN : 9781472411983 | Publisher : Ashgate Publishing Limited | Published : Surrey

Viewing the stile espressivo: Doni, Poussin and the ancient genera (2003)
Barker, Naomi Joy
In: Dobszay, László ed. The past in the present
ISBN : 9637181342 | Publisher : Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music | Published : Budapest

The Sound of Paintings: Using Citizen Curation to Explore the Cross-Modal Personalization of Museum Experiences (2023-06)
Mulholland, Paul; Stoneman, Adam; Barker, Naomi; Maguire, Mark; Carvalho, Jason; Daga, Enrico and Warren, Paul
In : Workshop on Personalized Access to Cultural Heritage (PATCH) at UMAP ’23 (26 Jun 2023, Limassol, Cyprus) (pp. 408-418)