Professor Nicola Dibben

BSc(Hons), MA, MEd, PhD, FHEA

Department of Music

Professor of Music


Faculty Director of Research and Innovation, Arts and Humanities

Portrait photo in front of white wall
Profile picture of Portrait photo in front of white wall

Full contact details

Professor Nicola Dibben
Department of Music
Jessop Building
Leavygreave Road
S3 7RD

Nikki has expertise in the science and psychology of music, popular music and new musical multimedia.

Nikki's research investigates how people engage with music (primarily music listening) and what that engagement means for how people think about and make sense of themselves and the world. She has published over 70 journal articles and book chapters, and is the author of Björk (2009), co-authored Music and Mind in Everyday Life (2010), and Sounds Icelandic (2019). Her many consultancies and commercial collaborations include working with Björk on the artist’s multimedia album-app Biophilia (2011). In 2022 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Oslo for her contribution to music studies.

Before becoming Faculty Director of Research and Innovation, Nikki was Director of the Humanities Research Institute, leading collaborative and interdisciplinary research in the Arts and Humanities. She is on the editorial board of the open access White Rose University Press and former editor of the journals Popular Music and Empirical Musicology Review and was a subpanel member for REF2014, and REF2021 (Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies).

Nikki gained a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts degree from City University, London, where she also studied singing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She gained a Doctorate at the University of Sheffield, before being appointed to a lectureship at Newcastle University in 1996. Prior to her appointment as Lecturer at Sheffield she held a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship there and subsequently took a Masters degree in Education. Nikki has had a number of visiting appointments overseas including as Guest Professor at Graz University, Austria, and a Visiting Scholar at the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences in Geneva and at Stanford University, USA.

Research interests

Nikki's research focuses on the experience of music in contemporary culture

Current research projects

  • Investigating music-making, ethics and IP in AI music generation. Projects include: participatory design of AI music generation software for sonic-branding, commercial and popular music, and AI for transvoices.  Nikki is also part of the Datasounds, datasets and datasense, AHRC network (2021-2023);
  • Discovering how new musical multimedia and X-reality technologies are impacting recorded popular music making and experience. This research is reported in a forthcoming monograph with Bloomsbury press, partly researched while Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, USA;
  • Working with Colombian academics, charities and NGOs to develop better tools to evaluate the social benefits of the music-making projects they run.
  • Ecomusicology: Discovering how music engagement may contribute to our environment values and beliefs.
  • Working to decolonise music cognition: organising committee of ESCOM-ICMPC 2021 and PI on the British Academy Writing Workshop 2021-22: Connecting and Diversifying Music Cognition Research.

Journal articles

Conference proceedings papers

  • Dibben N & Al Alam RT (2021) A Comparison of Presence and Emotion Between Immersive Virtual Reality and Desktop Displays for Musical Multimedia. Future Directions of Music Cognition 2021 Virtual Conference Proceedings. Ohio, 6 March 2021 - 7 March 2021. RIS download Bibtex download


  • Antonelli P, Galloway P & Burckhardt A (2022, September 10) Never Alone: Video Games and Other Interactive Design. The Museum of Modern Art. RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

I am a member of Music, Mind, Machine and regularly collaborate with MiMA: Machine Intelligence for Music and Audio.

I am happy to supervise highly qualified PhD candidates in my areas of expertise, particularly music and AI, the experience of new musical multimedia and music in immersive technologies, and music in science communication and environmentalism.

Current PhDs

  • Kate Wareham, Musical sociabilities of young adults in temporary homes, 2018-
  • Jaytee Tang, Cultural influences on emotional responses to music, 2021-
  • Persefoni Tzanaki, Rhythmic synchronisation and empathy, 2020-

Completed PhDs

  • Jake Downs, Space and embodiment in headphone listening, 2021
  • Elsa Marshall, The idea of integration in the early Broadway film musical, 2021
  • Maria Krivenski, Making sense of 'classical' music performance at university: An ethnographically-informed case study of a community of practice, 2019
  • Alison Wong, Sound branding: The role of music in consumer perceptions, behaviours, and practitioner beliefs, 2018
  • Ragnhild Torvanger Solberg, Agder University, Experiences with electronic dance music. A multi-method study on associations between musical characteristics, embodiment and peak-pleasurable responses, 2018
  • Elsa Guevara Perdomo, Beyond anxiety: Inspiration, connection and joy in music performance, 2017
  • Julian Cespedes Guevara, Towards a constructionist theory of musically-induced emotions: The making of musical emotions in everyday life, 2016
  • George Turner, Electric guitar performance techniques: meaning and identity in written discourse, 2015.
  • Stephanie Bramley, Exploring the presence, experience and influence of background music in gambling situations, 2015.
  • Sarha Moore, A comparative study of the flat second pitch degree in North Indian classical, Ottoman or Arabian influenced, western, Heavy Metal and film musics, 2014.
  • Chiung-Hui Hwang, The multilayered monophony and sliding tones of Qin Music: Perception, structure and aesthetic interpretation, 2012.
  • Christos Stavrinides, National identity in Greek cinema: Gender representation and Rebetiko, 2011.
  • Anneli Beronius Haake, Music listening In UK offices: Balancing internal needs and external considerations, 2010.
  • Carola Darwin, Representations of women in opera - Vienna 1900 – 1919, 2010.
  • Tim Robinson, How Popular musicians teach, 2010.
  • Metaxia Pavlakou, Sing, Sing Out! An investigation of the impact of amateur group singing on people with eating disorders, 2009.
  • Ruth Herbert, Range of consciousness within everyday music listening experiences: Absorption, dissociation and the trancing process, 2009.
  • Noola Griffiths, The role of concert dress in the performances of solo female classical instrumentalists, 2009.
  • Angelo Martingo, Music as postmodern thought: a critical examination of George Crumb's Makrokosmos I, 2004.
Professional activities and memberships

Nikki regularly contributes to print and broadcast media on topics relating to popular music and applications of music in everyday life. In addition to organising Sheffield-based events in her Faculty roles, she has organised workshops for musicians on evaluating the social benefits of music-making, and worked with a number of renowned organisations on outreach projects, including the Manchester International Festival. Her consultancies and collaborations include working on the Icelandic pop star Björk's multimedia album-app Biophilia.