Research seminars

The Research Seminar Series is a series of talks by leading researchers at this university and elsewhere. The series is aimed at postgraduate students and staff but undergraduates and external visitors are welcome at every talk.

Cellist performing and talking at a seminar

Each session will include a virtual presentation by an invited speaker followed by questions and discussion. For some events, materials may be shared ahead of time with links on this page.

The series is open to all staff and students of the University of Sheffield as well as external visitors. Staff and PG students should enter via Blackboard>MUS Postgraduate Hub>Collaborate>Research Seminar Room. UGs and external visitors should email to request the link to


Research Seminars 2021-2022 (upcoming)

22/10/21 -  "Answer, echoes, answer"

The right hand in the bell of a horn serves several functions. On a mundane level the hand assists in the instrument being in a position in which it can be played, but the soft flesh of the hand also aids the timbre of the instrument and the exact position of the hand is essential for fine tuning. With historical instruments and their associated techniques the right hand can have a greater or lesser importance. For some early works the instrument is played without the insertion of the hand into the bell and for others the musician manipulates their right hand in the bell in order to create notes (“hand technique”). The position of the hand (or even the absence of the hand) greatly affects the timbre. Another way of changing the timbre is to use a mute, however this requires the musician to break off from playing in order to insert the mute. Whilst composers normally accommodate this in the music (writing an adequate number of bars preceding and following the con sordino passage) a significant number of nineteenth-century compositions exist where no such allowances have been made. Some of these later ones can be “accommodated” as it is possible to almost create the affect of a mute on valved instruments by using the right hand in lieu of a mute but this option is not available to the earlier natural instruments. In this seminar I will illustrate the problems inherent in these works, suggest solutions based on ideas that many nineteenth century HIP practitioners are currently exploring concerning tempo flexibility and dislocation, and discuss how the solutions may themselves suggest further ideas about the tempo flexibility composer/performers had in mind.

Speaker Bio

Anneke Scott is a leading exponent of historical horn playing. Her work takes her throughout the globe and throughout the centuries of music with a repertoire incorporating music and instruments from the late seventeenth century through to the present day.Anneke is principal horn of a number of internationally renowned period instrument ensembles including Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and the English Baroque Soloists, ensemble Pygmalion, The Orchestra of the Sixteen, the Irish Baroque Orchestra, and the Dunedin Consort and Players and many others. Anneke enjoys an international solo career and discography embracing three centuries of virtuosic horn works. Her expertise in baroque horn repertoire ensures that she is frequently to be heard performing the famous obligato arias of composers such as Bach and Handel as well as solo concertos from this period. Her critically acclaimed solo recordings also include three discs focussing on the music of the leading Parisian horn player of the nineteenth century; Jaques-François Gallay. Anneke enjoys collaborating with a wide group of musicians and is a key member of a number of chamber music ensembles including The Prince Regent's Band andBoxwood & Brass. She regularly works with leading period keyboardists including Steven Devine, Neal Peres da Costa, Geoffrey Govier and Kathryn Cok and period harpist Frances Kelly. She teaches at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, University of Birmingham. In 2018 she was awarded Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music and in 2019 she was one of the recipients of the International Horn Society “Punto Award”.

More information on her work can be found at

05/11/21 - Inventing Korean Protestant Hymns in the Age of Empires, 1884-1930 

The dissemination of Christianity was banned in Korea until the late nineteenth century, but by the end of the twentieth century Protestant Christianity was the most popular religion in (South) Korea. Despite the tremendous impact of this religion on various domains in Korea, including music, it has eluded Anglophone music studies, given this discipline’s tendency to treat the Western world and the non-Western world as separate cultural spheres. This talk considers how we might tell the history of Korean Christian music as a site of circulation, transformation, and agency. It focuses on the first decades of Protestantism in Korea, when the North American missionaries had immense power over indigenous Christian communities. It explores the musical culture that formed in this milieu in terms of a range of Christian artefacts which were forged in the context of Korean socio-cultural heterogeneity and in the crucible of early twentieth-century trans-Pacific history, marked by the rise of the U.S. and Japan as regional powers.

Speaker Bio:

Hannah Hyun Kyong Chang is a Lecturer in Korean Studies at the University of Sheffield. She obtained her PhD in Musicology from UCLA, with a dissertation fellowship from the American Musicological Society (AMS). Subsequently, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University's Institute of Sacred Music and a visiting assistant professor at the Department of Music, New York University. She is currently working on a project called “Pacific Voicings: Korean Hymns and Prayers in the Age of Empire, 1884-1945” as a recipient of an AHRC Research, Development, and Engagement Fellowship. Her next project will examine modernist composers in Korea and Japan. She currently serves on the AMS Council and is a co-convenor of AMS's Global Music History Study Group.

19/11/21 - They have Ears to Hear and Hear Not: Early Depreciation of Black and Indigenous People of Color’s Music 1910-1920

In this talk I’ll present early results of a study concerned with sound recordings in early music appreciation, part of a larger ongoing grant by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council. In particular, I’ll present a tentative conception, that of music depreciation, or the deliberate classifying of music as lesser and of lower quality. This conception is evident in the early engagement by those working in music appreciation as they addressed the music of Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). I will reveal how a set of criteria for appreciating classical music was misapplied to BIPOC music, resulting in an active program of music depreciation in the most popular music teaching texts of that era. These materials, present primarily via sound recording and textbooks, reveal widespread practices of music depreciation, the labelling of BIPOC music as uncivilised, uncultured, primitive, and illiterate. Following Ewell’s (2020) call for intersectional analysis of music theory’s white racial frame, and using a theoretical framework drawn from sound studies, I will argue that a critical intersectional reengagement with the racist and classist origins of music appreciation can help make the case for setting new foundations for teaching about music, following similar calls to de-sacralise listening (Rinsema, 2018), to adopt a diasporic approach (Gustafson, 2020), or to work with multimedia approaches that rest on Black music theory (Thibeault, 2021) all in an effort to continue to decolonise and otherwise confront some of music education’s most problematic and least understood histories.

Speaker Bio:

Matthew D. Thibeault is Associate Professor of Culture and Creative Arts at the Education University of Hong Kong. His recent research draws on frameworks from sound studies to illuminate the enmeshment of sound recordings and music pedagogy across the 20th century. He maintains active engagement with participatory music through the ukulele, banjo, and Okinawan sanshin. Thibeault’s publications and other details can be found on his professional website:

*POSTPONED* - Exploring Women’s Musical Leadership: Introducing WMLON, the Women’s Musical Leadership Online Network

Dr Laura Hamer (co presenting with Dr Helen Minors)

To this day, musical leadership remains one of the most male-dominated musical areas. As late as 2013, women conductors achieved a significant first when Marin Alsop became the first woman to conduct the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms. Indeed, musical leadership itself is often constructed as residing in male authority figures, quintessentially exemplified through the maestro conductor. This ‘maestro myth’ (as Norman Lebrecht characterised it, 1997) has been perpetuated since the mid-nineteenth century through the ‘maestro writing tradition’ of male conductors from Berlioz (1843) and Wagner (1869), through Stokowski (1944), Furtwängler (1953), and Boult (1963), to Boulez (2003). This presentation shifts the spotlight to considering women’s musical leadership and explores the impetuses behind the founding of the Women’s Musical Leadership Online Network (WMLON), by the authors in 2019, and also presents its initial findings. With the dual aim of both researching women’s musical leadership and acting as a support network for women musical leaders and potential leaders, WMLON interrogates the current context of women in musical leadership with a specific focus on three areas: women in the music industries, women in educational leadership, and women leading contemporary musical practices. WMLON was established following the first International Conference on Women in/and Musical Leadership, speaks in partnership with the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Women and Musical Leadership: The Nineteenth Century and Beyond, and will be further developed via an AHRC network grant between January 2022 and November 2023. WMLON is open to all.

Speaker Bio:

Laura Hamer is a Senior Lecturer in Music and Associate Director of Student Support (Arts and Humanities) at The Open University. Her research specialism lies in Women in Music. Her books include Female Composers, Conductors, Performers: Musiciennes of Interwar France, 1919-1939 (Routledge, 2018) and The Cambridge Companion to Women in Music since 1900 (Cambridge University Press, 2021). She is currently co-editing, with Helen Julia Minors, The Routledge Companion to Women's Musical Leadership: The Nineteenth Century and Beyond and PI of the AHRC-funded Women's Musical Leadership Online Network. Dr. Helen Julia Minors is School Head of Performing Arts and Associate Professor of Music at Kingston University London. She is founder and co-chair of EDI Music Studies Network. Recent publications include: Artistic Research in Performance Through Collaboration, edited with Martin Blain (Palgrave 2020) and Paul Dukas: Legacies of a French Musician, co-edited with Laura Watson (Routledge, 2019), as well as chapters in Opera and Translation (John Benjamins, 2020), and articles in Tibon (2021), London Review of Education (2019, 2017) and entries in the Cambridge Stravinsky Encyclopedia (2021). She is currently co-editing, with Laura Hamer, The Routledge Companion to Women's Musical Leadership: The Nineteenth Century and Beyond and is CI of the AHRC-funded Women's Musical Leadership Online Network with Laura Hamer.

Research Seminars 2020-2021 (previous) 

6/11/20 - Whose Ears? Cage, A King, and Humming - Dr Suk-jun Kim, The University of Aberdeen.

Suk-Jun Kim studied theology at Yonsei university, South Korea and Recording Engineering at OIART (Ontario Institute of Audio and Recording Technology). He earned a master’s degree in Music Technology in Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in composition at the University of Florida. Currently, Kim is senior lecturer in Electroacoustic Music and Sound Art at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland and Director of PG Research in the School of Language, Literature, Music, and Visual Culture. As a composer and sound artist, Kim has won several international composition awards and attracted commissions. Kim was a DAAD resident composer between 2009-2010. Kim has written two books - Hasla and Humming – and is now working on new project on sound studies, including one that examines key aspects that have established the audience in the 21st century.

We often hear composers and sound artists say “Listen!” with an apostrophe. But what else would it mean to listen, if it is not an act of lending our ears to something that is not our own? In this talk, Suk-Jun Kim focusses on three incidents in which we lend our ears for listening, which have been explored in his recent book, Humming: John Cage with his Lecture on Nothing, A King from Italo Calvino’s short story, A King Listens, and humming, a vocalic act closest to being mute, or silence.

20/11/20 - Modelling the perception of emotion and meaning in music using probability theory - Professor Renee Timmers, The University of Sheffield.

"Perception of emotion and meaning in music is to a large extent probabilistic rather  than deterministic. Certain properties of music may increase the likelihood that a  particular emotion is perceived over another or a particular imagery or association  is evoked. What emotion or imagery is perceived also depends on contextual factors such as the apriori probability of emotions, listeners’ sensitivities and biases, 
and the distinctives of the properties within the musical context. In this presentation,  I will explore the use of Bayes’ rule to model the perception of emotion and meaning, and to capture the influence of these contextually shaping factors.

Considering emotion perception, according to Bayes’ rule, the posterior probability of perceiving an emotion given a musical property M is equal to the likelihood of the  observation of the musical property if the hypothesis of that emotion was true, times  the prior probability of that emotion (in the context of competing emotions). To  develop this method, measures of prior probability of emotions are required as well 
as probability estimates of musical properties in emotional expressions. Analogously, the posterior probability of multimodal imagery given musical property M is equal to the likelihood of that musical property in the context of the hypothesised multimodal phenomenon, additionally taking into account the prior probability of the phenomenon and the frequency of occurrence of the musical property across multimodal phenomena. Finally, probability calculations can be used to examine relationships between emotion and meaning in music: what is the posterior probability of an emotion given a multimodal association or vice versa what is the probability of a given multimodal imagery given an emotion? 

Data from existing research articles are used to get a proof of concept of these applications of Bayes’ rule to model perception of emotion and meaning in music. Future directions for research are discussed as well as benefits and limitations of the adoption of a Bayesian approach to music cognition."

4/12/20 - The secret inner life of the piano: Cosmologies for piano and 3D electronics - Dr Aaron Einbond, City University London


How does a listener know immediately when she or he walks into a room with a live grand piano instead of a recording? One reason is the complex interactions between the piano sound and the space that surrounds it. Artificial Intelligence (AI) research is ubiquitous, yet often ignores the spatial presence of the live instrument and performer. Yet research in the field of music perception points to the essential role of situated or embodied cognition our listening experience. My composition Cosmologies for piano and three-dimensional electronics seeks to place the embodied presence of the instrument and its performer at the centre, using machine learning of audio features to decipher the intricate interdependencies of timbre and space that bring an instrument to life. The results explode the space inside the piano out to the space of the concert hall, creating a virtual reality (VR) environment for the ears, and situating the listener inside the instrument to experience its secret inner life.

Speaker's bio:

Aaron Einbond’s work explores the intersection of instrumental music, field recording, sound installation, and interactive technology. He released portrait album Without Words with Ensemble Dal Niente on Carrier Records and Cities with Yarn/Wire and Matilde Meireles on multi.modal/NMC Recordings. His awards include a Giga-Hertz Förderpreis, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and artistic research residencies at IRCAM and ZKM. He teaches music composition, sound, and technology at City, University of London.

29/1/21 - On the Singing Hologram: Miku, Love and Labour - Professor Nick Prior, University of Edinburgh

The advent of the performing hologram opens up significant questionsaround the fate of “liveness” in the digital age, blurring if not collapsing distinctions between absence/presence, live/real, original/copy as well
as transforming well-worn ideas such as authenticity. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in Japan and the UK, this talk explores the case of virtual idol, Hatsune Miku, originally a marketing mascot for voice synthesis software but who now tours globally and is a representative agent of a new breed of virtual performers. As well as introducing the Miku media model – a relatively flat media ecology where fans are also Miku producers – the talk will offer some speculative thoughts on how a Miku performance “works” as an assemblage of love, labour and socio-technical affordances. Who or what is performing, how is liveness managed when the performer is pure code, and what does this tell us about relations between live music, participatory cultures and virtuality?

5/3/21 - 'Getting it right’. Classical music and class in England: Dr Anna Bull, University of Portsmouth 

In this talk, I draw on my recently published book, ‘Class, Control, and Classical Music’ (Oxford University Press, 2019), to discuss why, in the UK, classical music remains predominantly played by white middle-class people. I draw on data from an ethnographic study with young people playing in classical music ensembles in the south of England to explain how the inclusions and exclusions that are visible today were set up historically in the establishment of music education institutions in the late Victorian period. The link between class and classical music is also apparent in the social relations of classical music pedagogy, such as what I am calling a ‘pedagogy of correction’. These social relations are not, I argue, separate from the music itself, but are in part formed by the demands of classical music’s distinctive aesthetic, repertoire, and instruments. These demands create an aesthetic ideal of ‘getting it right’. This means that in order to change the demographic patterns of who plays classical music, the aesthetic itself will need to change.

Speakers Bio:

Dr Anna Bull is a Senior Lecturer in sociology at the University of Portsmouth. Her research interests include class and gender inequalities in classical music education; and staff sexual misconduct in higher education. Anna has published in leading sociology and music education journals and her monograph Class, Control, and Classical music, looking at the culture of classical music among young middle class classical musicians in the south of England, was published in 2019 by Oxford University Press, and in 2020 was joint winner of the Philip Abrams Memorial Prize from the British Sociological Association. Anna is also a director of The 1752 Group (, a research and campaigning organisation working to address staff sexual misconduct in higher education.

19/3/21 -  Transgressive Trad: Alternatives to Heteronormativity in Traditional Irish Song - Dr Lillis Ó Laoire 

Lillis Ó Laoire is Professor of Irish Language and Folklore at NUI Galway. He has published on the song traditions of Tory Island and with Sean Williams an award winning biography of Joe Heaney. He is a noted performer being awarde TG4 traditional singer of the year in 2020.

Sean-nós song is regarded by many as the hegemonic core of Irish Traditional Music (ITM). Central to sean-nós are themes of erotic love and loss. Irish Traditional Music is conventionally regarded as conservative in outlook, reinforcing heteronormative binary gender identities, thus creating a challenging environment for those identifying as LGBTQ+, who also enjoy performing or consuming traditional music. This paper will briefly outline the rationale of such a conservative outlook within a cultural nationalistic framework, before exploring some transgressive examples, showing that 'tradition' and 'heternormativity' are not necessarily synonymous. This aims to open a space for the recognition and validation of non-binary histories within ITM, and especially within the song tradition.

23/4/21 - The social impact of making music (SIMM) in Colombia: Meanings and practices in a postcolonial Latin American nation - Juan Sebastián Rojas E., PhD

Research and public discourse on the social impact of making music (recently, also called SIMM) have become more visible in the last ten years, accounting for a diversity of situations, in which music practices play an active role in processes of social transformation, at different levels. Juan Rojas will provide a perspective on the current landscape of SIMM activities in Colombia, as studied within the framework of the larger international research project, “Music for Social Impact: Practitioners’ work, context, and beliefs.” The project aims at comparing between the findings in four countries—Colombia, Belgium, Finland, and the UK—but the talk will revolve around the organizational, cultural, and political aspects that have shaped the Colombian SIMM field, with occasional comparisons, for context. In Colombia, SIMM activities seem to be notoriously divided between small grassroots organizations and large national level institutional programs, both focusing on the attention of vulnerable and marginalized populations, mostly people in conditions of poverty or victims of the armed conflict. This divide is a partial result of the implementation of neoliberal policies of cultural decentralization since the 1990s, which restricted regional budgets, while privileging national-level programs focused on Western classical musics. While this model caters for thousands of people, local SIMM activities, which include a wide range of culturally diverse musical practices, are mostly unattended in a nation that publicly praises its cultural diversity. Is this problematic? This presentation explores the Colombian case from a cross-cultural perspective, aiming at future understandings of the larger SIMM field.

Speakers Bio

Juan S. Rojas is a Colombian ethnomusicologist, musician, and anthropologist. He received his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Indiana University Bloomington, in 2018, and is an experienced researcher and performer of diverse Afro-Diasporic musical expressions, specializing in traditional and popular Colombian musics. His dissertation, titled “Drums, Raps, and Song-Games: An Ethnography of Music and Peacebuilding in the Afro-Colombian Town of Libertad,” explores the potential contributions of local musics to processes of conflict transformation. He teaches ensemble courses and graduate seminars at University of El Bosque and University of Los Andes, in Colombia and is a member of the research team at Sonidos Enraizados Cultural Corporation. He currently holds a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the project “Music for Social Impact: Practitioners’ work, context, and beliefs,” hosted by Guildhall School of Music and Drama, as part of his work at the UNESCO Chair in Education, Arts, and a Culture of Peace, at Juan N. Corpas University Foundation (Colombia).

7/5/21 - Musical life in a mid-eighteenth-century prison - Dr Cheryll Duncan, RNCM

Lewis Granom’s Plain and easy instructions for playing on the German flute is significant in being the earliest work on the pedagogy of the instrument by a named English author. Legal records recently discovered in The National Archives reveal that the treatise had an extraordinary genesis, being largely the product of lessons given by Granom to its dedicatee, John Bourke, a wealthy Irish landowner who was incarcerated for debt in the King’s Bench Prison at the time. The litigation that followed the breakdown of their friendship sheds light on a range of matters, including the patron/composer relationship, their musical tastes and views regarding Handel’s posthumous reputation, the sources used to compile the Instructions, the cost of music lessons, copying and other related expenses, and the cultural and social life of one of London’s more salubrious gaols.

Speakers Bio

Cheryll Duncan is a Senior Lecturer in Music at the RNCM. Her research investigates professional music culture in Britain during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with a particular focus on records of the equity and common-law courts. She has published several articles in leading musicological journals, and contributed a chapter to Geminiani Studies (ed. C. Hogwood). Her monograph on the violinist and composer Felice Giardini was published in 2020.

21/5/21 - Composing a Symphonist: Florence Price and the Hand of Black Women’s Fellowship - Samantha Edge, Lord Crewe Junior Research Fellow in Music, University of Oxford.

Florence Price (1887–1953) is often described as the first African American woman to achieve national and international success as a composer. However, this deserved accolade tends to exceptionalize her achievements as a female composer of African descent and thus to obscure or negate the rich context in which she worked. “Composing a Symphonist: Florence Price and the Hand of Black Women’s Fellowship” resituates Price in the dynamic cultural movement of the Black Chicago Renaissance and recognizes how a number of African American women played diverse and crucial roles within it. I illuminate Price’s Chicago, in which a female-led community shaped an American art music that uplifted black musical idioms. Positioning Price’s transition from Little Rock, Arkansas, against the backdrop of the Great Migration, the unfolding narrative explores the first six years in which she lived in Chicago (1927–1933); it delves into the community that awaited her and the particular influence of Nora Douglas Holt, Estella Conway Bonds, and Maude Roberts George in her ascent to become the first nationally-recognized black female symphonist. The result is a geographical and socio-cultural mapping of Price’s Chicago that reveals the clasped hand of black women’s fellowship.

Speakers Bio

Dr. Samantha Edge is the Lord Crewe Junior Research Fellow in Music at Lincoln College, University of Oxford. She is a leading interpreter and scholar of the African American composer Florence B. Price. She received the Society for American Music’s Eileen Southern Fellowship (2019) and a Newberry Library Short-Term Residential Fellowship (2019) for her work on women's contributions to concert life in interwar Chicago. She has written for American Music, Women and Music, and the Kapralova Society Journal. She released Four Women: Music for Solo Piano by Price, Kaprálová, Bilsland and Bonds with Wave Theory Records in 2018. Her latest album is called Fantasie Nègre: The Piano Music of Florence Price.

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28/5/21 - Three’s a crowd? Inviting Machine Learning into the collaborative space in a new work for contrabass clarinet, Ellen Sargen, Royal Northern College of Music.

This talk will focus on a recent collaboration between myself and Sarah Watts which used Machine Learning as a third collaborator in the creation of a new piece for contrabass clarinet and track. The aim of our research was to use Machine Learning as an objective observer of the idiosyncratic behaviours exhibited in either our performance or composition practices and to create a piece that documented these behaviours within it. We trained our chosen algorithm (PRiSM SampleRNN) on recordings of Sarah’s improvisations and of my compositions. This generated new audio samples, exhibiting behaviours that the algorithm had ‘learnt’ from our original data. These samples, representative of an artificial space between Sarah and I were used to create a new work: ‘You may own us but we are going to inform on you’. This piece aimed to give equal space to all collaborators. In this talk I will discuss the social and ethical concerns and benefits that arose from giving a non-human this position in the collaboration. 


Ellen Sargen is an alumna of The University of Sheffield (BMus, MA) and is currently studying for a PhD in Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music, supported by the North West Consortium DTP. Ellen’s research aims to explore musicians’ relationships with their instruments, bodies and repertoire as they are performed in long-term collaborative spaces, before documenting these (with opportunity for development and transformation) in new works composed with her collaborators.

Ellen is an associate composer of University of York Music Press. Her music has been performed across the UK and abroad where she has worked with ensembles including Ligeti Quartet, Ensemble 360, Psappha, Ensemble Recherche, NoteBene etc. Recent commissions include those from National Opera Studio, Classical Sheffield Festival and Music in the Round (2018-2020). Ellen is also a flautist and directs the all-abilities ensemble CoMA Manchester.

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