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Dr Ross Cole

Dr Ross Cole

Lecturer in 20th / 21st-Century Music


I am a cultural historian and critic interested in both avant-garde and vernacular music of the twentieth century, specifically in Britain and the US. I completed an AHRC-funded PhD in 2015 at King's College Cambridge with a thesis entitled ‘Ballads, Blues, and Alterity’, supervised by Nicholas Cook. Prior to this, I undertook an MA by Research in American experimentalism at the University of York and an undergraduate degree at Christ Church Oxford, where I was awarded a Gibbs Prize for the highest mark in music.

Grounded in critical theory, my interdisciplinary research currently focuses on popular culture of the black Atlantic, issues of representation in folksong, the aesthetics of minimalism (particularly the work of Steve Reich), avant-garde music of the 1960s, and the poetics of song.

I have overseen several final year dissertations at Cambridge and supervise for courses including 'Music & Musicology Today', ‘Popular Music & Society’, ‘Historical Studies ‘, ‘Blues Cultures’, and ‘Global Hip 
Hop & Postcolonial Perspectives’.

Departments and Institutes

King's College:

Key Publications


‘Book Review: Pioneers of the Blues Revival by Steve Cushing.’ Music & Letters (forthcoming).

‘“Sound Effects (O.K., Music)”: Steve Reich and the Visual Arts in New York City, 1966–68.’ Twentieth-Century Music, 11/2 (2014): 217–44.

‘“Fun, Yes, but Music?” Steve Reich and the San Francisco Bay Area’s Cultural Nexus, 1962–65.’ Journal of the Society for American Music, 6/3 (2012): 315–48.

Conference Papers & Talks:

‘“Noise With a Purpose”: Marxist Folksong, Social Realism, and the Representation of Manual Labour in Britain, 1958–61.' Working in Music: The Musicians’ Union, Musical Labour, and Musical Employment (forthcoming at the University of Glasgow).

'From San Francisco to New York: Steve Reich and the Visual Arts, 1964-69.' Fitzwilliam Museum Society, Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge, February 2015.

'"Anthems of the Industrial Age": Topic Records, Transatlantic Folk Discourse, and Political Kitsch.' One Century of Record Labels Conference: Mapping Places, Stories and Communities of Sound, Newcastle University, November 2014.

'"The Deepest Strains of Negro Music": Race, Mythology, and Folk Blues in the Early 1960s.' Culture, Identity, and Representation Interdisciplinary Conference, Edge Hill University, March 2014.

'Performing Difference: Race and Identity in Popular Music', Sutton Trust Summer School, Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge, August 2013.


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