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Christopher Corcoran


Chris Corcoran is a German-Irish composer and academic currently studying for a PhD in Music at the University of Cambridge. His PhD is divided between studying Composition with Richard Causton and Empirical Musicology with Dr Neta Spiro and Prof Nicholas Cook.

His compositions have been performed in the UK, Ireland, Germany, and Italy, and in 2015 he was a Composer-in-residence with the avant-garde and jazz music venue Club Inégales in London through Sound and Music’s ‘Embedded’ scheme. Based on his experience as an electric and classical guitarist, Chris’s compositions draw on blues, jazz, and rock influences, as well as on classical music and contemporary composition techniques. As a result, his composition studies with Richard Causton focus on how rhythmic intricacies and subtle mannerisms of groove-based music can be used to create new possibilities in contemporary concert music. He also writes music for film and theatre.

 Chris’s research with Dr Neta Spiro and Prof Nicholas Cook focuses on empirically evaluating factors in swing and groove performance. The aim is to develop a suitable notation that provides visual aids to unenculturated classical musicians for executing appropriate microrhythmic swing techniques and performer interactions. As part of this, the project aims to empirically test for this notation’s efficacy in communicating swing to unenulturated performers compared to traditional models of swing notation. Therefore Chris is interested in a wide range of research, including swing and groove techniques and performer interactions; microyrhythms and their empirical assessment; physiological and psychological responses to groove; notation learning vs. aural learning; jazz, popular, third-stream, and complexity music notation; issues in contemporary composition; music genre distinctions.

 Chris holds Masters degrees in instrumental composition from King’s College London (with Distinction) and in digital and studio composition from City University London. He gained a BA in English and Music from the National University of Ireland Maynooth with double First-Class Honours, winning the class prize for the highest final exam results in BA Music. During his time in Maynooth he was awarded an entry scholarship, shortlisted for the Irish Undergraduate Award essay competition, and accepted for two summer research assistantships—for one of which he is acknowledged on the international musicological database Francophone Music Criticism (Institute of Musical Research, University of London). Before coming to Cambridge, Chris spent several years working for publishers Schott Music and Oxford University Press, as well as for the Philharmonia Orchestra on their exhibition Universe of Sound at the Science Museum in London. From 2015 to 2016 he had the pleasure of working as Personal Assistant to composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

Chris is an active teacher and has taught both as an academic and as a guitar instructor. At Cambridge, he has taught supervisions on the undergraduate courses ‘Applied Tonal Skills: Orchestration’, ‘The Music Industry in the Digital Age’, and ‘Introduction to Music and Science’. He is due to supervise on the course ‘Exploring Music Psychology’ for the academic year 2017-18.

Research Interests

Contemporary music and composition techniques; empirical studies of jazz and groove music (microyrhythms, physiological/psychological responses, techniques, performer interactions); notation learning vs. aural learning; jazz, popular, third-stream, and complexity music notation; music genre distinctions.