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Christopher Corcoran

Christopher Corcoran

PhD student

MA, MMus, BA


Chris Corcoran is a German-Irish composer and researcher completing a PhD in Music at the University of Cambridge. His PhD is divided between studying empirical music psychology with Dr Neta Spiro (formerly Prof Nicholas Cook) and composition with composer Richard Causton. He is currently a visiting researcher at the Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen.


Chris’s research with Dr Neta Spiro experimentally investigates questions of cognition in music psychology, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. His thesis explores how enculturation shapes music cognition and action, using the concrete example of how classical musician’s deal with the concept of groove or swing. It explores modes of music learning (by ear or by notation), influences of different notation styles on rhythmic behaviour, empirical assessments of swing and groove by jazz listeners, and microrhythmic aspects of swing and groove.

As a result, Chris’s research touches on a wide range of topics, including: Notation-based learning vs. aural learning; cognitive factors in sight-reading and score-dependency; issues in internal representation of music; aural feedback and pitch-to-pace mapping in instrumental performance; cognition of swing and groove; swing and groove techniques and associated performer interactions; empirical assessment of microrhythms; issues in jazz, popular, third-stream, and contemporary classical music notation.


Chris is an active composer, with performances and workshops across Europe, among others with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, leaders of the Irish National Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Lontano, Ensemble Plus-Minus, and cellist Matthew Barley. 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 guitarist, his compositions blend rhythms from jazz/popular music with contemporary classical composition techniques. His studies with Richard Causton focus on the application of groove in contemporary concert music. He also writes music for film, theatre, and audio-visual media, and plays guitar in various bands.


Before coming to Cambridge, Chris spent several years working in London’s music industry, including for publishers Schott Music, Oxford University Press, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and as personal assistant to composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

Chris holds an MMus (with Distinction) from King’s College London in contemporary instrumental composition, as well as an MA from City University London in composing with digital and studio resources. He gained a BA in English and Music from NUI Maynooth with double First-Class Honours, winning the class prize in BA Music. He is acknowledged for his work as a research assistant on the international musicological online database Francophone Music Criticism (Institute of Musical Research, University of London).

Teaching & Presentations

At Cambridge, hris has taught as supervisor on the undergraduate courses: ‘Orchestration’, ‘The Music Industry in the Digital Age’, ‘Introduction to Music and Science’, and 'Exploring Music Psychology'. He has presented at various institutions and numerous conferences. His review of the international conference SysMus 2017 (with Emma Allingham) was published in the SAGE journal Music and Science.


Research Interests

Cognitive issues in notation-based vs. aural music learning; music reading and score-dependency; internal representations of music; empirical studies of jazz and groove music (cognition, microyrhythms, physiological responses, techniques, performer interactions); notation of jazz, popular, third-stream, and complexity music; contemporary and third-stream/crossover composition.