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Dr David Trippett

Dr David Trippett

Senior University Lecturer

Director of Studies, Christ's College

Office Phone: 01223 762030


I am a musicologist and cultural historian. Before coming to Cambridge, I was Reader at the University of Bristol, and have also taught at King’s College London and Cambridge itself.

My research focuses on nineteenth-century intellectual history, Richard Wagner, and the philosophy of technology. Other interests include Franz Liszt and post-Classical Weimar, performance theory and the grey area between improvisation and composition, as well as posthumanism and musical creativity in the digital age. I welcome applications from potential Ph.D. students in these areas.

Following an edited translation of Carl Stumpf’s The Origins of Music (OUP 2012), my first monograph, Wagner’s Melodies (CUP 2013), examines the cultural and scientific history of melodic theory in relation to Wagner's writings and music. Other publications include editions and translations, as well as research and review articles, and some media work.

In my research and teaching, I approach music and its cultures in the widest interdisciplinary sense, incorporating perspectives of cultural and intellectual history, music theory and the history of science, and as well as mediality and the philosophy of technology. 

My latest project, funded by an ERC Starting Grant, is entitled 'Sound and Materialism in the 19th Century.' This began in September 2015 and examines how a scientific-materialist conception of sound was formed alongside a dominant culture of romantic idealism. It will last five years, and three postdoctoral scholars--Edward Gillin, Melle Kromhaut, and Melissa van Drie--joined the project in 2016.

Alongside this, I am using a Philip Leverhulme Prize to support work on a monograph about music and virtuality. It views virtuality as the flipside of materialism, and examines the influence of cutting edge technologies on our relationship to music and sound within an environment, from HD simulcasts to prosthetic hearing.

Major prizes for research include the Lewis Lockwood Award and the Alfred Einstein Award of the American Musicological Society, the Bruno Nettl Prize of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Donald Tovey Memorial Prize of the University of Oxford, and a Deems Taylor Award of the American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

When time permits, I am active as a collaborative pianist, having performed in Germany, Italy, the UK, and on both coasts of the US.


Subject groups/Research projects

Music, Science, Technology:

(Historical Technologies of Sound)*

Ethnomusicology, Popular Music and Sound Studies:

(Historical Technologies of Sound)*

Nineteenth-Century Studies:

(German Cultural History, Aesthetics, Wagner, Liszt)*

Colleges, Departments and Institutes

Christ's College:

Key Publications

Key publications


  • Wagner’s Melodies: Aesthetics and Materialism in German Musical Identity (Cambridge University Press 2013), 448pp
  • Editor and translator of Carl Stumpf, The Origins of Music (Oxford University Press, 2012), 290pp

Journal editor:

  • co-editor with Anne Shreffler of Musiktheorie 3 (2009), special edition “Rudolf Kolisch in Amerika - Aufsätze und Dokumente” 288pp

Journal articles:

Book chapters:

  • “Jenseits der Schröder-Devrient Mythos: Wagnerische Melodie als Praxis,” Worttonmelodie der menschlichen Stimme. Die Herausforderung, Wagner zu singen, ed. Isolde Schmidt-Reiter (Vienna, 2019), forthcoming
  • “Digital Voices: Posthumanism and the Generation of Empathy,’” The Cambridge Companion to Music and Digital Culture, ed. Nicholas Cook, Monique Ingalls, and David Trippett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), forthcoming
  • "From distant sounds to aeolian ears: Ernst Kapp’s auditory prosthesis” Staging the Scientific Imagination in 19th-Century Opera, ed. David Trippett and Benjamin Walton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), forthcoming
  • “Wagner’s Ring in Operatic and Literary History,” The Cambridge Companion to Wagner’s ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen,’ ed. Mark Berry and Nicholas Vazsonyi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), forthcoming
  • “Melody,” Oxford Handbook of Critical Concepts in Music Theory, ed. Alexander Rehding and Steve Rings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), forthcoming
  • “Individuation as Worship: Wagner and Shakespeare,” in Great Shakespeareans: Berlioz, Verdi, Wagner, Britten, ed. Daniel Albright (London and New York: Continuum, 2012), 135-157
  • “Defending Wagner’s Italy,” The Legacy of Richard Wagner, ed. Luca Sala (Turnhaut: Brepols, 2012), 363-98
  • “Carl Stumpf: A Reluctant Revolutionary,” in The Origins of Music, ed. and trans. David Trippett (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 17-30
  •  “Letters to a Young Composer About Wagner,” introduction and translation of excerpts from Johann Christian Lobe's "Briefe über Wagner an einen jungen Komponisten," in Wagner and his World, ed. Thomas Grey (Princeton University Press, 2009), 269-310
  • “The Overture to Tannhäuser,” introduction, annotation, and edition of portions from Liszt's essay “Lohengrin et Tannhäuser de Richard Wagner” in Wagner and his World, ed. Thomas Grey (Princeton University Press, 2009), 251-68

Reviews & Review Articles

in  Musicae Sciential, Sounds Studies, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, Cambridge Opera Journal, The Wagner Journal, Notes



Other Publications

Article for The Conversation on transhumanism and sense augmentation

Dictionary entries for New Grove Dictionary of American Music, Cambridge Wagner Encyclopedia 

CD / DVD liner notes for Decca

Interview for BBC Radio 4 on Wagner and beauty: