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Faculty of Music

Dr David  Trippett


Professor of Music
Director of Studies in Music, Christ's College
Takes PhD students


I am a musicologist and cultural historian. Before coming to Cambridge, I taught at the Universities of Bristol, 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 draws to a close in 2021, and has hosted four postdoctoral scholars--Edward Gillin, Melle Kromhaut, Melissa van Drie and Stephanie Probst--since 2016. My monograph, on the agon of idealist and physicalist conceptions of sound, is forthcoming.

Alongside this, I recently completed a critical edition and an orchestrated performing edition of Franz Liszt's Italian opera, Sardanapalo. This received its world premiere in August 2018, and a recording was released in 2019 to critical acclaim.

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, a Deems Taylor Award of the American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers, and a Philip Leverhulme Prize in History.

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



Key publications: 

Key publications


  • Wagner in Context, ed. David Trippett (Cambridge University Press, 2021)


Journal editor:




Journal articles:


Book chapters:

  • "Liszt and Wagner", Liszt in Context, ed. Joanne Cormac (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021), 38-47.
  • "Human Sounds and the Obscenity of Information," Rethinking Music through Science and Technology Studies, ed. Christophe Levaux and Antoine Hennion (Routledge, 2021), in production
  • “Beyond the Schröder-Devrient Myth: Wagnerian Melody as Praxis,” Worttonmelodie: Die Herausforderung, Wagner zu singen, ed. Isolde Schmidt-Reiter (Vienna: Europaische Musiktheater-Akademie 2020), 119-56
  • “Wagner’s Sublime Effects: Bells, Cannon and the Perception of Heavy Sound,” Music and the Sonorous Sublime in European Culture, 1680-1880, ed. Sarah Hibberd and Miranda Stanyon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), 245-72
  • “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, 2020), 269-96
  • "The Laboratory and the Stage" (co-authored with Benjamin Walton), in Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination, ed. Trippett and Walton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 1-18.
  • “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, 2019), 227-48
  • "From distant sounds to aeolian ears: Ernst Kapp’s auditory prosthesis” Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination, ed. David Trippett and Benjamin Walton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 134-54
  • Melody,” Oxford Handbook of Critical Concepts in Music Theory, ed. Alexander Rehding and Steve Rings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 401-40
  • “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



  • Franz Liszt: Sardanapalo - Mazeppa, Kirill Karabits (cond.), Joyce El-Khoury (sop), Airam Hernández (ten), Oleksandr Pushniak (bass), Staatskapelle Weimar (Audite 97.764)


Reviews & Review Articles:

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



Other publications: 

Articles for The Conversation on transhumanism and sense augmentation (2018), and unfinished music (2019)

Dictionary entries for Lexikon: Schriften zur Musik, New Grove Dictionary of American Music, Cambridge Wagner Encyclopedia 

CD / DVD liner notes for Decca and Audite

Media: Interviews for Proms Extra (BBC R3), BBC R4 on Wagner and beauty, BBC Wales, Deutschlandfunk Kultur, ARD, Deutsche Welle, Südwestrundfunk etc.