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Dr David Trippett

Dr David Trippett

Senior University Lecturer

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 positions will be advertised in due course.

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.


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:

  • “Exercising Musical Minds: Music and Phrenology in London, ca. 1830,” 19th-Century Music 39 (2015), 99-124
  •  “Facing Reality: where Media do not Mix” Cambridge Opera Journal 26 (2014), 41-64
  • “Sensations of Listening in Helmholtz’s Laboratory” [review article], Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 48 (2014): 124-32
  •  “’Bayreuth in Miniature’: Wagner and the Melodramatic Voice,” Musical Quarterly 95/1 (2012): 71-138
  • Lohengrin at the Weimar Hoftheater: the Politics of a Premiere,” Journal of the American Liszt Society (2011): 135-58
  • “Wagner Studies and the ‘Parallactic Drift’” [review article], Cambridge Opera Journal 22 (2011): 235-55
  •  “The Composer’s Rainbow: Rudolf Kolisch and the limits of Rationalization,” Musiktheorie 3 (2009): 228-37
  • Après une lecture de Liszt: Virtuosity and Werktreue in the ‘Dante’ Sonata,” 19th-Century Music 32 (2008): 52-93
  • “Composing Time: Zeno’s Arrow, Hindemith’s Erinnerung, and Satie’s Instantanéisme,Journal of Musicology 24 (2007): 522-580

Book chapters:

  • “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 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 Scientiae, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, Cambridge Opera Journal, The Wagner Journal, Notes



Other Publications

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: