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Faculty of Music

 James  Gabrillo


PhD student


James Gabrillo is a PhD candidate at Peterhouse and supervised by Nicholas Cook, Matthew Machin-Autenrieth, and David Trippett. Funded by a Cambridge International Scholarship, his dissertation examines issues of class and taste emerging from the mass musical culture of the Philippines from the 1990s until today. His research interests include sound studies, digital culture, Western music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and film and television studies.

His recent publications include an exploration of campaign songs in Philippine presidential elections (for Musical Quarterly) and an analysis of a six-hour performance inside an art gallery by rapper Jay Z (for the Journal of Popular Music Studies). An article examining the influence of Western psychedelic rock on Philippine music is forthcoming in Rock Music Studies

James has presented his research at the conferences of the American Musicological Society, Society for Ethnomusicology, Society for American Music, International Musicological Society, Royal Musical Association, British Forum for Ethnomusicology, and International Association for the Study of Popular Music. He has also presented papers at the Music and Moving Image Conference and the International Hip-Hop Studies Conference. In 2016, he represented Cambridge at the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations. 

His work has been supported by grants from the AMS, IASPM, Music & Letters, Santander Mobility Grant, Bruckmann Fund, Greta Burkill Fund, Peter Stores Studentship, School of Arts and Humanities Research Development Fund, Peterhouse, and Faculty of Music.

James has taught for undergraduate courses on ethnomusicology, popular music of the Black Atlantic, and 1960s countercultures. He has also supervised several undergraduate dissertations on pop music, music videos, and musical theatre.

He recently co-convened (with Nathaniel Zetter) the interdisciplinary conference “Excavating Media: Devices, Processes, Apparatuses” and served as administrator for the recent British Forum for Ethnomusicology One-Day Conference, “Listening to Difference: Music and Multiculturalism”.

Prior to coming to Cambridge, James was a full-time journalist and reported from cities including Abu Dhabi, New York, Tokyo, Berlin, and Sydney. As a freelance writer, his recent coverage focused on the Philippine drug war and the United States presidential elections. His work has been published in The National, Al Jazeera, Rolling Stone Italia, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Rogue Magazine.





Key publications: 

2018, “The Sound and Spectacle of Philippine Presidential Elections, 1953-1998,” Musical Quarterly.

2017, “The Rapper Is Present: Sound Art, Liveness, and the Negotiation of Identity in Jay Z’s ‘Picasso Baby’,” Journal of Popular Music Studies, 29/1 (March).

forthcoming, “Rak en Rol: The Influence of Psychedelic Culture in Philippine Music,” Rock Music Studies, special issue on Global Psychedelia and Counterculture.