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Performance Studies

With its extraordinarily diverse environment of practical music-making at all levels, Cambridge is a natural centre of performance studies. The Faculty has long been associated with historical performance practice. This is exemplified, for example, by Andrew Jones‘s work on Handel, which ranges from source studies through editing to operatic performances with the Cambridge Handel Opera Group and includes much consultancy work with professional performers, and by Martin Ennis’s busy professional schedule as a continuo player. Jones and Ennis jointly direct the Cambridge University Collegium Musicum, a Baroque orchestra playing on period-style instruments. And among our Affiliate Lecturers, Tim Brown, David Skinner, Geoffrey Webber, and Edward Wickham are all highly active performers of music across a wide historical spectrum.

There are of course multiple points of intersection between historical musicology and the broad field of performance studies. Examples range from Susan Rankin‘s research into how notation first developed out of oral performance and improvisation to Stefano Castelvecchi‘s editions of nineteenth-century opera and Ben Walton‘s study of Rossini reception. And in quite different contexts, Sam Barrett‘s work on Miles Davis and Ruth Davis‘s extensive studies of North African and Middle Eastern traditions are concerned with music that exists primarily as performance.

But this field developed a new dimension at Cambridge with the establishment in 2009 of the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice (CMPCP), which is studying the nature of creativity in performance through a series of large-scale collaborative projects involving a range of musical genres. Directed by John Rink and the successor to the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM), which was directed by Nicholas Cook, CMPCP hosts research ranging from Rink’s work on Chopin source studies and nineteenth-century performance practice to Cook’s attempt to bring together interdisciplinary performance theory and computational analysis of recordings. Such empirical work in turns links with the research of Ian Cross and his co-workers in the Centre for Music and Science, which draws on approaches ranging from experimental psychology to evolutionary theory and neurobiology. In this way the understanding of music not just in, but as, performance links the Faculty’s work across an extremely broad range of musical repertoires and methodological approaches.