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Faculty of Music



The weekly Colloquia present engaging and thought-provoking research papers covering an eclectic mix of topics and musical styles. They provide stimulating opportunities to hear and discuss the latest research by distinguished scholars and musicians from the UK and abroad.

Colloquia are held on Wednesday evenings in the Recital Room (unless otherwise specified) of the Faculty of Music, West Road. Please arrive at 4.50pm for a 5.00pm start. Papers are followed by discussion and a drinks reception with the speaker. Admission is free and open to the general public. All are welcome to attend. 

Please note Colloquia are currently being held online, please email for any enquiries.

Should you be unable to attend or wish to view one of the sesions again, many of our Colloquia are available via the Faculty's YouTube channel.

Colloquia Contacts

Ekaterina Pavlova -

Eirini Diamantouli -

David Cotter -


28 April 2021

Professor Catherine Bradley 


Fragments from a Medieval Motet Manuscript in Stockholm: Musical Notation and Lost Polyphony around 1300 


This paper presents and analyses previously unstudied fragments from a medieval motet book, probably produced in France around 1300 and now preserved in the Stockholm Riksarkivet. The fragments contain traces of eight compositions, four of which are unknown from any other surviving sources. One of these unique motets—Dies ista celebris/Hec est Dies triumphalis/MANERE, which is almost complete—notates portions of its underlying plainchant tenor quotation in red ink. I suggest, not only that this motet may represent the earliest extant instance of red notation, but also that red ink is employed here to indicate octave transposition. This is a usage described in the fourteenth-century Ars vetus et nova treatise of Philippe de Vitry but of which no examples have hitherto been known in practice.  

This paper demonstrates that the Stockholm fragments came from a type of motet collection that is not directly comparable with any other known source in terms of its contents and transmission, and which exhibits significant cross-fertilization between thirteenth- and fourteenth-century practices of composition, which are often studied in isolation. I make the case for an apparent gap in evidence for motet composition and circulation at the turn of the thirteenth century into the fourteenth, exploring the possible explanations for and ramifications of a lacuna in surviving sources around 1300 and proffering new insights into what has been lost. 


5 May  2021

Professor Susan Rankin, University of Cambridge  


Music as Drama (in the Twelfth Century) 

Abstract: Throughout the long Middle Ages, from the early tenth century until well into the sixteenth, plays sung in Latin and in the voices of biblical persons or figures in saints’ histories, were performed in many parts of Europe. These dramatic religious compositions (‘plays’, ‘ceremonies’, ‘dramas’) are recorded in many forms: from short to long; from liturgically embedded to entirely separate from set ritual; from expression entirely in prose to entirely in verse, or using a mixture of the two; from those expressed in relatively common forms of text and music to entirely unique examples. The total number of such plays – dominated by short Easter ceremonies – must be somewhere near to 1200, and all were sung throughout. 

What then did music bring to this form of religious expression? In this paper I shall explore the variety of musical techniques used in two plays recorded in a late twelfth-century French manuscript (Orléans Bibliothèque municipale 201, the so-called ‘Fleury Playbook’). While single melodic lines might seem to modern European musicians to offer only limited possibilities of expression, and thus of dramatic manipulation, these examples firmly counter such assumptions. The centrality of music in liturgical ritual provides a foundation for musical references, while techniques already developed in liturgical chant can be deployed to shape the perceptions of participants (‘actors’ and ‘watchers’) at specific moments. Music is thereby revealed as a critical tool in the design of medieval sung drama. 


12 May 2021

Dr Elaine Kelly, University of Edinburgh  


Musical Transfers Across the Cold War Peripheries: From the GDR to Cambodia and Back 

Abstract: In 1964 the GDR and Cambodia signed a cultural agreement. While the East German government hoped that this might expedite full diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Cambodian government, led by Norodom Sihanouk, was keen to draw on the GDR’s musical resources to assist with the development of a music faculty at the new Université royale des beaux-arts (URBA) in Phnom Penh. At Sihanouk’s behest, the GDR sent music teachers to the URBA to establish a programme in strings, piano, and western music theory as well as a new chamber orchestra, and provided scholarships for a number of Cambodian students to further their music education at the conservatories in Weimar, Dresden, and East Berlin.  

This exchange illuminates the socialist model of collaborative assistance that was offered by Soviet Bloc states to postcolonial countries. It also offers an opportunity for examining processes of musical transfer between socialist and postcolonial states. In this presentation, I will draw on archival materials, interviews, and audio-visual artefacts to piece together the musical relations that evolved between the GDR and Cambodia, and to explore the bilateral translations and hybridizations of musical cultures that resulted. The East German experts took their lead from the Cambodian government, who sought not to import unmediated forms of western culture but to create new Cambodian art by combining western modernity with Khmer culture. And this aspiration found an inadvertent sonic realization in Weimar with the band Bayon, an experimental collaboration by Cambodian, Cuban, and East German music and architecture students that drew together the influences of, among other things, Khmer and Latin-American traditions, the blues, and J.S. Bach. 

19 May 2021


Dr Mine Doğantan-Dack, University of Cambridge  


Where is the performer? 

Abstract: My aim in this presentation is to explore the discursive construction and representation of “the music performer” in music scholarship. The rise of music performance studies, and artistic research, created many opportunities for the inclusion of the lived experiences of performers as valid sources of scholarly knowledge, and for the recognition of auto-ethnographical methods as legitimate research tools in the discipline during the twenty-first century. An important consequence of these developments has been the emergence of what might be termed “authentic” discursive representations of performing musicians. Nevertheless, certain hardened components of the textualist paradigm, which dominated musicological thought throughout the twentieth century and removed all traces of the creative agency of performers, still seep into scholarly discourses, particularly in the area of analysis and performance. If performing musicians disappeared within twentieth-century music studies, they are currently being rendered absent presences in some areas of music performance studies. By considering some examples from the analysis-and-performance literature, I will argue that the music performer is still not sufficiently embodied and affective in scholarly discourses to be fully recognized as creative agents in their own right in the discipline. 


26 May 2021

Professor Joy Haslam Calico, Vanderbilt University  


Spatial Dramaturgy and Sound Design in Recent Opera  


In his 2019 article on John Adams’s Doctor Atomic scholar Ryan Ebright notes that sound design has become an essential dimension of much opera composed since the 1980s, yet it remains understudied and undertheorized in opera studies. Inspired by his clarion call, this talk proposes thinking about sound design as a means of spatial dramaturgy.  The term comes from Luigi Nono, who honed his notions of theatrical sound-space while composing electroacoustic concert music in the 1960s, using the projection, mobility, and localization of amplified sound (spatialization). He then adapted those techniques for a storytelling role in his stage works that he called spatial dramaturgy. While Ebright’s research shows that the Doctor Atomic team used sound design for purposes of sonic verisimilitude, I am most interested in the ways in which it can be used to manipulate experiences of space in a theater by distorting perceptions of distance and orientation.  I will focus on the uses of amplified breath and misdirected projection in recent works with particular attention to sound design in Chaya Czernowin’s Infinite Now (2017), which she developed with Carlo Laurenzi at IRCAM.


2nd June  

Professor Georgina Born, University of Oxford  

Title TBC


9 June 2021

Professor Nicholas Cook, University of Cambridge  


What music can tell us about politics 

Abstract: A year or two ago I was commissioned to write a short book for Polity’s Why it Matters series, and from the start I intended to devote a lot of attention to the social and relational dimensions of music, including such ‘applied’ areas of musicking as music therapy and other practices through which music contributes to both individual and collective wellbeing. I am putting ‘applied’ in inverted commas because the increasingly moribund yet still endemic aesthetics of autonomy brings with it the idea that such uses of music are incidental to its inherent value and as such beneath the notice of aestheticians and musicologists. I disagree. It is in the nature of music that it is doing social and relational work as much in the concert hall, jazz club or stadium as in the therapy studio. All musicking is relational practice.

But recently I have been thinking about building a more explicitly political slant into the book. Since 2016 large parts of the anglophone word have been caught up in a series of crises that make it ever harder to detach music from wider social and political concerns. So I feel a book with the title Music: Why It Matters needs to ask what music can tell us about often pernicious ideologies and values that underlie populism and post-truth politics. Music can serve the ends of ideology by naturalising it, making it appear as if specific, culturally conditioned ways of framing the world simply represent the way the world is. But music is equally capable of revealing ideology and mobilising tools for resisting it, and I discuss this in relation to such issues as Brexit, racial and other forms of inequity, the administered society, and the Covid pandemic.

I see this as an experiment, and I am hoping for responses that will encourage, discourage, or point out elephant traps in such an approach. 


16 June 2021

Dr Hector Sequera, Durham University  

Co-presenter: Dr Reinier de Valk  


Evaluating Reconstructions of William Byrd’s Consort Songs using Machine-Learning Models

Abstract: In this presentation we will discuss our research into evaluating traditional (musicological) reconstructions of 16th-century polyphony with the help of techniques from the field of machine learning (a subfield of artificial intelligence). More specifically, we use William Byrd’s Consort Songs (41 published) in order to assess the viability of reconstructing 15 Consort Songs that survive only as lute tablatures in one of the Edward Paston lute books (GB-Lbl Add. MS 31992). The process involves feeding a machine-learning model a curated corpus (dataset) of Byrd’s Consort Songs in order for it to learn about, and subsequently reconstruct, the polyphonic structure. The computer-generated reconstructions can then be used to evaluate those created by scholars. This method allows us to tackle sources that present additional challenges, e.g. music in different notations (tablature) or music that is deemed too incomplete for reconstruction (e.g. too many parts are missing). By combining specialist knowledge and computational methods, we hope to raise the threshold of what can be reconstructed and still be called music by William Byrd.

Hector Sequera is a lecturer in music performance at Durham University. His main interest is the music and culture of the long Renaissance including musicians’ networks, source studies, editorial work, performance practice issues, reconstruction work, and more recently, empirical research. He is currently working on intertextuality issues in early 17th-Century French lute sources, as well as starting a collaborative study into music performance anxiety and memory. Hector also performs across Europe and the Americas on chordophones of the lute family, and is Artistic Director for the Records of Early English Drama (North East) where he contributes as a researcher and performer.

Reinier de Valk’s research focuses on processing, analysing, and transcribing unstructured symbolic music representations (specifically, lute tablature) using computational models, as well as on various aspects surrounding the topic of digital data, such as formats, encoding, semantic linking, and archiving. He has worked as an information scientist at Dutch research data centre DANS, as a machine learning researcher at Jukedeck, a London-based startup focusing on music generation using artificial intelligence methods, and he currently works as a machine learning researcher at Moodagent, a Copenhagen-based music recommendation service. He is a visiting research fellow at the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London, and co-chair of the international MEI Tablature Interest Group.