Category Archives: Alumni

Debate on ‘Are we all Ethnomusicologists now?’, reports and responses

On Wednesday June 1st at City University, a public debate took place on the question ‘Are we all Ethnomusicologists now?’ Taking as a starting point Nicholas Cook’s essay ‘We Are All (Ethno)musicologists Now’, in The New (Ethno)musicologies, ed. Henry Stobart (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008), pp. 48-70), the issues were debated by Amanda Bayley (Bath Spa University)Tore Lind (University of Copenhagen), Laudan Nooshin (City University London), Ian Pace (City University London), and Michael Spitzer (University of Liverpool), and was chaired by Alexander Lingas (City University London).


the new (ethno)musicologies


The position statements provided by Nooshin and Pace have been placed online: Nooshin’s is here, and Pace’s is here. Pace is preparing a longer article on the subject, and both these protagonists may at some point respond more directly to the other’s arguments.

The debate was filmed, and this will be placed online presently. Here are two accounts/responses, from City MA Music student Rachel Cunniffe, and City graduate Ben Smith.


Rachel Cunniffe, Debate: ‘Are we all Ethnomusicologists Now?’

On Wednesday 1st June, as part of the music department’s year-long 40th anniversary celebrations and the City Summer Sounds Festival, the first of three public debates was held in the performance space. The motion was based upon the famous suggestion made by Nicholas Cook in 2008 that due to blurring boundaries between musicology and ethnomusicology, “we are all ethnomusicologists now.” The questioning of this assertion, accompanied by discussion of tensions which remain between the two disciplines to the present day led to an interesting and heated debate.

The event was chaired by Alexander Lingas (City University), and the panel was comprised of Amanda Bayley (Bath Spa University), Tore Lind (University of Copenhagen), Laudan Nooshin (City University), Ian Pace (City University) and Michael Spitzer (University of Liverpool). Taking to the microphone in alphabetical order, Amanda Bayley was the first speaker. She noted the importance of understanding music as a social creative practice, and the achievements of the ethnomusicological discipline in examining what music can tell us about the world through its interdisciplinary approach. Amanda also advocated Cook’s suggestion of an ‘intercultural musicology’ which would encompass a greater interaction between ethnomusicology and music history. Finally, drawing from her ethnographic study of a String Quartet rehearsal in 2011, Amanda noted how ethnographic approaches can also contribute to understanding the history of music and music pedagogy.

Tore Lind then spoke of the ways in which ethnographic results may come with a degree of unreliability, yet interaction with participants and gathering a range of views will undoubtedly provide greater insight to the topic in question. He also suggested that while he is ‘an accomplice’ in the construction of the musical realities he presents, this does not deem the work invalid or unreliable as musical knowledge is socially generated. Laudan Nooshin followed this with a discussion of the difficulties in defining ethnomusicology, its complex identity and history, and the exclusion of other sub-disciplines in music through the creation of this binary, such as music education or popular music studies. Laudan also presented some ethnographic work which had been undertaken for this debate; some participants felt the boundaries have blurred significantly though some considered prejudice and exclusion towards ethnomusicologists to remain.  She concluded by noting that many musicologists have been attracted to and utilised ethnomusicological approaches in their work, mentioned the increasing number of ethnomusicologists being hired in music education and the expanding role of ethnomusicology in the curriculum, and finally suggested that in place of criticism scholars of both disciplines should consider how elements of each discipline can enrich the other.

Next, Ian Pace discussed issues surrounding the ethnomusicology of Western Art Music, many of which will be expanded upon in a forthcoming article. He expressed concerns for the subsumation of musicology into other disciplines, as a result of the multi-disciplinary and sparsely ‘musical’ approaches of ethnomusicology. The lack of attention paid to the actual sound material in much ethnomusicological work, Ian argued, is also contributing to the deskilling of the profession and therefore questions whether the descriptive nature of this work has a place in high level scholarship. Ian also noted that ethnomusicology should not be devoid of critique for political reasons. Finally, Michael Spitzer asserted that Cook may have been optimistic in his statement, and claimed that musicology has come under attack for its ‘inadequate [analysis of] social mediation.’ To this he responded with the question, what’s wrong with formalism and the analysis of sound? Michael concluded by criticising the ‘zero-sum game’ which he claimed to still exist between ethnomusicology and musicology.

Presentations were followed by questions from the floor, which ignited much lively discussion. Passion and enthusiasm for the topic was clear, and one audience member fittingly concluded the evening by thanking the music department at City University for hosting a forum in which these issues can be discussed.


Ben Smith, ‘Are we all Ethnomusicologists now?’

In what was an interesting and lively evening, with a number of intriguing points brought up by the panel members, I would like to detail and comment upon the wider implications of three particular ideas which resonated strongly with me. These were: A defence of formalism from Michael Spitzer, and Ian Pace’s critique of what he called ‘musicology-without-ears’ and the implications of non-critical musicology towards Western Art Music and commercial pop music.


In bemoaning the fear of formalism within ethnomusicological work, Spitzer spoke convincingly about the importance of musical analysis, outside the consideration of social or cultural context. Bringing in some Pierre Schaeffer as to how certain modes of listening can move towards bracketing out real-world elements of music (that is, the music’s sign-content, so that we may consider the ‘inside of the sound’), he said how, if we wish to move closer to a deep understanding of musical content and musical structure in-and-of-itself, we obviously must consider the object of study on its own terms. Rather than making a case for or against the possibility of total musical autonomy (and the implications of this for musical scholarship) formal music analysis can be simply seen as one crucial element of a multi-faceted toolkit required to consider a musical work in its totality. The removal of formalist approaches to musical analysis does not realise any liberal vision of negating some out-of-date approach to ‘great works’, and the opening up of the musicological discipline to consider the music of the masses, but rather only achieves in bracketing out an invaluable musicological skill.

Linked to the worrying attitude to formalism Spitzer mentioned is the unquestioned assumption that an autonomous consideration of music is impossible. It is clear where the canonic figures of ethnomusicology stand on this matter (Pace quoted John Blacking and Bruno Nettl in his talk); and that music is utterly inseparable from culture has been taken as dogma by many later writers. This received wisdom towards musical autonomy has had a grave result for the amount and quality of musical considerations proper within ethnomusicology, resulting in what Pace categorized as ‘musicology-without-ears’.

Musical Multiculturalism

In his talk, Pace touched on a number of reasons as to the disappearance of critical thought and consideration of the music itself in certain ethnomusicological writings.  One possible reason given was that western, post-colonial guilt acts as an inhibitor to critical engagement (something that becomes more troublesome – not to mention redundant – when applied to non-colonial music). This misguided liberal notion creates differing intensities of critique, depending on whether the object studied is deemed ‘elitist’ (read: Western Art Music) or ‘ethnic’ (or popular). Scholars, increasingly aware of the play of social power relations, are all too worried of the implications of appearing ‘ivory towered’ and delivering proclamations against ‘low culture’ from on high. Although I would not want to remove a needed sensitivity from academic discourse, such liberal treatment can in fact serve to patronize the so-called minority culture being studied. It suggests some cultures should not be subject to the same scrutiny as others; that there can be no universals. The over-careful handling of other musical cultures and cultural practices does them, and their practitioners, a disservice.

Writers such as Kenin Malik, Amartya Sen, and Slavoj Žižek have pointed out how the kind of multicultural liberalism described above can not only be condescending, but also paradoxically aligned with right-wing thought. Malik writes that both ideologies similarly ‘see cultures, or civilizations, as homogenous entities.  Both insist on the crucial importance of cultural identity and on the preservation of such identity. Both perceive irresolvable conflicts arising from incommensurate values.’ Žižek has said the same, but frames it in another way: Political differences become cultural differences, not to be overcome or challenged, but simply ‘tolerated’.

Alongside post-colonial guilt (or the latent racism Malik and Žižek allude to) is, I believe, a sentimental primitivism. An interesting political example of this is the figure of the ‘crying Indian’ which gained prominence in the 1970s. Essentially rehashing Romantic notions of the ‘noble savage’, this hippy trope defined Native Americans as a symbol of a ‘pure’ lost humanism, mythically connected to and in harmony with the world. In fact, studies over the last few years have shown that widespread de-forestation and the hunting-to-extinction of various animals by early Native American tribes occurred on a scale that greatly exceeded the practices of the colonial settlers. Similar primitivism in ethnomusicological work is not hard to find (here is Steven Feld on his work with the Kaluli tribe of Papua New Guinea): ‘With characteristic patience, Jubi [Feld’s native helper] was imitating calls, behavior, and nesting. Suddenly something snapped: I asked a question and Jubi blurted back, “Listen – to you they are birds, to me they are voices in the forest.”’ This primitivist aspect of ethnography also contributes to the removal of proper musical consideration, as the music itself is romanticized as well as the people creating it. The musical object is firstly deemed untouchable, and further, any element of the ‘sound itself’ which provokes a response in us is deemed ineffable. In a kind of postmodern turn back towards romanticism, the articulation of ‘how’ music works is seen as ultimately impossible to understand, and if so, why bother trying?

Malik has written extensively on the history of multiculturalism, particularly in Britain. One of his descriptions of the reasoning behind such cultural turns in left–wing thought is worth quoting at length, as it drives right at the heart of issues mentioned above:

‘To be radical today is to display disenchantment with all that is ‘Western’ — by which most mean modernism and the ideas of the Enlightenment — in the name of ‘diversity’ and ‘difference’. The modernist project of pursuing a rational, scientific understanding of the natural and social world…is now widely regarded as a dangerous fantasy, even as oppressive…In place of [a]…progressive universalism…contemporary Western societies have embraced a form of nihilistic multiculturalism.’

Putting the point even more plainly, Sen has suggested a more apt name for multiculturalism as it stands would be ‘plural monoculturalism’, since multicultural ideas and policies can serve only to increase the isolation between different people and cultures. This is precisely what so much ethnomusicological study does – in treating the studied musical culture with a patronizing reverence and refusing to delve into the substance of the music itself, it ‘others’ the culture in question even more strongly. The multicultural aim to break down the walls of musical formalism and academic elitism, actually creates a greater distance between the academic and the people studied. As Ben Watson points out: ‘replacing musicology with social anthropology (Georgina Born) or sociology (Sarah Thornton) actually drives thought and its object still further apart’. Watson extends this argument, specifically dealing with commercial pop music, by noting how the turn away from academic ‘elitism’ is not only misguided, but redolent with scholarly pitfalls:

‘In the same moment that it claims to ‘break down cultural barriers’, the sociological turn reproduces a class division between the analytical academic and the musical culture ‘out there’. Appeals to the ‘popular’ promise to solve the ‘elitism’ of classical music, but actually reproduce it. What is confusing is that the opposite of the ‘popular’ is concealed: this is because it is the very discourse employed by the analyst. Analysts may declare that they ‘really like’ the music under consideration – Abba’s ‘Fernando’ or The Adverts’ ‘One Chord Wonders’ – but they also speak a meta-language that stands above pop music and its audience. The guilt of intellectual privilege is not to be wished away by changing the object of scrutiny.’

When no serious substitute is suggested for analysis (or consideration of sound), its removal from scholarly work leaves a black hole, often filled with empty jargon, and an approach that sidesteps value judgements at all costs does nothing but allow for the unchallenged stagnation of culture. Across all scholarship, it is worrying when critical perspectives disappear, but, as mentioned above, this problem is amplified when dealing with western music, and particularly so with commercial pop music. With the latter, since the object of study lies within a market-controlled industry, studies that fail to incorporate a proper dialectical critique, can end up essentially perpetuating the hegemonic economic forces which make up in the background socio-cultural structures of such music.

Focus Group Musicology and The Pop Industry

The movement away from a so-called academic elitism shares parallels with the turn towards populist politics under Bill Clinton and New Labour in the 1990s (what Adam Curtis describes as a politics by ‘focus group’). Pace touched upon the ethnomusicological adoption of this, mentioning the long quotations from less-than-expert sources (often little more than cherry-picked vox pops) found in a lot of ethnographic work he had read, which the authors used as evidence to form scholarly conclusions.

As well as determining what people thought on various issues of the day, politics by focus group also played a part in deciding the issues themselves, that is, populism became a yardstick for measuring political importance. The same has become true in some academic work. Pace made mention of a telling quote from Nicholas Cook in this regard, in which Cook argues that musicologists should ‘study social reality as they find it’: ‘The point is not that Madonna is good or bad but that she’s there’. Surely it should be obvious that treating any object as somehow valuable simply because it exists is a worryingly regressive formulation, and blindly panders to market forces. This, deeply negative, cultural effect of combining a populist approach with the study of commercial pop music is symptomatic of a more general problem with postmodern thought. Terry Eagleton notes that: ‘Postmodernism, among other things, concerns the cherishing of cultural difference; it is therefore an irony beyond anything flaunted by its own fictions that it is now actively contributing to the remorseless cultural homogenization of the globe’.

And so, with some pop music scholarship, the structural problems of ethnomusicological study detailed above become layered with the further complication of an uncritical openness towards the objects of study. This can be coupled with (I will expand upon this below) a fetishization of musical products as commodities, which divorces them from historical context, and fails again to critique the cultural and economic forces that surround the music.

In Performing Rites, Simon Frith writes positively(!) that pop music ‘holds consumption at the moment of desire, before it is regretted’; that its ever repeating novelty has nothing to do with the recycling of commercial trends cynically employed by record companies, but simply that it is a ‘momentary diversion’ from the real world (amusingly, a search for the word ‘neoliberal’ throughout the book comes up empty). Indeed, a concluding line of Frith’s, that music allows us to ‘live in the present tense’ is a relegation of musical function to pure escapism. This is to say that the great thing about music is only that is stops us worrying – or even thinking about – our outside existence. By utterly ignoring the effect of the market on the consumer, and allowing music simply to function as ‘the negation of everyday life’, Frith misses so much of the social totality of the hegemonic culture which has such an insidious effect on the production and (trigger warning: value judgement) quality of much commercial music. Read even more unfavourably, Frith’s ‘present tense’ analogy can be equated to pure commodity fetishism (compare it with Walter Benjamin’s term Jetztzeit (now-time), used to criticise the ossified experience of commodity capitalism). This fetishization of the present in Frith creates a system of thought that cannot engage in a dialectic way with the innate temporality of history.

In another article entitled ‘What Is Bad Music?’, Frith displays his post-colonial /multicultural /postmodernist attitude proudly. Against the insinuation of his provocative title, Frith is quick to move far away from any qualitative judgement of music, writing that ‘bad’ can only be defined according to individual truths; which form part of one’s own ‘fandom’ of any particular brand of music. He describes, for instance, how some on the left decry the misogyny and homophobia of some rap music (without further comment) along with a few other examples, before shifting the focus onto how ‘badness’ is ‘performed’ differently by various musico-social groups, as if to suggest that homophobia and misogyny are concerns purely for ‘the left’ to worry about. It is precisely the kind of thinking of the ‘plural monoculturalist’ Sen and Malik describe. This is (but one example of) the kind of scholarship which sees all cultures as equal, but not all humans. Surely the inverse position is true.



AHRC Cultural Engagement researcher Andrew Pace talks about his work with a collection of British and Irish folk music

Since January – as an Arts and Humanities Research Council Cultural Engagement Fellow – I’ve been cataloguing a collection of paper files at the British Library that belonged to Peter Kennedy (1922–2006), a renowned collector of British and Irish traditional music and customs. His archive spans roughly 1600 open reel tapes (around half of which are his own field recordings), 1500 photographs and 170 boxes of correspondence and song texts – a vast collection!

Whilst trawling through Peter’s papers, I discovered a number of reports he had written in the 1950s that detail his daily activities when he was travelling the UK and Ireland recording hundreds of traditional performers, including Harry Cox, Margaret Barry, Fred Jordan and the McPeake family. I realised that these detailed reports would provide an ideal focal point for a website which would collate and contextualise all of the material from his collection that I have helped the British Library to digitise over the past few years:

Here, Peter’s reports can be scrolled through as interactive images, where clicking on a performer’s name reveals related sound recordings and photographs from his collection. Links to currently undigitised recordings in the Library’s catalogue are also present. This simple interface holds a large amount of information, but presents it in a way that encourages its discovery rather than relying on users navigating it by text searches.

Encouraging users to explore the collection in this way also draws attention to Peter Kennedy as a collector – a narrative that is easily lost in the impersonality of library catalogue systems, but is one which lies at the heart of this collection. As an ethnomusicologist, I find these kind of insights into Peter’s fieldwork methodologies fascinating.

However, interest in Peter’s work is not limited to academics, but extends to practicing musicians, too. It’s hoped that this site will stimulate musicians and researchers to continue to engage with his work and to explore the large amount of material that hasn’t yet made it onto my website.

Peter Kennedy Records Edgar Allington in Weeting, Suffolk, 1955

Peter Kennedy Records Edgar Allington in Weeting, Suffolk, 1955

Andrew Pace completed his BMus and MA at City University London and has recently completed a PhD in Ethnomusicology at the University of Manchester.

City Research Seminar on ‘Life Post-PhD’

On Wednesday 24th February, 2016, three City University alumni – Sini Timonen (BIMM), Laura Seddon (University of Portsmouth) and Robert Percy (Composer) – came in to discuss the paths that they have taken since completing their PhDs in the Music Department. It was an informative session for current postgraduates, and fascinating to learn how each member of the panel had charted their own course – both in and out of academia – after completing their research degrees.

As a composer, Robert balances commissioned works with lecturing, including the UG module Orchestral and Instrumental Studies at City. Through teaching experiences gained during her PhD research, Sini quickly found her way into a management role at modern music institute BIMM. Laura set up her own contemporary arts production organisation, before finding an interdisciplinary academic post for her research on gender and music, in the School of Languages at the University of Portsmouth.

Sini, Robert and Laura all agreed on a number of important aspects for planning life post-PhD. They recommended making and maintaining personal connections, as well as thinking outside the box (and outside of when considering employment opportunities. They all created their own events and found innovative ways to disseminate their research. Most of all, they reminded us that creative thinking and new ideas can be applied to finding your way in life after the PhD, as well as within your thesis.

Tullis Rennie, Visiting Lecturer in Composition

City Students and Alumni present at BFE/RMA Research Students’ Conference 2016: ‘Disciplines in Dialogue’

The 49th Annual Music Research Students’ Conference took place in Prifysgol, Bangor University (Wales), from 6th to 8th January 2016. Usually organised by the Royal Music Association, it was for the first time this year co-organised with the British Forum for Ethnomusicology. It gathered music students from all over the UK and from overseas.

The theme of the conference was ‘Disciplines in Dialogue: a multidisciplinary conference for students involved in all kinds of music research’ and papers explored the boundaries between musicologies of various kinds.

City University MA alumna Solène Heinzl and PhD student and Visiting Lecturer Stephen Wilford attended the conference on the 7th and 8th January respectively. Solène presented a paper on ‘The Impact of Technological Communication on Filmmaker-Composer Creative Collaboration’ and Stephen Wilford spoke about the potential of the Internet as a site for ethnomusicological fieldwork as part of the ‘Fieldwork Methods’ session.

The 7th January included two very informative careers and methodologies sessions: the first on ‘How to Get Published’, sponsored by the publisher Routledge; the second on ‘Post-PhD Careers Beyond Academia’. There was also an opportunity for students to express their needs and concerns during the ‘Open Discussion of Graduate Training Needs’. The day ended with a keynote presentation by Professor Keith Howard (SOAS, University of London) entitled ‘The Future of Our Musical Pasts’. Professor Howard considered convergences and divergences between ethnomusicology and musicology and asked whether these discussions were relevant today, stressing the importance of preserving and sustaining the future of our musical pasts.

The second day of the conference included a number of panels with students presenting papers on a range of topics. These included another City BMus and MA alumnus, Andrew Pace, whose presentation focused on the role of the guitar in Maltese ghana music. Andrew traced the historical development of acoustic guitars in the local Maltese music scene, examining both the evolving design of the instruments and their role in affording status to the musicians playing them. The day also included panels on ‘Current Issues in Music in Higher Education’ (convened by the National Association for Music in Higher Education) and ‘Fieldwork Methods’ (convened by the BFE). The conference concluded with a keynote presentation (in the form of the Jerome Roche Lecture) from Professor Nanette Nielson (University of Oslo). Professor Nielson’s paper examined issues of subjectivity in relation to the role of music in film, and discussed the ways in which music is able to shape the merging subjectivities of characters and spectators.

The conference was a great success, bringing together postgraduate students and scholars with a range of musical interests. The connections formed between RMA, BFE and NAMHE members and the productive discussions that these generated, should be applauded, and hopefully augur well for the future of such joint conferences.

Solene Heinzl and Stephen Wilford


Professor Keith Howard’s Keynote Presentation

Ruth Glasspool (Managing Editor, Visual Arts, Music and Theatre & Performance Journals, Routledge, Left) and Professor Laura Tunbridge (Editor, Journal of the Royal Music Association, Right) - session on 'How to Get Published'

Ruth Glasspool (Managing Editor, Visual Arts, Music and Theatre & Performance Journals, Routledge, Left) and Professor Laura Tunbridge (Editor, Journal of the Royal Music Association, Right) – session on ‘How to Get Published’

Careers with a Music Degree – Two Reports

The Postgraduate Student Perspective – Rachel Cunniffe, MA Music student

The evening of Tuesday 2nd February 2016 saw the annual ‘Careers with a Music Degree’ event, organised by the Music Department and City University’s Careers Service take place in the Performance Space. As part of the ongoing 40th birthday celebrations, this year’s event was larger than usual and was clearly a great success. A captive audience comprised of undergraduates, postgraduates, staff and alumni listened to speakers from various professional roles, a number of whom were City music alumni. Presented by Dr Alexander Lingas, each speaker outlined their current role and the journey which led them to it, and offered helpful advice to audience members on achieving their goals.

The presentations were opened by Celeste Richardson, a City music alumna, who spoke of her initial ambitions to be a professional soprano yet decided instead to pursue a teaching pathway. Celeste is now the Principal and Managing Director at Foresound Music Education Ltd., a non-profit organisation which currently provides music teaching for over four hundred families. She is also resident soprano and member of the artistic board at the Riot Ensemble. The second speaker, Francesca Treadaway, spoke of her journey to becoming Communications Officer at the Incorporated Society of Musicians, a non-profit organisation with seven thousand members. Francesca spent much of her time as a music college student writing reviews and articles, many of which were published, and these skills helped her secure her current role. Next we heard from Dr Jim Harrison, the Head of Music at Latymer School and his colleague Michael Spence, who both spoke of the teaching profession as highly rewarding and incredibly varied. Donald Wetherick from the British Association for Music Therapy outlined the goals of Music Therapy and his journey to the role, and concluded with some helpful advice to potential applicants which highlighted the importance of gaining experience in a relevant setting. The fifth presentation was given by Harriette Hale, also a City music alumna, who founded Chocolate Box Music at age nineteen and now owns six successful companies. Chocolate Box Music, which is now globally recognised, emerged from a passion to achieve a viable income for professional musicians. Harriette’s other ventures include a music academy, a dance studio and an online mentoring and coaching resource. Finally, Dr Sophie Ransby, Gamelan Manager at the Southbank Centre and City music alumna spoke of her time in Indonesia, the journey to her current role and the incredibly varied work she undertakes at the Southbank Centre.

The evening concluded with an informal networking reception with speakers and other City alumni guests. Many students spoke enthusiastically of the reception and of the event as a whole.


The Undergraduate Student Perspective -Alexander McDonagh, BMus Year 2 Student

There has always appeared to be an idea that if you’re studying for a music degree then performance, teaching or unemployment are going to be the routes one follows post degree. On the evening of Tuesday 2nd February that myth was shattered. What happened on that evening was the annual ‘Careers with a Music Degree’ event, organised in partnership between City University’s Music Department and the university Careers Service.

I, like many of my fellow students, chose to study music at university because of the love affair I had been having with the subject from a very young age. Yet despite this, my plans post university had always remained a light sketch rather than a definitive blueprint. I knew a degree was going to be extremely beneficial to whatever path I chose to go down but I hadn’t actually given much consideration to what that path was going to be. This was where the ‘Careers with a Music Degree’ evening came to the rescue.

The evening saw numerous speakers discuss their careers, all following a music related pathway, as well as imparting invaluable advice to the audience of undergraduates (like myself); postgraduate students; staff and alumni. This was followed by an informal networking over nibbles and wine where we were able to absorb as much life experience and wisdom as we possibly could.

Although all the speakers were inspiring and I could easily write about all of them in detail, if only I didn’t have a degree to complete, I have decided to focus on three speeches which I found a real connection to and which I feel were most beneficial to my personal career path.

The first speaker of the evening was Celeste Richardson. After completing her music degree at City, Celeste began to pursue a career as a professional soprano. After realising that it wasn’t what she wanted to do for the rest of her life she founded Foresound Music Education Ltd of which she is the Principal and Managing Director. This not-for-profit company has grown significantly and now provides musical education to over 400 families across London. For me the most inspiring thing about Celeste’s story was that it beautifully personified that your career isn’t set in stone and that (forgive me for sounding like a horoscope) taking a risk and following your intuition can lead to much bigger plans than you ever expected.

The second speaker who I found extremely beneficial was Francesca Treadaway who is the Communications Officer for the ISM, the Incorporated Society of Musicians. The ISM is a non-profit organisation that provides support, protection and advice to over 7,000 members who are working or studying musicians. After studying the trumpet at music conservatoire, Francesca realised this wasn’t the career she saw herself doing and decided to follow another passion of hers: writing. Having been an avid writer throughout her time at music college, writing articles and reviews, Francesca was able to successfully carve a path for herself. Having also spoken to her after the talk, the best piece of advice that she imparted to me was that sometimes we have to be brave and hold our hands up if we aren’t happy and say ‘this isn’t the job for me’. Your first job isn’t necessarily the right one and you have to be prepared to take a risk and step away if it doesn’t feel right.

The next speaker to particularly inspire me was Harriet Hale, another City alumna. Having founded her first company, Chocolate Box Music, at the age of nineteen whilst still a student at City, Harriet has now gone on to found a further five companies. Whilst her initial company was born out of a desire to help provide a viable income for her fellow students and other musicians, she has gone on to create a music academy as well as an online mentoring scheme to name but a few of her ventures. For me what was so inspiring about Harriet was her pragmatic approach to business; her insatiable drive for success and her determination to choose her own direction in this world. For me the last point was the one which I took most heed of. If there isn’t a path which you’re happy with get a damn axe and start carving your own way through the woods.

I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone who spoke during the evening and to the City Music Department and City’s Careers Service for providing me and my fellow students which such an invaluable experience.

Celeste Richardson

Celeste Richardson

Dr Jim Harrison and Mr Michael Spence

Dr Jim Harrison and Mr Michael Spence

Sophie Ransby

Sophie Ransby

Mr Donald Wetherick talking to current MA student Jocelyn Coates

Mr Donald Wetherick talking to current MA student Jocelyn Coates

City Alumna Wins Teacher of the Year Award

I graduated from City University in 2011 and received expert vocal tuition throughout my course, this gave me excellent grounding for teaching singing myself and the confidence to lead others in vocal ensembles. Whilst at City I took a module that involved finding a placement; it was through my placement that I discovered I wanted to teach music and lead young people on their musical journeys.

I began as a Teaching Assistant at Ifield School, a special school for students aged 5-16, before embarking on my School Direct programme with the Faculty of Education in September 2013. I was fortunate enough to be awarded the title of Kent and Medway Newly Qualified Teacher of the Year 2015.

This was awarded as a result of improvements I have made to the music provision at Ifield, especially the extracurricular music activities. I have formed a full choir, which sings regularly within and beyond the school.

I constantly use material I learnt from City. The BMus programme helped me develop my passion for music and I use this to inspire and expand my pupils’ interest in music.

I enjoyed my time at City and it was the right decision to join the BMus course. The staff and the course provided me with an excellent musical basis that continues to assist me in my working life.

Hannah Boyd (BMus)

Hannah Boyd

Composition Alumnus on Oscars Shortlist

Recent MA Composition graduate, Nico Casal, composed the score for the short film Stutterer which has made the shortlist for this year’s Academy Awards.


The film explores the challenging experiences of a young man with a severe speech impediment. The film has already been selected for nearly thirty prestigious film festivals and took home the Best Foreign Film prize from the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, the Special Jury Award at Savannah Film Festival, Best International Short Film Prize at Kerry Film Festival, the Best Drama Award at Aesthetica Short Film Festival and many more.




PhD Alumni News from Mark Porter

Mark Porter, who completed his doctorate at City in 2014, has been awarded postdoctoral funding to pursue research at the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies in Erfurt, Germany. His project, entitled “Axes of Resonance in Christian Congregational Music”, builds on the work of Hartmut Rosa, Jean-Luc Nancy and Veit Erlmann, among others, in order to explore sonic and social concepts of resonance in relation to congregational singing. Mark is interested, in particular, in the potential for concepts of resonance to supplement ideas of authenticity, which has become an increasingly stretched analytical category in recent writing, and for research on congregational music to help to explore conceptual travelling between metaphorical and literal usages of ‘resonance’ in the literature. He is the first musicologist to be accepted at Max Weber, and whilst there he will engage in interdisciplinary dialogue with scholars from a wide range of contemporary and historical areas of social and cultural enquiry.

Since graduating, Mark has obtained a book contract with Ashgate publishing in order to publish his doctoral research in monograph format. The book, entitled “Contemporary Worship Music and Everyday Musical Lives” is due out in 2016 and will appear in Ashgate’s Congregational Music Studies series. An article focusing on Mark’s investigation of marginal musical spaces at St Aldates, Oxford, meanwhile, has also been accepted for publication in the Journal of Contemporary Religion. His previous article “The Developing Field of Christian Congregational Music Studies”, published in the journal Ecclesial Practices, has proved remarkably popular and, since publication has received over 1,500 downloads.

Mark has continued to be active in organising the biennial Christian congregational music: local and global perspectives conference at Cuddesdon, outside Oxford ( The conference, which met for the third time over the summer, has now become an established institution, and has even received its own entry in the Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Earlier in the year Mark also received an invitation to speak at Oxford University’s Music and Theology seminar on the relationship between ethnomusicology and theology – a paper he hopes to work up for publication over the course of the next year.


Alumni News – A Letter from Andrew Pace (BMus 2010, MA 2011)

Having just completed my PhD at the University of Manchester (quite literally – my viva was only a few days ago!) and finding myself back in London, I thought I’d get back in contact with my previous supervisor Laudan Nooshin of the Music Department at City University. Revisiting the department in which I had spent my undergraduate and MA years reminded me how much my time at City had shaped what I’ve been doing since. Not only did I find the BMus degree itself stimulating with its broad range of elective modules, but the teaching staff had always encouraged me to ‘do my own thing’ and follow lines of research that interested me.

For example, whilst studying for my MA I began to volunteer at the British Library – just a few stops away on the bus – after Laudan had introduced me to the World and Traditional Music section there. I ended up working on a project with them over the next three years arranging and cataloguing a large collection of British and Irish folk music, a portion of which has subsequently been published on Topic Records’ rebooted ‘The Voice of the People’ CD series. I’m still not sure quite how this project related to an MA in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern music studies, but the experience proved extremely valuable to my career path!

After graduating from City with an MA in 2011 I went to the University of Manchester to study for a PhD in Maltese traditional music, a topic I’d been working on since my undergraduate dissertation. Over the following four years I spent time in Malta and Australia researching the traditional guitar music known as prejjem. My thesis examined many aspects of how prejjem is transmitted: how the tradition is learned, how melodic improvisations are considered as a canon, how performances spaces affect what is performed, how guitars are encoded with histories and biographies, what role audiovisual recordings have played in transmitting stylistic schools and in facilitating communication between home and diaspora. A great thing about ethnomusicology is how it encourages an interdisciplinary approach to a topic – archaeology, anthropology, education, art and aesthetics, science and technology studies, and education studies are all fair game to draw upon as much as musicology.

Now that I’ve completed my PhD, I’m currently in the process of arranging a postdoctoral position in which I will be developing an audiovisual archive of traditional music in Malta, drawing upon private collections that are held in Malta, Australia, Canada and the USA. I’ll be exploring the ways in which such an archive can disseminate its holdings on a variety of online and offline platforms in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. At the moment I’m working on a number of small projects related to this, including one for the M3P foundation (Malta Music Memory Project) based at the University of Hull, and preparing papers for a number of conferences coming up in the new year in the UK and Europe.


Andy with Crispin Attard (luthier, left) and Kalċidon Vella (prim kitarrist, right)  in Crispin's workshop

Andy with Crispin Attard (luthier, left) and Kalċidon Vella (prim kitarrist, right) in Crispin’s workshop

Music Department 40th Birthday Boat Trip.

City University’s Music at 40 Cruise was a truly wonderful occasion. A clear, crisp October evening in London provided the perfect backdrop for a night of celebrations, laughter, music, and cake (it was a birthday celebration after all, and what birthday would be complete without cake?). Arriving at Temple pier with some of my classmates, the first two people I recognised in the line were two who not only played a big role in our first week at City to make sure we all settled in, but who continued to make a difference to us throughout our time there (albeit in very different ways).


These two familiar faces were quickly followed by a medley of people who we graduated with, those in the years above and below, the lecturers and personal tutors who made sure we survived, and a large number of completely new faces. Making our way down the line (looking for “the lady with the ipad and name stickers”), it really hit home how many people over the last 40 years had embarked on the same journey that we began just 4 years ago and it made me hope that many more will follow in our footsteps!


The night itself was smooth sailing (literally), with highlights including a speech given by the founder of the Department, Professor Malcolm Troup, which was incredibly humbling and inspirational; and the surprise of finding a gamelan set on the top deck that would be played later in the night. Most of all though, it was wonderful to see my peers and lecturers once again and to catch up with one another over a year on from graduating. That may not sound like a long time but when life gets in the way as it too often does, events like this are more important than ever to remind us to cherish the relationships that began in City University’s Music Department. Here’s to the next 40 years!

Zara Lim, BMus alumnus (graduated 2014)