Tag Archives: Steve Stanton

Interview with Toby Edwards

This interview took place online on 14 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Toby Edwards.

Ian Pace: I’d like to welcome Toby Edwards. Toby graduated from City in 2018, since which time he has been working on a series of music projects, one a band with Felipe Airey-Franco and Tom Overton, who graduated the same year as him, the other an experimental free improvisation collective he co-founded with Jamie Turner who graduated from City the year before, all while working out what was to come next which will be a masters’ at Goldsmiths starting this term coming.

Toby, welcome back. Your time at City was somewhat more recent than with some others who have been interviewed, and so I imagine many things still remain quite fresh and vivid – what are your abiding memories from your study with us?

Toby Edwards: What’s stayed with me the most from my time at City is certainly the modules and lectures, which is all thanks to lecturers, including yourself! I think it would be difficult not to vouch for the quality of teaching and teachers at City, they are all so passionate, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about their subjects and clearly very happy to be teaching them! The breadth of learning you can give yourself with your module choices at City is something to be envied, take advantage of this!

I remember speaking to friends on other courses at other universities and they’d often say that their lectures are boring and they often not bother to go, but for me that was never once a thought – I consistently found myself gaining so much from the teaching at City that lectures were something to look forward too, even when waking up early!

Special mentions to the Christmas Cabaret and also to the City University Experimental Ensemble, it introduced a completely new manner of playing music to me, as well as being an all around fun, meditative, relaxing, invigorating ensemble to be in! I’ll forever be thankful to Tullis for it. (You can even spot me in the banner photo above during a CUEE rehearsal).

IP:  What were amongst your early musical interests before beginning undergraduate study?

TE: Before joining the course at City I had actually done my first year of study at the University of Kent, I was unsatisfied with the course there and looked into the possibility of transferring and City were happy to take me.

Before I went to university at all, I was interested in, but not exceptionally knowledgeable of, soul, jazz and classical, as a listener of all three and performer of soul and jazz. A fan of learning James Jamerson basslines, learning more about playing jazz, listening to Shostakovitch, but of course going to a university to study music busted this right open. I was rapidly introduced to a far greater variety of music than I had ever been before and my interests developed, deepened, and I wanted to learn more about more. Part of my reason for leaving Kent in favour of City was the lack of variety in Kent’s module choices at the time, which City provided to me more than amply.

IP: Which modules did you take at City?

TE: In my second year I did the core module Analysing Music, then my choices were: Instrumental and Vocal Composition, Music Traditions of the Far East (which I was lucky enough to be on during Prof. Steve Stanton’s final year of teaching), Historical Performance Practice, Music, Fascism and Communism; and Popular Music Now.

In my final year I chose to do two major projects, a Dissertation on Debussy’s relationship with Japanese art and his music, and a Composition portfolio which explored indeterminacy in composition and performance. My chosen modules were: Debussy, Orchestral and Instrumental Studies, and Electronic Dance Music.

IP: I remember your dissertation on Debussy and Japanese art well! What attracted you to that sort of area in particular?

TE: The Music Traditions of the Far East module had introduced me to the Japanese art traditions and philosophies the year before, which continue to be a love of mine today (I have an Utamaro print from the early 20th century on my wall above me as I type!)

I can’t remember when exactly I saw them, but I came across a series of photos of Debussy and Stravinsky in one of Debussy’s studies, in one of these photos (which I’ve attached), you can clearly see two ukiyo-e prints: a copy of Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa, and a portrait of a woman I couldn’t identify. Seeing this led me to read about Japonisme, the Parisian centred fascination of Japanese art and culture in the mid to late 19th century. Japanese art was well loved, well collected, and influencing visual art significantly. Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, and many other impressionists and turn of the century artists collected, praised and in some cases, directly included their ukiyo-e prints in their work.

Debussy was the same – the cover of the orchestral score for his orchestral work La Mer was an abridged copy of The Great Wave and a set of three piano works entitled Estampes, referring to ukiyo-e prints are the direct evidence of his inclusion of Japanese art in his work, I wanted to see if the connection went further than titles and front covers, so I went ahead and started reading, and some time later, I’d finished a dissertation about it!

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, suit and indoor

IP: Tell me some more about your experimental free improvisational work, and how that developed with your City colleagues?

TE:  I joined the City University Experimental Ensemble (CUEE) in my second year, I had never freely improvised before, but Tullis Rennie is excellent at getting everyone into the right mindset for it and introducing the mode of playing to the ensemble. it didn’t take very long for me to fall in love with free improvisation, which is surely thanks to all the work Tullis does for CUEE, and all my peers in the ensemble too – ensembles are great for learning and socialising!

Tullis gave us excellent opportunities to perform, with the annual CUEE performance at Iklectik near Waterloo and performances during the rest of the year as part of City’s concert series. We worked with a variety of composers for performances, such as Cath Roberts, Sam Andreae and Michael Finnissy.

It’s in the ensemble that I became friends with Jamie, who after graduating would go on to study a Sound Art masters at LCC. For his masters’ exhibition he wanted to have a live performance of his work: a book of haikus which he composed for music making, for which I was recruited. It was there I met the rest of what would become the collective Subphonics. In my experience the process of working on improvisational is very different from working in any other genre: a much more iterative process, with lots and lots of thought and discussion between playing sessions as you’re not working from scores, or typically from anything that is particularly musically prescriptive. We’ve improvised using sections of books by Zamyatin and Woolf, from how we felt on a very hot day, from using an old English folk song, often one of us may just start playing then we go from there. I find it such a joy to work in such a creative and group-focused manner and wholeheartedly recommend free improvisation and CUEE.

IP: Toby, thanks very much for your time and fascinating thoughts! Do you have any links relating to your work or anything else which interests you, which you would like to share?

TE: Subphonics has just released its first sort-of release: a collage of out recordings from our first year and a bit together as a collective, which I think well demonstrates what I’ve said about the joys of free improvisation and can be found here:


Thanks Ian!

Interview with Alex de Lacey

Image may contain: Alex de Lacey, close-up and outdoor

This interview took place online on 14 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Alex de Lacey.

Ian Pace: I’d like to welcome Alex de Lacey for the second interview today. Alex graduated from the City BMus in 2014, and from the MA in 2015. He is now a Lecturer in Popular Music at Goldsmiths, University of London. Alex’s research examines Afrodiasporic music practice in the United Kingdom, with a particular focus on grime. He completed his PhD, entitled Level Up: Live Performance and Collective Creativity in Grime Music, under the supervision of Professor Tom Perchard and Professor Keith Negus earlier this year, has published with Global Hip-Hop Studies and has chapters forthcoming in Popular Music History, and Critical Digital Pedagogy. Alex is a journalist, and writes for Complex, Red Bull, and Songlines. He is the DJ for grime crew Over The Edge, with a monthly show on Mode FM.

Alex, welcome! You are very active in musicological fields relating to popular musics today. Does this have any roots in your study at City?

Alex de Lacey: Hi Ian – yes, it definitely does. I spent a lot of time at City studying jazz and popular forms, and my undergraduate dissertation examined grime music, which has since led onto my Masters and PhD research. The grounding in popular practice with Miguel Mera worked well alongside practical application in a variety of ensembles. The UG degree also offered broad horizons, with modules on music from the Middle East, Japan, Korea and China, and this helped me hone in on the ethnographic aspects of my later research.

IP: I’d be really interested to know more about the latter, and the relationship between your current work and study of Asian musics?

AdL: While my research now doesn’t directly overlap in terms of the music itself, a dedicated and considered approach to (what was at the time for me) unfamiliar practice has helped strengthen the way I conduct ethnography.

Nonetheless, there is, though, an interesting relationship between grime music and music from East Asia. Grime artists often employ exoticized compositional tropes that supposedly infer a “Far Eastern” sensibility. This often boils down to pentatonic scales, shakhuachi flutes, and the use of vocal samples from Manga and Karate films (which is quite reductive and problematic in many ways). The subcategory of “Sinogrime”, for example, is often contested regarding this and I wrote briefly about this in my PhD. There is definitely scope for further research here.

IP: What drew you to City in particular when you were looking at places to study?

AdL:  I was really in two minds before joining City. I couldn’t decide between it and another institution. But on the open day I had a really warm, frank and enlivening discussion with Professor Steve Stanton. His passion for the course, and for students, was so encouraging, and I feel that was also reflected in the department as a whole when I joined that September.

Outside of that conversation, it was definitely the opportunity to have Guildhall tuition alongside my academic study, and the range of ensembles on offer. I worked with Maria Camahort for a year on classical guitar, and studied musicianship with Laurie Blundell and Barak Schmool. These experiences provided me with a strong ear and skills in musicianship that have proven invaluable in my creative practice.

IP: What might you say to an 18-year old today thinking about studying music in higher education?

AdL: While it’s an uncertain time, I’d still highly recommend studying music. The varying skillsets developed within a music degree, through performing, composing, and musicological work, are vast. This means that you’ll be learning new things every day in a rich and exciting environment, and it’s also very attractive for employers. Music teaches you to work as a team, helps enliven the creative mind, and also encourages critical thinking on a range of issues (be they sociocultural, with respect to music theory, or otherwise).

I was initially studying an UG Degree in Mathematics at Durham, but moved to City to study music after the first year, because I was studying something I felt I should be studying, rather than what I actually wanted to do. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

IP: Alex, many thanks for your time. Do you have any links to your work, or other things in which you are interested, which you would like to share?

AdL: I have recently published a paper with Global Hip Hop Studies on Australian grime practice. It’s open access, and available here: https://www.ingentaconnect.com/…/0000…/00000001/art00007

My twitter handle is @delaceymusic.

Thanks Ian!

Dr Christopher Wiley is awarded prestigious National Teaching Fellowship

Dr Christopher Wiley was among the 55 UK higher and further education staff awarded a 2013 National Teaching Fellowship, the Higher Education Academy announced earlier today.

Dr Wiley is Senior Lecturer in Music at City University London and Director of the BMus Music Programme.

The Fellows were chosen from nominations submitted by higher education institutions across England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Submissions were assessed against three criteria: individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence, and developing excellence. Successful Fellows each receive an award of £10,000, which may be used for their professional development in teaching and learning or aspects of pedagogy.

The Centre for Music Studies’s Professor Steve Stanton received the same award in 2012. This is the only time in the history of the Scheme that two members of staff from the same department have been made National Teaching Fellows in consecutive years.

The new Fellows will officially receive their awards at a ceremony due to take place in London on Wednesday 9 October 2013.


Further information

Dr Wiley’s profile at the Higher Education Academy website: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/contacts/detail/ntfs/2013/Wiley_Christopher_profile_ntfs_2013

News item by City University London: http://www.city.ac.uk/news/2013/jun/two-city-staff-awarded-national-teaching-fellowships-for-2013

The Guardian article on the 2013 National Teaching Fellows: http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-hea-partner-zone/national-teaching-fellows-2013-hea


Professor Steve Stanton awarded National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy

Professor Steve Stanton receiving the National Teaching Fellowship award from Professor Sir Robert Burgess, chairman of the Higher Education Academy.

Steve Stanton, Professor of Music and Performing Arts at City University London, has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) in recognition of his ‘highly valuable contribution to learning and teaching.’

The award winners were chosen from nominations submitted by higher education institutions across England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Submissions were assessed against three criteria: individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence, and developing excellence. Successful Fellows receive an award of £10,000, which may be used for their professional development in teaching and learning or aspects of pedagogy.

Since joining City in 1977, Professor Stanton has proven to be extremely popular with both staff and students. He has led curriculum innovation within the Department of Music and, via his role as Dean of Validation, has influenced the direction of degree courses at several internationally-renowned conservatoires.

His interdisciplinary approach is evident through his contributions to courses connected with City. He initiated the validation relationship with the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre and contributed to the design of groundbreaking Masters and Research programmes.

Professor Craig Mahoney, Chief Executive of the HEA, said: “The new Fellows we have created this year have all made a highly valuable contribution to learning and teaching within their institutions and often more widely. Students deserve – and expect – the best possible learning experience during their time in higher education, and fantastic staff such as National Teaching Fellows help to deliver this experience.”

The new National Teaching Fellows will officially receive their awards at a ceremony due to take place in London on Wednesday 10 October 2012.