Research in Music at Bristol encompasses composition, musicology and performance. We recognise these fields as being of equal importance, and staff research often falls within more than one area.

We enjoy a vibrant research culture in the department, and our academic staff are all internationally recognised scholars in their respective fields who collaborate with colleagues in other disciplines and institutions, and with practitioners.

Research areas

Our key strands of research include the following:

  • Composition, both acoustic and studio;
  • Music, politics and society (music and cultural transfer; transnationality and colonialism; reception studies; music, revolution and totalitarianism);
  • Music and intermediality (popular music, especially hip hop; opera studies; film music; medieval music, text, visual and material cultures);
  • Music as performance (historical performance practice; medieval oral transmission).

Our combined expertise covers repertories and histories across 1,000 years and embraces a diverse range of methodologies and approaches.


Michael Ellison explores the interaction of Western and Middle Eastern musical cultures (especially Turkish) through ensemble and orchestral music, and opera. He directs the ERC project Beyond East and West. He also contributes to interdisciplinary creative projects involving dance, video, theatre, literature.

Neal Farwell composes music for instruments and voices, for the “acousmatic” fixed medium, and for the meeting points of human players and live electronics. In addition, he curates an international forum for the performance of electroacoustic music, with the Bristol University Loudspeaker Orchestra (BULO).

John Pickard composes orchestral, chamber and choral music, and has written five symphonies. He also has interests in twentieth-century British music, and was General Editor of the Elgar Complete Edition from 2005 to 2017. 

Our studio work is supported by Jonathan Scott.

Musicology and Performance

In roughly chronological order, from chant to hip hop:

Emma Hornby  is a chant scholar working with manuscripts from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries. Currently, she is interested in text/music relations, music and theology, the musical grammars of early chant repertories, and local dialects within chant transmission. She directs a European Research Council project on Old Hispanic Chant, as well as a Leverhulme International Network on Processions in Medieval Iberia.

Sarah Hibberd works on opera, ballet and other forms of musical theatre in the long nineteenth century, with a focus on Paris and London. She is interested in the intersections between music, politics and visual cultures, and has just completed an AHRC-funded project on French Opera and the Revolutionary Sublime.

Kate Guthrie works on musical culture in mid-twentieth-century Britain, with a particular focus on listening practices and cultural hierarchies. She is co-organizer of the Music and the Middlebrow network. 

Guido Heldt works in two major fields: music in film and television (including narrative theory, composer biopics and music and comedy), and English music in the first half of the twentieth century.

Florian Scheding specialises in music and migration, especially the displacement of European musics and musicians caused by the political upheavals of the twentieth century. This includes a focus on Jewish musical modernity.

Pauline Fairclough specialises in Soviet musical history, with a special focus on Shostakovich and music during the Lenin-Stalin eras, Cold War cultural exchange, and Soviet performance practice.

Justin Williams is a musicologist working within popular music studies and hip-hop studies in particular. He currently holds an AHRC Research Leadership Fellowship on Regional Rap in Post-Devolution Britain. Additionally, he has edited and published on diverse areas such as jazz, crowdfunding, progressive rock, the singer-songwriter and Hamilton: An American Musical.


Here is a selection of current and recent funded projects led by our academics:

Associated centres

  • Migration Mobilities Bristol provides a fresh approach to the study of migration through a prism of arts, humanities and social sciences.
  • Centre for Black Humanities brings together perspectives from English, History, Music, Philosophy, Modern Languages, and History of Art, with the aim of creating an interdisciplinary space for the discussion of black thought and the critical study of race, migration, diaspora, transnationalism and globalisation.
  • draws together the research interests of staff and postgraduate students who work on the Middle Ages.
  • Transnational Theatrical Exchange (1750–1850) Research Cluster brings together scholars from Music, Theatre, Modern Languages, and History of Art, in order to examine productions and adaptations of French theatre in Europe and the Americas.

Collaborations and activities

We regularly work with practitioners across the arts, with colleagues in other disciplines and institutions, and with national organisations such as the BBC, English National Opera, and a wide range of local musicians and venues in Bristol.

Research events

We run a regular research seminar series and are frequently involved with one-off research events.

Research in the faculty

Our research forms part of the overall research activities and strategies of the Faculty of Arts.

Research quality

100 per cent of our work in the Department of Music is considered to be of international quality, with 74 per cent rated either 'world leading' or 'internationally excellent', according to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

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