Groups and Specialisms
We are proud of the high degree of collegiality and mutual support that we have developed within the Conservatoire, across an impressively broad spectrum of practice-based and scholarly research.
Much of our research work, beyond the major Funded Projects, tends to cluster into informal groupings, which provide the opportunity for specialists to interact with and enrich each other's work, as well as collaborating with other researchers, performers and organisations across the UK and internationally. Examples of such groupings include:
Research within the Composition Department, headed jointly by Dr Joe Cutler and Dr Michael Wolters, covers a wide aesthetic and performative spectrum, from score-based and improvisational work through to advanced computer-based research into the live interaction of digital technologies with human performers.
Although the research underpinning compositional practice is individual and personalised and the Conservatoire’s composition staff positively celebrate and encourage diversity of expression, the department nevertheless enjoys a strongly bonded clustering of artistic endeavour.
Staff share a desire to challenge preconceptions regarding the nature, content and presentation of new music, especially with respect to experimental venues, non-elite content, mixed-media creativity, and the cultivation of new audiences.
A further, valuable extension of our recent compositional research has involved the work of Dr Liz Johnson on the Soundbeam 3DOM project, bringing creative music-making into the lives of adults with physical disabilities.
Soundbeam is an award-winning ‘touch-free’ device which uses sensor technology to translate body movement into music and sound. Dr Johnson’s project, along with a parallel project funded under the Cultural Engagement Fund scheme of the AHRC, has been funded by Arts Council England.
- Dr Joe Cutler: Head of Composition
- Dr Michael Wolters: Deputy Head of Composition
- Dr Simon Hall: Assistant Head of Music Technology
- Howard Skempton: Composition Tutor
- Dr Liz Johnson: Composition Tutor
- Dr Ed Bennett: Composition Tutor
- Seán Clancy: Composition Tutor
For other composition staff, see the Composition Department
As performance research has evolved over the past 20 years or so, it has become increasingly acknowledged that real research engagement underpins much high-quality performance. This may involve newly conceived, commissioned, or historically recovered music, or pre-performance research relating to sources, performing practices and historical contexts.
It may equally be intrinsic to, and immanent in, the process of bringing new, significant insights into the performances themselves. Some recent examples of the Conservatoire’s leading performance-related research can be found in Research News.
Our historical, critical, editorial and analytical research in music extends over an unusually broad range for the conservatoire sector:
- Medieval theory and notation (Prof Ronald Woodley, Dr Jeffrey Dean and David Lewis: see Funded Projects)
- French, Italian and British baroque repertories (Dr Shirley Thompson, Dr Carrie Churnside, Martin Perkins, Professor Graham Sadler)
- French 20th-century music, especially Messiaen and Ravel (Prof Christopher Dingle and Prof Deborah Mawer)
- Film and television music studies (Dr Steve Halfyard)
- British music criticism (Prof Christopher Dingle)
- British inter-war dance band and post-war jazz (Prof Deborah Mawer)
- British regional music in the 18th Century (Martin Perkins)
- The music of Luciano Berio (Dr Steve Halfyard).
- Early Music on Stage and Screen (REMOSS) group (Dr Adam Whittaker)
French Music Research Hub
This newly formed research hub takes advantage of a particularly strong internal cluster of expertise within the Conservatoire, in various aspects of the history, analysis and performance of French music (especially that of the 17th, 18th and 20th Centuries). It will also function as a meeting-point and network for other specialists in the field from the UK and abroad, including musicologists, performers and collaborating arts organisations, to share, discuss and disseminate latest research.
The new hub aims to foster the highest standards of scholarly engagement with, and practice of, a wide repertoire of French music. In establishing strong, sustainable academic and performance-based research at a world-leading level, the Centre will be in a robust position to attract funding and provide recruitment opportunities for taught postgraduate and doctoral students.
- Prof Deborah Mawer: Director of the French Music Research Hub (especially the music of Maurice Ravel and Darius Milhaud)
- Prof Graham Sadler (especially Jean-Philippe Rameau and Jean-Baptiste Lully)
- Prof Christopher Dingle (especially Olivier Messiaen)
- Dr Shirley Thompson (especially Marc-Antoine Charpentier)
Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Music Studies
Intersecting with the French Music Research Hub, the Conservatoire has a strong research cluster in French, Italian and British music of the 17th and 18th Centuries. Expertise here is notable in primary manuscript and printed sources, editorial practice, and in related issues of performance practice, institutional context, and reception.
Examples include the work of:
- Dr Shirley Thompson on Charpentier
- Prof Graham Sadler on Rameau (including the new edition of the Complete Works)
- Dr Carrie Churnside on the Italian baroque cantata
- Martin Perkins on both the Italian sonata and regional British music-making (especially the Midlands) in the 18th Century.
Early music on stage and screen
The Representation of Early Music on Stage and Screen study group (REMOSS) group is hosted by Birmingham Conservatoire and is a collective of scholars and artists interested in how the musical past is evoked or reimagined in novel and exciting ways musically in stage and screen media. Topics at recent conferences and roundtables have ranged from contemporary British Opera, to historical drama on TV and high-fantasy videogame.
The next annual conference is taking place in June 2017 at the University of Sheffield and abstracts are being invited. REMOSS would be especially interested to hear from scholars investigating topics related to:
- Musical identities: nation, culture, gender
- Interactions between folk and early music
- Early music in opera
- Early music and videogame
- Representations of musical space/s in the Middle Ages
- Medievalism and neomedievalism
- Historically informed performance in popular culture
However, anything relating to early music on stage and screen media more broadly is welcomed and will be considered.
The conference, though hosted at Sheffield, will (as ever) involve a strong digital component so both delegates and speakers can attend digitally. Abstracts of c.250 words should be sent, along with contact details, to James Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday 27 January. You can follow REMOSS on Twitter.
For those wishing to get a feel for the kinds of topics and approaches REMOSS work with, please consider logging on to the next 'e-roundtable', which is due to take place on Friday 13 January 2017 3–5.30pm (UK-time). If you wish to attend, please contact Adam Whittaker for instructions to access the study group resource page. Also, keep an eye out for the forthcoming book Recomposing the Past: Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen (Routledge, 2017) – hopefully the first of many publications from the REMOSS group.
Other notable areas of staff research expertise include:
Music for Film and Television
Dr Steve (Janet K.) Halfyard is renowned particularly for her work on film and television music, especially sci-fi, fantasy and horror genres such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She also works on music theatre, especially of the 1960s, and is a specialist on the Sequenzas of Luciano Berio.
Another innovative and expanding area of the Conservatoire’s research is in jazz, through the interaction of composition, performance and jazz theory (particularly the work of George Russell) being explored through practice by Hans Koller. This research also intersects with a current monograph project of Prof Deborah Mawer on relations between French music and jazz in both inter-war and post-war eras.