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Dr Helen Barlow

Research Associate

Helen Barlow was born in India and spent her childhood in south Wales. She went to school in Merthyr Tydfil and then in Cardiff. She read English and American literature and art history at the University of Kent, Canterbury, where she went on to write a PhD thesis in art history, entitled ‘Truth and subjectivity: the photography of Clementina Hawarden and Samuel Butler’.

She returned to Cardiff, and in 1993 joined the Open University in Wales as a tutor for the Arts Faculty, where she taught a number of art history and interdisciplinary courses. Since 1995, Helen has worked in academic management at the Open University in Wales, where she is a Senior Arts Faculty Manager and part of the team with responsibility for the quality of teaching and learning in the Arts Faculty in Wales.

In something of a divergence (though perhaps not as great as it might seem) from her background in literature and art history, Helen is also a Research Associate in the Music Department, a trajectory that began in 1995 when she started working as a research assistant with Professor Trevor Herbert, for whom she has been the project manager for numerous publications including The Cambridge Companion to Brass Instruments (Cambridge University Press, 1997), The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History (Oxford University Press, 2000) and The Trombone (Yale University Press, 2006). Their most recent collaboration is on the AHRC-funded project ‘Military sponsorship of music in the nineteenth century and its relationship to the musical mainstream’, which resulted in their forthcoming co-authored book Music and the British Military in the Long Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2013). A number of their projects have been brought together in the website Cultures of brass.

Her recent and current research interests focus primarily on projects in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century music history, and particularly the social history of music and the ways in which ‘ordinary’ people accessed music before recording, broadcasting or mass access to education. She is most at home with an interdisciplinary approach, and finds that her grounding in literature and art history often suggests different angles on music history and potential sources for it.

Very much in keeping with these interests, she is currently a member of the project team for the Listening Experience Database, an AHRC-funded collaboration between the Open University and the Royal College of Music, which will bring together a mass of data about people’s personal and private experiences of listening to music across historical periods and cultures.

She is a contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism and the Encyclopedia of Local History, and the author of:

Music and the British Military in the Long Nineteenth Century, with Trevor Herbert (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). [In press]

‘The British military band as a musical institution, c.1780-c.1860’, with Trevor Herbert in Paul Rodmell (ed.), Music and Institutions (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2012).

‘The military band images of George Scharf’, Music in Art XXXVII (1-2), 2012.

‘Open Educational Resources as integrated and complementary elements in award-bearing courses: the case of Welsh history’, in Proceedings of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) 23rd World Conference,, Maastricht 2009.


Music and the British Military in the Long Nineteenth Century - cover