Free OpenLearn course on the Blues

Discovering music: the blues is now live! This free course offers students a taster of material featured in the new level 1 module A111: Discovering the arts and humanities. Blues music has had a significant influence on popular music and jazz throughout the twentieth century and is still relevant today. This course includes a brief historical overview, insights into blues lyrics and a glimpse of some of the musical techniques used by blues musicians. You might even be inspired to try out a 12-bar blues yourself. Access the course here

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Robert Samuels in OAE pre-concert event, 31 May

Another event in the Department’s partnership with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) takes place on Friday 31 May at the Southbank Centre, London.

The OAE is giving a concert with the title ‘States of Independence’ at 7:00 pm in the Royal Festival Hall, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. The programme includes Sibelius’s Second Symphony, preceded by Elgar’s Serenade for Strings and Richard Strauss’s Violin Concerto.

Dr Robert Samuels will take part in a pre-concert event, a panel discussion on the imagery and aesthetics of Sibelius with the conductor and members of the orchestra. The event will take place in the Level Five Function Room at 6 pm.

Full details of the concert are available from the OAE website.

Admission to the pre-concert event is free. Students can buy tickets for the concert for five pounds through the OAE box office (telephone 020 7239 9375).


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Audiences Love New OU/BBC series ‘A History of Music and Technology’

Pick of the Week by The Times, the landmark OU/BBC seriesA History of Music and Technology’ is proving a real hit on BBC World Service Radio on Saturdays at 12.06 BST – or catch-up online here.

Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason is a warm and eloquent presenter mapping the history of music and technology in the company of legendary artists, producers, engineers and inventors.  The series shines a new light on the impact of innovations such as the synthesizer, the electric guitar, samplers and drum machines and the recording studio itself.

Technology has radically changed the way we make and listen to music – and this series also examines the way artists and industry insiders think technology might take music-making in the future.

The series was commissioned by Broadcast and Partnerships and is supported by FASS with particular relevance to BA (Hons) Music R25, and  BA (Hons) Arts and Humanities (Music) R14.

  • Commissioned by: Caroline Ogilvie, Head of Broadcast and Partnerships
  • Academic Consultants: Sean Williams, Robert Samuels and Alexander Kolassa
  • Media Fellow: Chris Williams
  • Broadcast Project Manager: Leslie Jewell
  • Online Project Producer: Daniel Brown


For more information about the impact of technology in music visit OpenLearn, where you can also listen to Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason in conversation with The Open University’s Sean Williams

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Students showcase their learning at Trinity Laban

On Thursday 11 April, students on the Certificate: The Practice of Music Making, our collaborative module with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, presented a performance as the culmination of their residential week in Greenwich. All students took part as members of ensembles that had been formed during the week. Students had worked together with their tutors to devise and rehearse the progamme, working together to exploit the opportunities of each unique combination of voices and instruments. The performance concluded with all the students (and our very own Dr Bob Samuels) forming the #TL_CPMM 2019 choir. The performance demonstrated the diversity of the student body and the success of the Certificate in helping students to become better collaborative musicians.

Choir singing

The #TL_CPMM 2019 choir

The performance was attended by several members of the OU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, including Executive Dean, Prof Ian Fribbance, who described the event as an ‘uplifting and life-affirming experience’.


Student ensemble at Trinity Laban

The Certificate: The Practice of Music Making is a one-year distance learning music programme developed by Trinity Laban and OU Music. It offers adults with a passion for music the opportunity to develop their practical music making and performance skills. It is a compulsory module in our BA (Hons) Music degree, and can also be studied as part of other OU qualifications. It is also available to study as a standalone course.

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OU Music Research Day – 30 April

The next OU Music Research Day will take place on 30 April 2019 in the OU’s London Office. The provisional programme is as follows:

10:30  Coffee

11:00  Natalie Burton – Structural pluralism in Gerald Finzi’s Earth and Air and Rain

11:30  Michael Busk – Manchester’s First Nineteenth-Century Musical Festival – 1828

12:00  Chris Grey – Musical beauty, God and the Church: historical-ecclesiological contexts

12:30  Lunch

13:30  Ann Grindley – Sites of Empowerment: Fin de Siècle Salon Culture and the Music of Cécile Chaminade

14:00  Paul Britten – Quadrille Bands and musical life in 19th-century Brighton

14:30  Break

15:00  Tristan Harkcom – ‘The composer of Rienzi’ and ‘the Dresden Bloodbath’

15:30  Martyn Strachan – The Orchestra as an Indicator of Style in Sullivan’s Music

16:00  Coffee

To register, please contact Jacquie Green on by Thursday 18th April. Please advise Jacquie of any dietary requirements.

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Review of OU / OAE Study Day: ‘Learning for Learning’s Sake’

Several members of the Music Department joined students studying at every level, from Level 1 to the MA, for a Study Day at the Southbank Centre, London, on 19 March. The following review is by one of the participating students, Valerie Morris (a current A873 student).

Sir András Schiff joins in the applause for the OAE, who received a standing ovation at the conclusion of the concert.

This week saw the OU’s partner orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, give two concerts under the direction of Sir András Schiff.  On Tuesday 19th March OU music students from across all levels took part in a study day at the Southbank Centre run by OU music staff.

The first session featured two members of the orchestra, Nick Logie (viola), who gained his PhD with the OU, and Leo Duarte (oboe).  They explained and demonstrated how OAE musicians follow and lead in performance when playing without a conductor by listening and reacting to each other, and discussed such things as 19th century oboe tonalities, use of gut strings, and different placings of the lower strings sections of orchestras.

This all made sense when we watched the final rehearsal of Brahms’ 2nd piano concerto with Sir András conducting from the 1867 Blüthner piano: he has a masterful ease in conveying exactly how he wants the orchestra to sound, using very few words and gesturing with his arms and singing the phrasing he wants.

In the rest of the day, the OU’s Alex Kolassa and Martin Clarke led a session on Influence and Innovation, showing how much ‘old’ music is in ‘new’ music; Byron Dueck talked about current and future music modules, including Alex’s examples of modal writing in Metallica songs; and Bob Samuels gave a public pre-concert talk saying that Brahms’ relationship with Clara Schumann is the When Harry met Sally story in classical music.  Thank you to all involved.

At the evening’s concert (pairing the Brahms concerto with Schumann’s Symphony No.3 ‘Rhenish’) Sir András spoke directly to the audience, telling us playing without a conductor is like playing without the police, and sometimes it’s good not to feel safe!  It was a terrific performance.

This was a really enjoyable day.  My previous experiences of study days have been focussed on how much work I’d have to do for forthcoming exams or EMAs but this event was learning for learning’s sake as well as a chance to have a good chat with other students.

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International Women and/in Musical Leadership Conference

The International Women and/in Musical Leadership Conference took place at Senate House in London between Thursday 7 and Saturday 9 March. The conference was co-chaired by Laura Hamer, Open University Staff Tutor in Music, and Helen Julia Minors of Kingston University. The conference, which attracted delegates from over 20 countries from all over the word, was a great success. It included keynote addresses from Jenni Roditi and Katherine Dienes-Williams; a roundtable featuring Alice Farnham, Emma Haughton, and Sarah MacDonald; and two evening concerts at Club Inégales.

Open University Music was well represented. PhD student Sarah Clarke presented her research on Augusta Hervey; PhD student Ann Grindley did a fantastic job throughout the event as a Conference Assistant; AA100 AL Anne-Marie Beaumont (who is also a Senior Lecturer in Music at Wolverhampton University) presented a paper on her experience and practice-based research as a female leader of a Ceílí Band at a British University; and Head of Music Byron Dueck chaired a panel dedicated to ethnomusicological approaches.

The conference attracted considerable attention in the Paraguayan press, including this article in Última Horais, one of the main newspapers in Paraguay, and others here, here, and here. The International Women and/in Musical Leadership Conference was generously supported by the Open University, Institute for Musical Research, and Royal Musical Association.

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Crossing boundaries: music for the new level 1

Naomi Barker in the recording studio

This week Naomi Barker interviewed award-winning South African composer and pianist Rashid Lanie about his work as a pianist, song writer and film music composer. The recording will be a resource for our new level 1 module A111 ‘Discovering the arts and humanities’. Block 3 of the module explores the theme of ‘crossing boundaries’ and includes a group of chapters on Sophocles’ Antigone, the South African play The Island by Fugard, Ntshona and Kani and protest music in South Africa. In addition to the interview with Rashid, students will be able to hear actor Mark Springer talking about performing in The Island and translator and director David Stuttard talking about his work on Antigone.

Rashid spoke eloquently about how, under the apartheid regime, music gave a voice to the politically disenfranchised black people of South Africa. He recounted how careful he had had to be in performing under the watchful eye of the police, especially music with words that might be deemed subversive. In that environment though, music was incredibly powerful in bringing people together and breaking down the barriers. Rashid also spoke about his work as a composer and in particular about his involvement in writing the song ‘The people want Mandela/Bafana Mandela’ – a collaboration with Ray Phiri, Jennifer Ferguson and Victor Ntoni. As a film composer, in writing the music for ‘Kalushi’ a film about the anti-apartheid activist Solomon Mahlangu, Rashid was musically able to tell his own story as he too had experienced being imprisoned as a student.

You can find out more about Rashid and listen to samples of his music on his website.

‘Discovering the arts and humanities’ starts in October 2019 and registration opens on 21 March. Find out more here here. You can also find out more about studying music at the Open University here

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Laura Hamer gives pre-concert talk for Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

On Thursday 28 February, Laura Hamer gave a pre-concert talk for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO). The talk, which took the form of a conversation with BBC Radio Merseyside’s Angela Heslop, focused upon the later-nineteenth- and earlier-twentieth-century female French composers included upon the programme for the RLPO’s Boléro concert: Cécile Chaminade, Lili Boulanger, and Germaine Tailleferre, The concert was directed by the talented British-Australian conductor, Jessica Cottis, who was making her début appearance with the orchestra.

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Study Day at the Southbank Centre, 19 March 2019



The Music Department is proud to present another Study Day in collaboration with its partner orchestra, The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE). The day will take place at the Southbank Centre, London, on Tuesday 19 March.

The day is open to students registered on any of the following modules: A224 Inside Music, A232 Music, Sound and Technology, A342 Central Questions in the Study of Music, the Certificate The Practice of Music Making (presented by our curriculum partner, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance), or the MA in Music (A873 / A874). Students registered for the BA (Music) degree and studying Level 1 modules are also welcome. Associate Lecturers in Music are also welcome to attend.

The Study Day will take place in the Level Five Function Room, and the OAE’s concert in the evening is in the Royal Festival Hall. The schedule for the day is:

  • 12:00–13:00 Study Session I: Following and Leading in Performance (with members of the OAE)
  • 13:00–14:00 Lunch break
  • 14:00–14:30 Music at the Open University (survey of current activity and future plans)
  • 14:30–15:30 Study Session II: Influence and Innovation
  • 15:30–17:00 OAE final rehearsal (Royal Festival Hall)
  • 17:00–18:00 Dinner Break
  • 18:00–18:30 Pre-concert Talk Schumann and Brahms (open to public)
  • 19:00–c.21:30 Concert (OAE, Sir Andràs Schiff): Schumann, Symphony No. 3 Rhenish; Brahms, Piano Concerto No. 2

The charge for the day is £5.00, payable in advance through the OAE’s ticket office (telephone 020 7239 9375 — do not try to book through the Southbank Centre box office). This includes all study day sessions, and admission to the evening concert.

Registration in advance is essential, and places are limited. To register, you must book through the OAE’s ticket office and also contact FASS‑ACEM‑ giving your name, your PI, and the module for which you are registered. The deadline for registrations is Friday 8 March 2019.

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