December Academic of the Month: Helen Barlow

Photo on 03-12-2016 at 11.09

I am the department’s Research Associate on the Listening Experience Database Project (LED) http://led.kmi.open.ac.uk/ . The project is developing a freely accessible database of people’s experiences of listening to music, and the database is open to all kinds of music, in any historical period and any culture, although our research in this second phase is more specifically focused on ‘Listening and British cultures: listeners’ responses to music in Britain, c. 1700-2018’.

The project team is drawn not only from the Music Department but also the OU’s Knowledge Media Institute (KMi), the Royal College of Music and the University of Glasgow. You can find out who we all are and what we’re researching at http://led.kmi.open.ac.uk/node/2/# .

I have a dual role as both a project manager and a researcher, so in a typical week I would be doing a variety of things which might include developing strategies for the project, planning events and overseeing the addition of material to the database, as well as doing my own research.

I’m researching listening and Welsh identities – looking at the ways in which Welsh people have identified as Welsh (and still do) through music. I am currently focusing on the nineteenth century, and doing a lot of work in the archives of St Fagans National History Museum in Cardiff https://museum.wales/stfagans/ .

The museum holds Welsh music collections that are particularly important from the point of view of ordinary people’s musical practices and traditions. There is an extensive collection of oral history interviews as well as a documents archive, and one of the best things about the material is that it really covers the whole of our period, coming right up to the present.

Just at the moment, alongside my Welsh research I’m also revisiting a topic I worked on in the first phase of the project – nurses’ listening experiences during the First World War. This is for a paper I’m giving in January at the ‘Great Divide’ or a Longer Nineteenth Century? Music, Britain and the First World War conference in Durham. So I’m currently working my way through a lot of memoirs, diaries and letters by WWI medical staff.

LED is an open access database in more ways than one – it’s not only available to you to browse and search, but we also invite your contributions. If you’ve come across reports or anecdotes about listening to music in the course of your reading or in family documents, you’re welcome to create a user account at http://led.kmi.open.ac.uk/node/81/ and add them to the database.

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