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Musical notes on a page

The OU hosts a thriving music research culture encompassing historical, theoretical, ethnographic, social scientific and empirical approaches to musicology, as well as interdisciplinary fields including music computing and musical acoustics. Music research is developed through high-profile individual and collaborative projects, many of which have attracted substantial grants from the Research Councils and other funding bodies. Our individual researchers are internationally renowned in their own right, but our strength in collaborative work is just as important to us. A number of our researchers work with colleagues in different departments and faculties, and one of our most distinctive features is our strength in interdisciplinary research.

We accept applications for our PhD programme in January (for an October start) and August (for a February start). Students are encouraged to submit early.

Key facts

  • We were rated first in the UK for music research in The Guardian’s analysis of the REF 2014 results and 8th by Times Higher Education. The 2014 REF judged 94 per cent of our music research as ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world leading’.
  • Between 2014 and 2018 six of our PhD students were awarded funded studentships.
  • Our research facilities on campus include music computing and acoustics laboratories and an audio-visual recording studio.
  • Recent AHRC-funded projects include: ‘G. F. Handel: Collected Documents’,‘Military Sponsorship of Music in Britain in the Nineteenth Century’ and ‘The Listening Experience Database’. 
  • We host a wide range of research conferences, international symposia and seminars in music.


In addition to the expertise of academic members of the Music discipline, the University boasts a range of services and facilities to support individual projects. These included: a flexible 60m2 performance space fully equipped for audio and video recording, with an associated research laboratory that has video editing (Avid), audio editing (ProTools), and observational analysis workstations.

The Acoustics Research Group’s facilities include two anechoic chambers, a laser laboratory, an ultra high speed camera, a scanning Laser Doppler Vibrometer, professional quality microphones, as well as a wide range of measuring apparatus, recording equipment and high-performance computing hardware.

The Music Computing Research Group hosts a Music Computing Laboratory stocked with a range of music-computing software, electronic musical instruments, motion trackers, pitch trackers, sensors and diverse technologies for gestural control and data capture. In close collaboration with the Pervasive Interaction Group, we construct and evaluate new musical interfaces using a variety of multi-touch, gestural and whole-body tracking systems. We also carry out experiments to cast light on how music works.

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Dr Helen Coffey, Director of Research, Music
01908 653280

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.


Research publications by Open University staff are available through Open Research Online (ORO), the university's repository of research publications and other research outputs. ORO can be searched or browsed by staff name or subject.

The following list, generated from ORO, provides a flavour of the most recently published work in Music