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The historical and contemporary study of music

Research Historical study of musical texts and contexts with The Open University.

OU academics investigate an array of musical practices in a variety of contexts, both historically and in the present day. Topics include:

  • performance (and performance techniques) from the 15th to the 21st century 
  • musical and textual sources
  • film music and recordings
  • electronic music.

We specialise in:

  • composers, including Handel, Clementi, Mahler and Ireland
  • the social history of music
  • music in Scotland, England and Wales
  • Australian music
  • North American indigenous music
  • music and/as public culture
  • musical migrations
  • music and film
  • the performance of electronic music
  • the history of music in theatrical contexts.

Work on vernacular music, especially brass bands, devotional music and dance music, is also an important focus.
We welcome applications in areas that correspond to current staff research interests. We look for detailed and well thought-out proposals, which set out specific research questions and outline the originality of your topic or approach. If you would like to discuss your ideas informally before submitting an application, please contact us (details below).

Qualifications available:

PhD or MPhil


For detailed information on current fees visit Fees and funding.

Entry requirements:

Minimum 2:1 (or equivalent)

Potential research projects

We welcome enquiries relating to any of our current areas of expertise. If appropriate, students may be attached to one of our ongoing funded projects:

  • G. F. Handel: Collected Documents
  • Cultures of Brass
  • The Listening Experience Database.

Current/recent research projects

  • Reception history of William Byrd’s Latin-texted music in Britain
  • AMM and the development of free improvisation as musical practice
  • Understanding and interpreting the six suites for violoncello by J.S. Bach
  • Peter Maxwell Davies’s Revelation and Fall: Influence Study and Analysis

Further information

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

Dr Helen Coffey
+44 (0)1908 653280

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