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Dr Naomi Barker

Profile summary

Professional biography

I hold a B. Mus (hons) and M.Mus degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.  After working as a professional flautist and teacher in Johannesburg for several years, I was awarded an overseas prestige scholarship which enabled my doctoral studies. I completed my PhD at Royal Holloway & Bedford New College, University of London on the toccatas of Frescobaldi.

I was an Associate Lecturer with the OU from 2001-2014 and taught a number of undergraduate and postgraduate music modules including AA314, A214, A870, A871 and A877. I joined the central academic team in 2012.  I have also worked extensively in adult education and have had part time lecturing positions at Durham University and Manchester University. In addition to my academic work I have been involved in music education at all levels. Prior to joining the OU as a full time academic, I was manager of a local authority music service and led the Gateshead and South Tyneside Music Education Hub.


Research interests

My research interests include 17th century Italian keyboard and other instrumental music in relation to its cultural contexts and contemporary theory, performance practice, and cross-disciplinary aspects of music, art and science. My current research focuses on music at the Ospedale di Santo Spirito in Rome and addresses issues relating to musical practice, medicine and religion in that institution. In addition to my articles and book chapters, I have authored a number of recording, music and conference reviews for Early Music.

I welcome applications from potential PhD students with interests in late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century music, including those who wish to be jointly supervised in another discipline through the Medieval and Early Modern Research group.


Teaching interests

I am the music department rep for the interdisciplinary level 1 modules,  A111 'Discovering the arts and humanities'  and A113 'Revolutions', for which I have written several units. I have also written two units for the new level 2 music module A234 'Understanding music'. 

I am committed to open access learning and have co-written a MOOC called 'From notation to performance: Understanding musical scores' which is also available on OpenLearn I am also involved in an ERASMUS funded project to create open access resources on conducting including a MOOC on conducting 

Externally funded projects

Music at the Ospedale di Santo Spirito, Rome 1600-1630
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Apr 201730 Nov 2018BRITAC British Academy

This study forms part of a larger project which will break new ground in contextualising the keyboard music of Girolamo Frescobaldi within the wider cultural trends of the early seventeenth century. By focusing on the Ospedale di Santo Spirito, it will answer two questions: to what extent was music part of a wider programme of healing? and do the documented activities of musicians demonstrate patterns that support this or do they reflect other concerns? The Ospedale di Santo Spirito is unusual in that from the late 16th century it had a large organ situated in the hospital wards. Listed among the musicians who worked at the Ospedale and its church is the composer Girolamo Frescobaldi, but little is known of his activities there. The presence of music in a space built within a humanist aesthetic framework, and in which Galenic humoral medicine was practiced offers an unexplored context for musical practice. This study will bring new insights to bear on the context for music and the music profession in Rome by exploring the role of music in the hospital environment


The Italian Keyboard Toccata c. 1615-1650: A Repository for Oral Compositional Practices (2019)
Barker, Naomi J.
Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, 50(1) (pp. 1-28)

Mottos and Metaphors: Towards an Interpretation of the Emblems in Frescobaldi’s Primo libro d’arie musicali (2019)
Barker, Naomi J.
Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music, 25(1)

Music, antiquity and self-fashioning in the Accademia dei Lincei (2015)
Barker, Naomi J.
The Seventeenth Century, 30(4) (pp. 375-390)

Charivari and popular ritual in 17th-century Italy: a source and context for improvised performance? (2013-08)
Barker, Naomi J.
Early Music, 41(3) (pp. 447-459)

Un-discarded images: illustrations of antique musical instruments in 17th- and 18th-century books, their sources and transmission (2007)
Barker, Naomi
Early Music, 35(2) (pp. 191-212)

‘Diverse Passions’: Mode, Interval and Affect in Poussin’s Paintings (2000-03-01)
Barker, Naomi Joy
Music in Art, 25(1-2) (pp. 5-24)

Parody and Provocation: Parade and the Dada Psyche (1996)
Barker, Naomi
Repertoire International d'Iconographie Musicale / Research Center for Musical Iconography Newsletter, 21(1) (pp. 29-31)

In Search of Mannerism: A New Approach to an Old Problem (1992)
Barker, Naomi
South African Journal of Musicology, 12 (pp. 11-19)

Learning the trade: What did Froberger do in Rome? (2018-07-01)
Barker, Naomi J.
In: Vejvar, Andreas and Grassl, Markus eds. "Avec discrétion": Rethinking Froberger. Wiener Veröffentlichungen zur Musikgeschichte (14) (pp. 205-221)
ISBN : 978-3205207405 | Publisher : Böhlau Verlag | Published : Vienna

The ear of the lynx: The musical legacy of the Accademia dei Lincei (2013)
Barker, Naomi J.
In: Smith, David J. and Taylor, Rachelle eds. Networks of music and culture in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (pp. 59-70)
ISBN : 9781472411983 | Publisher : Ashgate Publishing Limited | Published : Surrey

Viewing the stile espressivo: Doni, Poussin and the ancient genera (2003)
Barker, Naomi Joy
In: Dobszay, László ed. The past in the present
ISBN : 9637181342 | Publisher : Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music | Published : Budapest