PhD Studentships in Music at The Open University

The Department of Music at The Open University invites applications for October 2023 entry to its PhD programme.

We have a wide range of expertise, from the medieval period to the present day. Our specialisms include historical musicology, the social and cultural study of music, music analysis, editing, performance practice, iconography, ethnomusicology, music and gender, film music, music and literature studies, music technology and music computing.

The 2022 REF judged 92 per cent of our music research as ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world leading’.

For further details of staff and student research interests see: and


Successful applicants to the Music PhD programme will have the opportunity to apply for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge (OOC) AHRC studentship. OOC is a doctoral training partnership (DTP), funded by the AHRC. The three participating universities share extensive expertise in delivering successful doctoral training, developed in collaboration with our students and a wide range of non-HEI partners.

An OOC studentship covers university fees in full and provides a tax-free stipend for living costs at the UKRI rate (currently £17,668 per year). Awards are made for the full duration of fee liability.

How to apply

Informal enquiries about PhD studies and studentships in Music should be made to Helen Barlow at in the first instance. Potential applicants are encouraged to email a draft research proposal as soon as possible and ideally at least two months before the deadline.

Further details of the application process for OOC studentships can be found here:

Initially, applications for studentships will be assessed for a place on the Music PhD programme. Successful applicants will then be forwarded to studentship panels for further assessment and ranking.

Please note that the deadline for all postgraduate research degree applications, including for OOC studentships, is 12 noon on 11 January 2023.


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BBC Proms interval feature

Gustav Mahler, around the time of the First Symphony’s composition (Bridgeman images)

On Monday 5 September, Robert Samuels from the Music Department will be in conversation with presenter Ian Skelly as the interval feature for that evening’s concert in the BBC Proms season.  The discussion will focus on Mahler’s First Symphony, which will be played in the second half of the concert.

The concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio Three, and available on BBC Sounds.  The website for the concert can be found here.

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World Premiere Concert: 24 May 2022

The conductor, harpsichordist and OU PhD student Bridget Cunningham brings Handel’s pasticcio opera, Caio Fabbricio HWV A9, back to life in a concert by London Early Opera on 24 May 2022 – the first modern-day concert performance of the work.

Caio Fabbricio was first performed in London in 1733 and is based on an earlier opera by Johann Adolf Hasse. It is an internationally important work and contains a brilliant and well-considered collection of some of the finest 18th-century Neapolitan arias by composers such as Hasse and Leonardo Vinci, all chosen by Handel and woven around his own dramatic recitatives.

The plot looks back to Ancient Rome when the incorruptible Roman ambassador, Caio Fabbricio, was sent to Tarento to restore peace and order between republican Rome and the Greeks under the leadership of the warlike King Pyrrhus (Pirro) in the wake of the latter’s self-damaging ‘Pyrrhic’ victory in 280 B.C.

Bridget is currently studying towards a PhD in music at the OU, funded by an AHRC OOC stipend and supervised by Dr Helen Coffey, Professor David Rowland and Professor Donald Burrows. Recently she gave a paper for the Open University Music Research Day which explored Hasse’s operatic music and Handel’s pasticcios including Caio Fabbricio – a piece that she has researched, edited and recorded in her Handel series with Signum Records. You can listen to part of the recording here.

Tickets for the concert can be purchased here.

Caio Fabbricio HWV A9 by G.F. Handel

Tuesday 24th MAY 2022    19:00 (Ends at 21:45)

St George’s Church Hanover Square, Mayfair, London, W1S 1FX








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Pre-concert talk on 8 March

Daniel Bates of the OAE

Following our successful Study Day held on 15 February, the next event in our partnership with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will be a pre-concert talk by the Music Department’s Robert Samuels on 8 March at the Southbank Centre, London, before the OAE’s concert in the Royal Festival Hall.

The concert, conducted by Ádám Fischer, is of works by Gustav Mahler, concluding with his Symphony No. 4. Robert, the author of a book and several articles on Mahler’s music, has called his talk, ‘Who came up with this little song?’.

The talk is free, open to all, and will take place at 6pm before the concert at 7pm. Tickets for the concert can be booked via the OAE website at Student tickets are available for £5.

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ConductIT website is launched

ConductIT, an ERASMUS funded collaborative project to create online resources for learning the art of conducting will be launched this week in a hybrid live-online event in Aveiro, Portugal. The Open University is one of four partner institutions in the venture. The others are the University of Stavanger, the Royal Northern College of Music and the Universidad de Aveiro. The launch event will be streamed live on Friday 26 November 10am-4pm. To view the livestream, go to

The project was badly affected by the pandemic as many of the live rehearsals and performances scheduled for filming were cancelled. In spite of the difficulties, some uniquely creative materials have been produced that will enable anyone wanting to pursue a better knowledge of conducting, to develop their skills or to get advice from some of the best conductors in the world.

The ConductIT website  features a ‘study room’ offering a collection of workbook resources with downloadable instrumental parts for short orchestral extracts that can be studied alongside videos demonstrating specific techniques.  In the ‘careers office’ section, experts in the business share insights about how to develop a career in conducting. The ‘library’ also includes a unique series of ‘downtime’ videos created during the lockdown in which conductors reflected on how they were using their unexpected time off.  A freestanding MOOC on basic conducting skills for beginners has been available on the website since December 2020, but it has now been translated and is available in Portuguese and will soon be available in Spanish.

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Call for Papers: Amazing Grace and its legacies: reflections at 250

Amazing Grace and its legacies: reflections at 250

15-16 July 2022, The Open University and Olney Parish Church

Call for Papers

John Newton’s ‘Amazing grace’ can lay claim to be one of the best-known hymns worldwide. Believed to have been written in late 1772 in preparation for a New Year’s Day service at the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul, Olney, where Newton was curate, in the ensuing 250 years it has been sung and heard around the world in many different guises, both sacred and secular. Its connections with John Newton’s own life and ministry, its popular status in the USA and beyond, and performances of it by famous singers, religious leaders and politicians are several of the ways in which its meanings and influence have been expressed.

This conference, co-hosted by The Open University, The Cowper and Newton Museum and Olney Parish Church, seeks to examine the hymn and its legacies in this 250th anniversary year. It will feature keynote addresses from Prof Bruce Hindmarsh (Regent College, Vancouver, BC) and Prof Anthony Reddie (Regent’s Park College, Oxford University). Scholars from any discipline and drawing on any methodology are invited to propose twenty-minute papers on any topic relating to ‘Amazing grace’, its influence and legacy. Possible topics may include but need not be limited to the following:

  • ‘Amazing grace’ and its eighteenth-century contexts
  • Literary and theological analyses
  • The words and music of ‘Amazing grace’: tunes, arrangements, re-tunings
  • Performances and performers, e.g., Aretha Franklin, Barack Obama, Andrea Bocelli
  • ‘Amazing grace’ and the Black Christian Experience
  • ‘Amazing grace’ and American identity
  • The global afterlives of ‘Amazing grace’, e.g., interpretations or popular/religious place in Africa, Asia or South America
  • ‘Amazing grace’ in film and other media

Proposals of no more than 250 words should be submitted via by 1 January 2022. Decisions will be communicated by 1 February 2022. Papers will be presented on Friday 15 July 2022 at The Open University. We are currently planning to hold the event in-person but will also facilitate online participation for delegates who are unable or do not wish to travel (details TBC). The second day of the conference will be held at Olney Parish Church and will feature keynote lectures, a roundtable discussion, tours of the Cowper & Newton Museum, and a concert.

Please direct any queries to

Conference committee

Gareth Atkins (Cambridge University)

Nancy Jiwon Cho (Seoul National University)

Martin V. Clarke (The Open University, chair)

Matthew Williams (University of Bristol)

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Instruments INDIA Young Creator’s Competition

Congratulations to the winners of the Instruments INDIA Young Creator’s competition, a competition held by Dr Manuella Blackburn and Milap, as part of their funded ED&I AHRC fellowship programme.

Winners announcement graphic

The competition saw Instruments INDIA make available a selection of samples from their upcoming commercial sample pack, for young producers and musicians aged 14-21 to experiment with and create new music of any style or genre with. The sample pack showcases the beautiful sounds of Indian instruments, performed by renowned Indian musicians in partnership with Milap – the UK’s leading Indian arts development hub. There are three awards being given as part of the competition, for the age categories 14-17 (UK), 18-21 (UK), and 14-21 (International), with a £500 prize for the winner of each category.

Dr. Manuella Blackburn: “It’s great to be able to offer this sample pack of Indian musical instrument sounds to music production communities worldwide. What is special about this opportunity is that it is specifically aimed at young composers, artists, and producers. Hearing the range of responses and interpretations of Indian instrument samples has been a pleasure and it has clearly captivated the imaginations of these submitting artists who are starting out in their creative journeys.”

The competition received over 30 submissions from around the world, with the winning tracks being chosen by an expert judging panel. The jury featured Ramshanker Sathianarayanan (composer and orchestral conductor), Girishh Gopalakrishnan (producer, composer and singer), Kousic Sen (Tabla), Jonny Batchelor (sample pack producer), and Hayley Suviste (composer).

The winners selected by the jury are:

Age 14-17 (UK): Joshua van der Hagen (Liopli) – Confused Circus

Joshua is 17 years old and based in the UK. He has been making music for just over two years, and was initially inspired by watching others on YouTube make music.

 Age 18-21 (UK): Nicolas Garcia-Peguinho (Acrux) – Silk Stria

Nicolas is 20 years old and from London, and is currently in their third year of studying music at the University of Manchester.

Age 14-21 (International): Eugene Mantilla (EUMAN) – Blinding Daylight

Eugene is an 18-year-old from from Peabody, Massachusetts. He has been making electronic music for over five years using Ableton Live.

Visit the Instruments INDIA SoundCloud page to listen to a podcast episode in which the judging panel announce, listen to, and discuss the winning submissions, and showcase a selection of other highly recommended submissions.

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Oxford Handbook of Cinematic Listening

The Oxford Handbook of Cinematic Listening has just been published online. Edited by Carlo Cenciarelli, it features a chapter by OU Music Lecturer Ben Winters entitled ‘Historical Sound-Film Presentation and the Closed-Curtain Roadshow Overture’.

The chapter examines historical presentational practices of sound film and, specifically, the extra music added to roadshow versions of films between the 1930s and 1960s—including Gone with the WindWest Side StoryIt’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It argues that such added music—which included overtures, intermission, entr’acte, and exit music—when combined with controlled theatrical lighting and use of the curtain, might have prompted a number of different cinematic listening experiences among audiences. Winters suggests that an understanding of these historical presentational practices might call into question comfortable assumptions about the nature of sound-film ontology and the relationship between cinema as “Text” and cinema as “Event”—issues that resonate with the discourse surrounding historically informed performance (HIP) practice in musicology.

The print version will appear next month.

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OAE premieres new concert on digital platform

The Music Department’s partner orchestra, The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, has recorded the programme of a concert scheduled during the global health crisis for performance on its digital platform, OAE Player.

The film goes live on 10 February 2021 at 8pm. It will remain available on the OAE player thereafter. Below is the announcement of the premiere by the orchestra:


Watch a short clip from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde on YouTube
Book your ticket to watch the premiere of the complete film on OAE Player

Filmed in the beautiful Henry Wood Hall in Trinity Church Square and directed by Geoffrey Paterson, th​is film explores the tumultuous nature of romance through new arrangements of Wagner’s iconic Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, as well as other works from Richard Strauss, Webern and Pfitzner.

This programme is based on Thomas Mann’s novel Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, Told by a Friend. In the novel, the eponymous character enters into a Faustian pact in which he trades his soul for compositional genius. The music in the concert relates to Mann’s novel through both direct references and thematic inferences.

Arrangements by OAE Principal Horn, Roger Montgomery.

WEBERN Passacaglia
WAGNER ‘Prelude’ and ‘Liebestod’ from Tristan und Isolde
PFITZNER Act 2 Vorspiel from Palestrina
STRAUSS Salome (excerpt)
WAGNER Act 3 Vorspiel from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

This film will premiere on Wednesday 10 February but you can pre-book your front-row seat to our upcoming OAE Player premiere now. Once you’ve added the concert to your basket and paid (£7), you are all set to watch the premiere when it starts at 8 pm.

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ConductIT MOOC now live

In 2018, Naomi Barker from the OU Music department joined a team of conducting experts to create online resources for teaching conductors. The project, called ConductIT is funded by the ERASMUS scheme and spearheaded by the University of Stavanger (Norway), with the Royal Northern College of Music and the University of Aveiro (Portugal). Today we are delighted to announce that the ConductIT MOOC is now live on the website!

ConductIT logo

This short course on conducting is aimed at anyone interested in conducting, from the general public, through musicians and teachers who have to direct ensembles but have no prior training, to students who may be thinking of conducting as a career. It is the first section of what will be a large online resource for teaching and learning conducting which will be available globally. Over the coming year, further resources will be added to the online resources, covering techniques, rehearsal strategies, score study and preparation and insights into conducting as a career.

The COVID 19 pandemic impacted the production of video materials documenting rehearsals and performances as events were cancelled across Europe. In the midst of this adversity, RNCM’s Mark Heron invited twelve well-known conductors to make short videos with advice about using unexpected ‘down time’. These videos are also now available in the ConductIT library of resources.

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