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Research areas


The Music Department has a distinguished tradition of musicological scholarship stretching back over a century. Former staff members have included Arthur Hutchings, the author of a seminal study of the Mozart piano concerti, Jack Westrup, a notable British pioneer of research on early music, and Peter Evans, a leading authority on the music of Benjamin Britten. Today, the Department has a concentration of expertise relating to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a particular focus on music and musical life in the German-speaking world, Russia and the former Soviet Union, and Great Britain and Ireland.

British Music

The study of nineteenth- and twentieth-century British and Irish music has been a major focus of research at Durham for over 20 years. A subject that has gained major research momentum over the last three decades, this formerly neglected area has attracted many undergraduate and postgraduate students to the university to study with recognised specialists such as Jeremy Dibble, Julian Horton, Bennett Zon and Patrick Zuk.


Durham is one of the major centres for research in ethnomusicology in the UK. Geographically speaking, our staff publish mostly on Indian and Korean music, but also have expertise relating to Mediterranean, African, South American and South-east Asian music traditions. In terms of research topics we publish on areas including music, ritual and religion; performance and its analysis; embodiment and rhythm; world music analysis; and the history and theory of ethnomusicology. Much of our work is interdisciplinary, overlapping the concerns of anthropology, religious studies, psychology and computing, and is largely developing within Durham Music & Science Lab.
See the individual web pages of Martin Clayton, Simon Mills and Laura Leante; our project web pages; and details of our postgraduate programmes.


The Department has a strong profile in theory and analysis. We count Julian Horton, the current President of the Society for Music Analysis, on our staff; other staff engaged with theory and analysis include Martin Clayton, Laura Leante and Patrick Zuk. Durham has a long history of supporting analysis. The Department hosted both the first and second SMA analysis summer schools and several members of staff have served on the Board of the journal Music Analysis.


Studying Performance at Durham University means studying in an environment that is both incredibly rich in history and at the same time very much forward-looking. Our staff have a number of strong research specialisms, working in areas as diverse as Renaissance performance practice, nineteenth-century piano performance, organ studies, contemporary music performance, and projects bringing together contemporary music and contemporary visual arts, working with other institutions and notable artists from all over the world.

Psychology of Music

Psychology of music is a recent addition to the interdisciplinary research palette of the Department and is developing within the Durham Music & Science Lab. It seeks to understand how music influences listeners and performers in everyday and performance contexts, and the underlying mechanisms involved in processing, creating and enjoying music. The field is an inherently empirical and interdisciplinary research area. Expertise in the Department includes how music influences emotions (Tuomas Eerola), performers’ entrainment (Martin Clayton), large-scale analyses of music using computational models to emulate the ways listeners process music (Nick Collins, Dr Saari, Tuomas Eerola), and how music and evolution are assumed to be linked (Bennett Zon).


Durham has a strong history of both acoustic and electroacoustic composition, dating back more than half a century. We currently have five members of staff working in the field, covering a wide range of areas, from orchestral and chamber music to electroacoustic, algorithmic, and live electronic music. All our staff members are active composers, working closely with colleagues and performers both in and outside academia, at institutions and venues in the UK and across Europe, North and South America, and Asia.

Music and Philosophy

Martyn Evans developed research on music in relation to embodiment and to the sense of wonder. His current research is in the area of music and metaphysics – our understanding of ourselves and our experience, and where music stands in relation to this.

Indian Music

Durham is a major centre for research in Indian music in the UK. Researchers work on aspects of North and South Indian classical music including gesture, interaction, and performance analysis. We also study other forms of music and dance including bhangra, British-Asian music and Western music in India. See our Indian Music research section for more details.