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University of Cambridge
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University of Cambridge

Type of Program and Degrees Offered

Ethnomusicology has become an important part of the degrees on offer at the Faculty of Music, and with the recent appointment of Dr Peter McMurray as a permanent lecturer, the discipline is set to grow in the coming years. At an undergraduate level, ethnomusicology is introduced to students in Year 1 as a core subject and there are optional modules throughout Years 2 and 3. For example, this coming academic year students will be able to take the Year 2 module ‘Introduction to Ethnomusicology’ and the Year 3 module ‘Music, Nationalism and Politics in Spain’.

At graduate level, the Faculty has recently restructured its Masters program, offering a 9-month MPhil in Music Studies from October 2018. Alongside cross-disciplinary modules such as ‘Musicology and its Debates’, students are able to specialize in ethnomusicology for their dissertation. There are also optional modules in the discipline that vary each year depending on staff research interests. The Faculty also attracts exceptional PhD candidates that pursue research in ethnomusicology and its intersection with other sub-disciplines such as popular music studies and historical musicology. Current PhD students are working on a range of topics including: popular music, class and national identity in Manila; musical folklore and nostalgia during the Franco regime; and the intersection between music and Assyrian nationalism.

In terms of affiliations with other parts of the university, Dr Matthew Machin-Autenrieth was recently appointed as an Affiliated Researcher at the Woolf Institute, an outreach organization connected to the University of Cambridge that promotes interfaith relations between Christians, Jews and Muslims especially in the Middle East. He also maintains connections with the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies.

Program Statement

Ethnomusicology has a rich, prestigious history at the University of Cambridge, dating from the end of the 19th century when psychologist Charles Myers (founder of the Experimental Psychology Laboratory) joined the 1898 anthropological expedition to the Torres Straits. Myers went on to do pioneering work on perception in non-Western music. In the 1940s, the eminent ethnomusicologist Laurence Picken (also biologist and zoologist) began his research in Chinese, then Turkish music. Picken attracted research students from all over the world, and by the 1970s, Cambridge had become an international centre for ethnomusicology. In 1983, Ruth Davis, specialist in Tunisian and other Middle Eastern traditions, joined the Music Faculty as the University’s first designated appointment in Ethnomusicology.

Since then, music outside the Western canon has formed an integral part of the Faculty’s teaching and research. Ethnomusicology is taught across all three years of the BA Music degree. Some students choose to write dissertations based on original fieldwork, often supported by College and Faculty travel grants. Ethnomusicology is an option within the MPhil in Music Studies, and a number of students proceed to the PhD. The graduate programme has attracted extremely talented research students in a wide range of music cultural areas, with former PhD students taking up college research fellowships and going on to teaching posts in the UK and abroad. Current and recent research areas include musical ethnography of Palestine in the 1930s; Yiddish song; Mukmalar of Turkmenistan; traditional music of the Bolivian Andes; Greek composers in Ottoman Turkey; the duduk of Armenia and the mey of Turkey; black women singers in South Africa; songs of Tibetan refugees in Nepal; the intersection between Islam and sound in the Turkish diaspora; and intercultural music making and postcolonialism across the Strait of Gibraltar.

Special Resources

Resources for ethnomusicology at the Faculty include facilities for transcription and analysis, as well as portable equipment for field recordings. The Faculty library and central university library also boast a strong collection of books and journals, and commercial and field recordings in non-western traditions. Among the Faculty’s collection of instruments is the Gamelan Dutå Laras. This is a complete Javanese bronze gamelan that was presented to the Faculty by the government of the Republic of Indonesia in 1983 and is regularly used by the Cambridge Gamelan Society. The Faculty also holds a regular colloquium series, often featuring eminent ethnomusicologists from around the globe. 

Full-Time Faculty in Ethnomusicology

Dr. Peter McMurray. Peter will begin teaching at the Faculty in October 2018 as a permanent lecturer in Ethnomusicology. He completed a PhD in Ethnomusicology at Harvard, with a secondary emphasis in Critical Media Practice. He also holds degrees in music composition (MFA, Brandeis) and Classics (Greek) and Slavic Literature (BA, Harvard). After his doctoral studies, he held postdoctoral fellowships at MIT (Mellon) and Harvard’s Society of Fellows (through spring 2018). Peter’s research focuses primarily on the intersection of Islam and sound, including recitation, liturgy, theology, and architecture and he is currently completing a book and media project, Pathways to God: The Islamic Acoustics of Turkish Berlin. He has also published on various aspects of the history of sound recording, especially tape and YouTube music. He is currently researching music and the refugee crisis in contemporary Europe and Turkey as well as intersections of sound, media and empire in the 19th century. His media practice includes extensive non-fiction audio and video work. For over 10 years he has worked as the Assistant Curator of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature and continues to do research on oral poetry, the history/theory of orality, and the voice. As a performer, he has a longstanding interest in jazz and experimental improvisation. He also has been a part of Harvard’s metaLAB and Sensate Journal. 

Affiliated Faculty

Dr Matthew Machin-Autenrieth. Matthew completed a BA in Music at the University of Plymouth in 2006 and an MA in ethnomusicology at Cardiff University in 2008. In 2013, he was awarded a PhD from Cardiff University under the supervision of John Morgan O’Connell. He has taught and supervised on a number of ethnomusicology courses both an undergraduate and postgraduate levels at Cardiff University, the University of Cambridge and the University of Plymouth. Matthew is a currently a Leverhulme Trust Early Career fellow based at the Faculty of Music in Cambridge and will continue as a teaching associate for Lent Term 2018. In April 2018 he will lead a major 5 year research project worth €1.5million funded by the European Research Council. As a result of this grant, two postdoctoral researchers will be appointed in the areas of ethnomusicology/historical ethnomusicology/anthropology and one PhD student in ethnomusicology. The project will also establish links with the Faculty of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Manchester through the appointment of Dr Samuel Llano. Matthew is also an Affiliated Researcher at the Woolf Institute. His primary research focuses on flamenco in Southern Spain, as well as intercultural musical dialogue across the Strait of Gibraltar. This work intersects with three primary theoretical interests: musical heritage and national/regional identity; postcolonial studies and multiculturalism; and the intersection between historical ethnomusicology and musicology. 

Financial Support

Students specializing in ethnomusicology at both undergraduate and graduate levels are able to apply for funds from the Faculty and their college to cover costs such as fieldwork. 

Further Information

Dr Sam Barrett
Chairman of the Faculty Board
Reader in Early Medieval Music

Emma Chapman
Graduate Administrator
01223 767883

Libby Jones
Undergraduate Administrator
01223 761309

Program Website

Faculty of Music: http://www.mus.cam.ac.uk/


The content for University of Cambridge was last updated October 10, 2017.

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