Music, Sound and Technology

We engage with instruments and software as sites of technology — with the University’s world-leading Musical Instrument Collection, the creation of an open source algorithmic composition package - and collaborate with a variety of other schools, including Physics, Engineering and Informatics — as with the five-year ERC Starting Grant secured to support the Next Generation Sound Synthesis (NESS) project, which involves staff drawn from Music and Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC). Some of our research combines the fabrication and curatorial skills of EUCHMI and the science-based approach of Physics within a Humanities context of social history.

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Musical Practice 

Creative practice is central to our work. Our research includes a variety of approaches to music making in composition, improvisation and performance. Our award-winning staff and students are active in acoustic, electroacoustic and electronic composition, in the use of algorithmic software in computer-based composition and performance. Improvisation is also a key research focus: in the context of new technologies, in the reconstruction and performance of old technologies, and in terms of performing practice and psychological and gestural research. Innovative community music projects involving our students and a variety of groups within the local community draw upon the study of indigenous vocal styles, voice production and drumming techniques from Mali and the Gambia.

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Music and the Human Sciences 

Our research in this area focuses on a range of connected fields: music therapy and dyslexia, autism and problems of communication; music, health and wellbeing; music cognition and brain processes, including work on sound recognition; embodied cognition and ensemble performers’ means and modes of communication; empathy and mirror neurons. Much of this research is focused within the Institute of Music in Human and Social Development (IMHSD), which has created a strong interdisciplinary research environment. Key collaborators include colleagues in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, Edinburgh Neuroscience, and Queen’s University Kingston, Ontario.

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Music and Social Institutions 

Our research under this theme covers a broad range of topics, though most may be understood to focus on musical institutions, such as work on musical confraternities of early modern Rome; notions of popularity in music; music for the screen and the stage; musical culture and canon formation in the German Democratic Republic. We are also involved with large-scale multi-disciplinary projects both within and beyond Edinburgh University, such as a project that explored the music of the Wode Psalter (conducted with the School of Divinity), and a three-year project that explored the history of live music in Britain since 1950 (with Glasgow University), and which has resulted in a developing dialogue with the music industry.

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