Job title: Senior Lecturer, Music

Role: Programme Director, Music - MA (Hons)

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2423


Office address: Alison House, 2.13

Research outputs: Dr Nikki Moran on Edinburgh Research Explorer

I specialise in the cognition of musical performance and have published both theoretical and original empirical research, using methods of fieldwork and ethnography as well as controlled experimental design. My work has included projects involving expert classical North Indian duos, jazz and free improvisers, and western classical ensembles and conductors.

At Edinburgh, I have developed courses and curricula that reflect issues that I’ve come to understand through my research - to do with the role of conventional music literacy in HE and music scholarship, access and opportunity in music education; and concerning critical approaches to scientific and public discourse around music. I teach various core and elective courses, and supervise a number of postgraduate students.

Before joining Reid School of Music in 2007, I gained degrees in music at City University London/GSMD, University of Cambridge, and Open University. During this time I studied classical viola and North Indian sitar performance (Gerry Farrell, Mehboob Nadeem, Pt. Arvind Parikh). These days, I play with various local ensembles and friends including Edimpro, Something Smashing, Grey Area ensemble, and Orchestra of the Canongait.

I’m an Editorial Board member of Musicæ Scientiæ, journal of ESCOM (European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music), and a scientific committee member of the Institute for Music in Human and Social Development (IMHSD). I’m also proud to be a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy (YAS). YAS connects its members across disciplines and professions, to develop and share in initiatives for positive social change across Scotland, the UK and internationally.

My work pattern at ECA is currently part-time - normally Tuesdays, Wednesday mornings and Thursdays.

Current and recent teaching

Presenting lecturer and co-author of the 'Fundamentals of Music Theory' MOOC, hosted by Coursera.

  • Ways of Listening (UG) *
  • Music 1B: Instruments, Culture and Technology (UG) *
  • Music and Human Communication (UG) *
  • Music, Style, Identity and Image in the modern age *  (UG) [EUSA Teaching Award 'Best Course' overall winner, 2017]
  • Creative Practice Music Project * (UG)
  • Dissertation supervision (UG)
  • Introduction to Musicology (PG)

* Course Organiser


  • Music - BMus (Hons)
  • Music - MA
  • Music - PhD/MSc by Research
  • Musicology - MMus

My research explores the relationship between musical performance (improvisation in particular) and everyday social interaction. I'm motivated by what we can learn about music when we focus specifically on its manifestation as performance - as human communication. And vice-versa: what this type of pragmatic and interdisciplinary approach can reveal about social minds, life and behaviour.

Current interests include scientific discourse around music, and the ways in which core conceptualisations of practice and listening in this domain come to interact with ideas (and values) about music in policy and educational settings.

Previously, my doctoral research with North Indian musicians combined methods of ethnography and video analysis. This work is published as a chapter in the edited book, Experience and Meaning in Music Performance (OUP, 2013), and in the journal Psychology of Music, 'Music, bodies and relationships: An ethnographic contribution to embodied cognition studies' (2013).

The subsequent 'Improvising Duos' project was funded through awards from British Academy and The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, and facilitated by resources of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, in collaboration with Prof. Peter Keller. We used motion capture to record duo improvisations by jazz and free improvising musician duos. Findings from our original experiment are reported in PLoSONE, 'Perception of 'back-channeling' nonverbal feedback in musical duo improvisation' (Moran et al. 2015).

This project also generated an original dataset of kinematic and audio recordings, published in DataShare (Moran & Keller, 2016). Recently, this corpus and related research have been developed as part of my Visiting Fellowship on the AHRC project, Interpersonal Entrainment in Musical Performance (2016-18) at Durham University, UK.

Past doctoral student projects include research into the kinematics of ensemble conducting (Yu-Fen Huang), cross-cultural perception of symbolic representation of musical sounds (Athanasopoulos), and social experiences in sitar/tabla co-performance (Cooper).

Current PhD students

PhD Supervision Topics

  • Music as social interaction
  • Oral/improvised musical performance
  • Music and cognitive sciences
  • ​Cross-cultural and applied music research
  • Music and scientific discourse
  • Social context of music education
  • Ethnography