Job title: Senior Lecturer, Music

Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2423


Office address: Alison House, 2.13

Research outputs: Dr Nikki Moran on Edinburgh Research Explorer

I study musical performance as human practice through both theoretical and original empirical research. My work to date includes projects involving expert classical North Indian duos, jazz and free improvisers, and western classical ensembles and conductors. I’m particularly interested in the ethical and inclusive possibilities of 4E (embedded, extended, embodied, enactive) cognition when this approach is brought to bear on the study of musical performance.

In teaching and learning, 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 taking up my lectureship at The University of Edinburgh 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, and Orchestra of the Canongait. I enjoyed talking about my current and past musical life recently for an episode of the University’s podcast, Sharing Things.

I am Vice-President for the Society for Interdisciplinary Musicology, and an Editorial Board member of Musicæ Scientiæ, the journal of ESCOM (European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music). I currently serve as Co-Chair of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (YAS), a national organisation which connects its members across professions to collaborate on interdisciplinary projects to initiate positive social change across Scotland, the UK and internationally. One of my roles in YAS includes care of our ARAR (At-Risk and Refugee Academics) membership scheme.

Current and recent teaching

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

  • Fundamentals of Music Theory (UG) *
  • Music and Human Communication (UG) *
  • Creative Practice Music Project  (UG)
  • Dissertation supervision (UG)
  • Introduction to Musicology (PG)
  • Music, Style, Identity and Image in the Modern Age *  (UG) [EUSA Teaching Award 'Best Course' overall winner, 2017]

* Course Organiser

Blog posts and video presentations

** From Appleby-Donald and Moran (2020), ‘Critical approaches to the hidden curriculum with hybrid learning in music’, University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference, June 25, 2020.

My research explores the relationship between musical performance 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. I’m particularly interested in the ethical and inclusive possibilities of 4E cognition when this approach is brought to bear on the study of musical performance. (See editorial to the new Special Issue on ‘Embodiment in Music’, Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies, Schiavio & Moran, forthcoming.)

I’m currently exploring how dominant – typically ethnocentric – values of musical practice and listening come to interact with ideas about music in scientific discourse and academic settings more broadly. For example, my article on musicological ‘individualism’ in Frontiers in Psychology (2014); a chapter for Routledge Handbook of Music Cognition, on oral and improvising musical practices (2017). These issues have critical implications for music education. I've begun writing about this lately, see forthcoming book chapter for Chicago University Press, co-authored with two PhD graduates, on ‘Interactions in Indian music: connections and critical reflections’. This line of work is also evident in – and influenced by – my teaching practice and work in Music HE curriculum design towards a critical, inclusive approach to music education.

Previously, my doctoral research with elite 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 Psychology of Music, 'Music, bodies and relationships: An ethnographic contribution to embodied cognition studies' (2013).

My 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). Related research developed as part of my Visiting Fellowship on the AHRC project, Interpersonal Entrainment in Musical Performance (2016-18) at Durham University, UK.

Current PhD students

  • Playing no solo imagination: synthesising the rhythmic emergence of sound and sign formation through embodied drum kit performance and creative writing

PhD Supervision Topics

Accepting applications.

Past PhD supervision include: kinematics of ensemble conducting; cross-cultural perception of symbolic representation of musical sounds; music notation-reading and performer/listener prediction; social experiences in sitar/tabla co-performance; performance anxiety in singers; music literacy in music education and the relevance of music educators' life histories.