Tom Western teaches popular music and ethnomusicology in the Reid School of Music. He studied at the Universities of Liverpool and Edinburgh, completing his PhD at the latter in 2015. His first book – National Phonography: Field Recording, Sound Archiving, and Producing the Nation in Music – is forthcoming with Bloomsbury Academic Press. He has also published in the academic journals Twentieth-Century Music, Sound Studies, Ethnomusicology Forum, and in several edited books.
Tom has received awards for his research and writing from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Forum for Ethnomusicology. In 2012-13, he was an AHRC International Placement Scheme fellow, conducting research at the Library of Congress, Washington DC.
His research interests centre on music, sound and displacement – listening to how the production of nations in music and sound has excluded histories of migration, and how borders are produced within and through sound cultures. This work sits at the intersections of sound studies, ethnomusicology, popular music studies, and the anthropology of sound.
For most of 2017, Tom worked as a coordinator of music workshops at a refugee community centre in Athens, Greece. He is also an active musician and sound recordist, specialising in using location recordings to produce place-specific compositions.
Tom is course leader for the master’s course ‘Making Sense of Popular Music’, and undergraduate courses ‘Intercultural Musical Performance’ and ‘Festivals’. He also contributes to courses on ‘Ways of Listening’, ‘Instruments, Culture and Technology’, ‘The Psychology of Music’, and ‘Performance and Keyboard’. This year, Tom will be running the seminar series on popular music in the department, which is a discussion group for researchers from various disciplinary backgrounds.
Tom writes about how nations and borders are produced through sound and music. His research uses sound to address issues of migration, displacement, borders and citizenship, drawing on perspectives from ethnomusicology, sound studies, popular music studies, and anthropology.
He is currently working on two main projects. The first is a cultural history of how nations were produced through technologies of field recording and sound archiving after World War II, and the effects of this history in the present. This is the topic of Tom’s first book: a study of national phonography in various parts of the world (forthcoming: Bloomsbury Academic).
The second is an anthropology of sound and citizenship in Athens, Greece, focussing on uses of sound in public spaces by various communities in the city. The first 8 months of fieldwork for this project were completed in 2017. An early output of this project is a collaborative soundscape piece, recorded in collaboration with musicians and artists from Greece, Syria and Afghanistan. This is forthcoming on www.refugeehosts.org as part of University College London’s ‘Representations of Displacement’ series.