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Music research and PhD programmes

Music research at Brunel focuses on composition and musicology and was one of the university’s most successful areas in REF 2014, with the practice-based work in music being judged as ‘of world-leading significance’ and demonstrating an ‘impressive stylistic breadth’. Music at Brunel also has what REF 2014 described as a ‘vibrant student research culture’.

Research is currently based around five main topics:

Collaborative music-making

The role of collaboration in music practice has been a longstanding research topic at Brunel, particularly associated with Peter Wiegold and Colin Riley. In 2016 Wiegold published Britten and the Community, a book which included an account of his working methods, and the Spitalfields Festival featured  his reconception of Purcell’s King Arthur in a version involving composed music, improvisation, the ensemble Notes Inégales and the folk singer Sam Lee. Riley’s  double 'cello concerto was premiered in 2017 by the Manchester Camerata and also involved an education project called 'Remix' utilising fragments of the music, both in scored and audio form.

Interactive sonic arts and sound design

Much of the practice-based research in music at Brunel centres on the use of digital technologies for sound processing, whether in fixed media or interactive music for the concert hall, such as John Croft’s opera Malédictions d'une furie, premiered at Turner Contemporary, or in the acoustic garden, ‘Together We Can’ for the 2016 Chelsea Flower Show. For the Flower Show Carl Faia and Colin Riley worked with Brunel students, the garden designer Peter Eustance and the Papworth Trust to create a sonic space which won a Silver Gilt prize.

Music in the 20th century

Musicological research at Brunel is led by Nicholas Attfield’s work on music in Austria and Germany under the Third Reich but also includes Christopher Fox’s studies of post-1945 avant-garde and experimental music and Jennifer Walshe’s creation of fictional artistic histories such as Grúpat and the Aisteach Foundation.

New instrumental resources

The development both of new instruments and of new ways of using existing instrumental resources is a recurrent element in the practice-based research at Brunel. Research into tuning systems is a driving force in the music of Croft and Fox, Faia is engaged in the creation of instruments based on new digital technologies, Riley’s M2R combines acoustic instruments, electronics and resonating objects, and Wiegold has extensively explored the use of instruments from outside the western classical music tradition.

Post-Internet sound and music

Led by Jennifer Walshe this research aims to fuel critical discussion and analysis of the ways in which the internet is shaping sound and music and includes the project Post-Internet Sound, a crowd-sourced database of sound and music works with open access for both academic and non-academic contributions.

Research groups in the department

Research Centres

The College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences hosts two research centres:-

These centres promote international, interdisciplinary and high impact research by acting as key points of contact between academics, practitioners and the wider community.

Related PhD courses