Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Music

Research Degrees

In this section:


The School offers three research degrees: PhD, MPhil and MA by Research. These can take the form of conventional thesis-based studies, but for PhD and MPhil can also represent practice-led research, where a commentary or smaller thesis supports a portfolio of recorded performances or compositions. All of these programmes, which can be conducted in either full-time or part-time mode, enable students to pursue advanced, independent research under the guidance of one or two specialist supervisors. Our ‘PGR Alumni’ tab provides details of some of the career paths followed by recent PGR students.

Research in the School of Music is grouped under three main areas:

Music and Science

  • Music technology (history, development, computing, multimedia, instruments)
  • Psychology of music (development, identities, listening behaviour, perception)
  • Music and wellbeing (health, environment, society)
  • Technologies and practices of film music

Music as Culture

  • Critical, historical and applied musicology
  • Popular music (history, performance, cultures)
  • Music and literature; music journalism
  • Music and cultural difference
  • Film musicology

Making Music

  • Composition (acoustic, electro-acoustic)
  • Performance research (including historically-informed performance, editing)
  • Improvisation

For more details of specific staff research interests, see the Research and Staff Profile pages on this site, or download our Staff Research Interests leaflet.

The research pages on this website provide further details of the School’s research culture. Postgraduate research students are encouraged to situate their research interests in relation to these groups, to explore links with research centres hosted by the School such as:

  • LUCEM Leeds University Centre for English Music
  • LUCHIP Leeds University Centre for Historically-Informed Performance
  • CePRA The Centre for Practice-led Research in the Arts
  • ICSRiM Interdisciplinary Centre for Scientific Research in Music

Students also benefit from connections with wider University research centres such as the Centre for African Studies and the Popular Cultures Research Network, as relevant to their particular interests.

Why this School?

The benefits for a research student studying in the School of Music at the University of Leeds:

  • Wide choice of potential supervisors, all of whom are specialists in their fields and offer complementary expertise to a supervisory team (usually made up of two  supervisors)
  • Wide choice of research areas
  • Opportunity to participate in the School’s PGR Symposia, research seminar series and the annual University of Leeds Postgraduate Conference
  • Potential to undertake practice-led research in an environment that is equipped for the demands of such research, and with staff who have extensive experience and expertise in practice-led research
  • Opportunity to undertake a wealth of training in specific research methods that are appropriate to their own field of study, including written thesis, workshop-based enquiry and experimental practice

Some current PhD topics include the following:

Nordic national identity, heritage and mythology in heavy metal.

‘Wunderkinder’ – musical prodigies in European concert life between 1791-1860.

Turntablist performance practice.

Issues of authenticity and meaning in folk music.

‘Leipzig School’ editors and editions of string music 1840-1930.

Examining the Sicilian question through creative composition.

The use of music to support non-musical learning goals within mainstream learning support settings.

Constructing national identity through creative composition.

Systems, space & sound art:  new sonic environments in interactive formalised systems.

Transcending imposed morphology: a psychoacoustical approach to drumming.

‘You hum it, I’ll play it!’ – the role of memory in playing the piano by ear.

Free-improvised performance practice (performance PhD)

The influence of incongruence on perceived emotional meaning in the film soundtrack.

Entry Requirements

PhD candidates are normally required to have a good honours degree (First or Upper Second), and it is usually advantageous to have completed a Masters degree in a related subject area, or to have significant and relevant professional experience in place of a master’s qualification.

MPhil or MA by research candidates are normally required to have a good first degree in a related subject area.  If you are proposing to undertake research that includes practice-led elements you will normally be able to demonstrate appropriate experience and proficiency in relevant areas of practice.

English Language Qualifications. Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to take an English Language Qualification and achieve the following entry requirements;

IELTS:  6.5 Overall with no less than 6.0 in all components

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) internet-based test: a total score of 92, with not less than: 21 in listening, 21 in reading, 22 in writing, and 23 speaking.

The University of Leeds Language Centre provides an Academic English for Postgraduate Studies pre-sessional course which is designed to help international students develop the necessary language and academic study skills required for successful study on a research degree programme. Courses start in September, January, April, July or August. For further information, please see visit the Language Centre’s website or contact via e-mail : langc@leeds.ac.uk

How to Apply?

Applications can be made at any time of the year. To apply for a Research Degree you will need to complete an online application form, which can be found here, and write a research proposal. For all enquiries please contact the Graduate School Administrator Linda Watson musicphd@leeds.ac.uk or 0113 343 8713. It is advisable that you contact the School before submitting an application.

How Do I Write A Research Proposal?

Your proposal should be up to 3000 words (including the bibliography).  We use your proposal to assess the potential of your topic for research, and to match your interests with appropriate supervisors.

Please give the following information in separate sections:

  • Whether you are applying for a PhD or a practice-led PhD (where your research questions can only be answered through practical engagement)
  • Your central research question.
  • A list of sub-questions that inform or underpin the central research question.
  • Context.  This should take the form of a brief outline of the general area of study, and should do the following: identify the context within which you place your research; identify the key relevant literature and/or practice for your proposed research project; demonstrate that you are aware of current debates and issues; make reference to key articles and texts; demonstrate your own expertise in your chosen area; and articulate the potential contribution to new knowledge in the chosen field of research (for example, what are the gaps in the field that you can see, or what limitations are there in the current field).   A PhD is an original piece of work and this section should demonstrate that your proposed area of study has not been studied before or that you have a new angle on this area of study or that you are applying new methodologies and/or models to this area of study. 
  • Methodology.  An outline of the methods you intend to employ in your research and the kinds of data you will require.  You may use a variety of methods, including qualitative methods, literature review and studio experimentation, amongst others.  Specify the approach you feel will be most appropriate for your research project.
  • An explanation of why you are interested in this research and why you are well placed to conduct the research. 
  • Practice-led Research Rationale.  If you are applying for practice-led research a rationale for choosing this method of research and evidence of your experience of working through practice
  • Timetable.  Indicative timetable for your research
  • Bibliography.  A brief bibliography that supports the key concepts, frameworks and, if appropriate, existing practices/performances, that you have discussed in your context section.
  • Sample of your own practice. If you are applying for practice-led research then you should supply a sample of your work on a DVD or a web site. (If you need to submit your sample in another format then please contact us to check that we will be able to access it.) The sample should be of suitable length and content for us to assess the quality of your practice in relation to your proposed methodology.

If you have any questions about writing your research proposal, please contact the Postgraduate Research Tutor Dr Michael Allis m.allis@leeds.ac.uk for more information.

What happens next?

When the School receives your application, we will contact you. Wherever possible, we call candidates for interview. For international students, this can be a telephone interview. We will let you know the result of your application as soon as possible.

The University of Leeds welcomes applications from international students; further advice and information for international applicants can be found at: http://www.leeds.ac.uk//info/20019/international.

PGR Alumni

Recent research degree graduates who are now working in the Higher Education sector include:

Dr Anastasia Belina-Johnson: Assistant Head of Undergraduate Programmes, Royal College of Music, London

Dr Michael Byde: Faculty Education Service Manager, University of Leeds

Dr John Cunningham: Senior Lecturer in Music, Bangor University

Dr Christoph de Bezenac: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Salford

Dr Thérèse de Goede: basso continuo teacher at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (Amsterdam University of the Arts)

Dr Hannah French: Lecturer in Academic Studies, Royal Academy of Music

Dr Roddy Hawkins: Lecturer in Music, University of Manchester

Dr Catherine Haworth: Senior Lecturer in Music, University of Huddersfield

Dr Sue Miller: Senior Lecturer in Music, Leeds Beckett University

Dr Lauren Redhead: Senior Lecturer in Music, Canterbury Christ Church University

Dr Chris Roberts: Administrator of Cambridge Early Music, Assistant at Percius Artist & Project Management, Visiting Lecturer University of Leeds

Dr Andrew Woolley: musicologist and performer currently based at the New University of Lisbon

PGR Symposia

Wednesday 18 December, 2013

Speakers included:

Chris Roberts: ‘Mapping the career of Edward Miller, an eighteenth-century Doncaster musician’

Will Baldry: ‘Expressive tools: using hip-hop techniques within experimental turntablism’

Jelena Gligorijevic: ‘Serbia’s Exit and Guča Trumpet Festivals as Micronational Spaces: In Between Nation Building and Nation Branding’

Jo Armitage: ‘Haptic Composition: Vibrations as a Means of Musical Expression’

Alannah Halay: ‘Compositional “Form”: A Multidimensional Interstice’

Dorien Schampaert: ‘The Ondes Martenot as (mis)represented in academic literature’

Paul Hession: ‘Improvising with Live Electronics’

Monday 19 May 2014

Speakers included:

Chris Roberts: ‘Edward Finch, the Italian style and creativity in early 18th-century York’

Simon Morrison: Pleasure, pain and the politics of dancing’

Dave Ireland: ‘Interpreting incongruence: audio-visual difference, identification and a sense of location in L4yer Cake’

Sarah Hall: ‘Scoring Merlin: music in a hybrid television production’

Alannah Halay: ‘A violent encounter? notions of hidden “violence” in compositional thoughts, acts, and encounters with the work of art’

Oliver Thurley: ‘Deciphering the palimpsests of Jakob Ullmann’

Richard Barrett: ‘(Dis)continuity as structural principle: tendril for harp with or without electronics’

Monday 15 December 2014

Speakers included:

Dorien Schampaert: ‘The ondes Martenot: exploring the tension between technology and humanity in popular music’

Jenny Daniel: ‘Opera and the access agenda(s): Katherine Jenkins, John Maynard Keynes and Opera North’

Alannah Halay: ‘The composer’s paradox: an exploration of restriction and freedom in the compositional process’

Alfia Nakipbekova: ‘Xenakis’s Nomos Alpha for solo cello’  [lecture recital]

Plenary session (Michael Allis/Mic Spencer): ‘Publishing an academic article: a few observations’

Monday 18 May 2015

Sarah Mawby: ‘Music Education and Music Therapy in Schools for Children with Special Educational Needs: Similarities, Crossovers and Distinctions’

Beatrice Bretherton: ‘Tempo and the heart’

Jennifer Daniel: ‘Musicological dramaturgy in practice’

Amélie Addison: ‘Rediscovering William Shield: Lines of Enquiry’

Jung-Yoon Cho [lecture-recital]: Changes in performing style: Brahms’ Sonata for Violin and Piano op. 78’

Alannah Halay: ‘Considering Expression as Compositional Material’: ‘Improvisation is the Middle Ground between Composing and Performing’ or ‘Using Improvisation in Live Performance as a Compositional Technique’

Alex de Little: ‘Sound Space and the Human: integrating interdisciplinary strands for practice-led research’

John Fallas: ‘What Kind of Kind? Some reflections on genre for contemporary music’

Monday 7 December 2015

Sylvia Jen: ‘Developing entrepreneurship in music students: the dilemma for Higher Education’

Anne Stanyon Ley: ‘ “but Sullivan must live”: A Victorian composer’s financial survival’

Daniel Tooke: ‘Hans Keller in the “Land without Music”: setting an émigré critic in context’

John Fallas: ‘A typology of seconds: genre lost and found in the contemporary string quartet’

Alannah Halay: ‘(Per)Forming Art: Performance as a compositional technique’

Monday 16 May 2016

Claire Castle: ‘The everyday music listening experiences of blind adults and adolescents in the UK’

Anne-Marie Czajkowski: ‘Mindfulness for musicians: The effects of teaching mindfulness courses to student vocalists and instrumentalists’

Amélie Addison: ‘The Keel Row, the Running Fitter, and the Duke of Northumberland’s Piper’

Jamie Stephenson: ‘Auditioning Ontology: Methodological Approaches to Theorizing Sound in Philosophical Discourse’

Alex de Little: ‘Listening devices: can we hear ourselves hearing?’

Sarah Hall: ‘Bumpers and the “Guzintos” and “Guzoutos” of Television Advertising Breaks’

Madis Järvekülg: ‘The conservative-elitist-romanticist perspective on music in Estonian state-funded arts journalism’

Alannah Halay: ‘What does it mean to “compose”?’

Julia Zupancic: ‘Music, Nature and Tonality. An Alternative Concept to the Idea of Musical Progress in the West German Debates of the 1950s’

Plenary session: Tenley Martin: ‘Preparing for/surviving the viva’.


Thursday 8 December 2016

Sze-Hua Jen: Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis in Realist Inquiry: A

Amélie Addison – Who in the world was William Shield? Does anyone out there actually care?

Kate Blackstone – Letters to my Younger Self: Investigating conservatoire graduates’ transitions into the music profession

Social media and postgraduate research – session led by Sarah Mawby

Kate Wadsworth – What makes a dolce dolce? A performer’s guide to 19th-century expressive markings

Caitlin Mockridge – Defining Davies

John Fallas – Afterlives of Counterpoint: the canon goes underground in Webern and George Benjamin


Monday 15 May 2017

Anne-Marie Czajkowski: ‘Mindfulness for musicians: The effects of teaching a mindfulness course to student musicians’

Michelle Ulor: ‘Is voluntary musical imagery an effective intervention for anxiety? What methods can be used to train and assess imagining music in individuals?’

Harriet Matthews: ‘Moving Images: Using Archival Video Resources to Shed Light on Trevor Jones’s Dark City (1998)’

Anne Stanyon: ‘Sir Arthur Sullivan and the Great Leeds Conspiracy’

Amélie Addison: ‘Snapshots of a musician’s career: discoveries from a subscribers’ list in William Shield’s first published work’

Hazel Brooks: ‘Davis Mell: a case of hidden scordatura?’

Research in Progress: Brief sharing of ideas on some early research in progress by staff from two of the School’s research clusters: Michael Allis (Music as Culture), Freya Bailes (Music and Science).

Emily Payne: Post-doc opportunities and maintaining a ‘portfolio’ career

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