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Seminar Series

Research Seminar Series 2022-23

This year’s School of Music Research Seminar Series – a relaunch of the long-running Seminar in Musicology Series – will take place in room J305, UCD School of Music, Newman Building, UCD Belfield Campus on Thursday evenings, 5pm. These seminars seek not only to serve as a focal point for the School’s research community, but also to welcome music scholars and interested parties from across Dublin and beyond. All are warmly invited to attend. Each seminar will also be followed by a drinks reception.

UCD is committed to continually improving campus accessibility and equality, diversity, and inclusion. Enquiries regarding access or any other matters may be sent to music@ucd.ie.

This year’s programme is convened by Anika Babel and Tomos Watkins, with support from Laura Anderson and Tomás McAuley. Details of previous seminar series may be found in the Seminar Archives.

Autumn Trimester 2022

6 October 2022

Tone, Tune, and Textual Comprehensibility in Central Cameroonian Liturgical Music

Presented by Professor Byron Dueck (The Open University); Paper co-authored by Dr Essele Essele Kisito (Catholic University of Central Africa)


Since the late 1950s, Cameroonian Catholic discourse has emphasised the importance of correspondence between liturgical melodies and the tonal elements of the texts they set. Most Cameroonian languages are tonal ones – in which the pitch of a syllable relative to its neighbours helps determine meaning. This study thus builds on previous research on tone and tune in African musics (e.g., Jones 1959, Schneider 1961, Agawu 1984 and 1988, Waterman 1990, Fürniss and Guarisma 2004, Schellenberg 2009, Essele 2017) by considering a context where an explicit ideology appears to govern the relationship between words and the melodies that set them. The talk begins by establishing the historical circumstances of the musical practices under consideration. It then presents the results of an analysis of pieces in the Ewondo and Eton languages that indicates broad similarities in how texts shape melodies and melodies shape texts across a range of genres, both sacred and secular. The talk closes by considering the implications the insistence on tone-tune correspondence has had for musical life in central Cameroon, not only within liturgical contexts but also more widely.


Byron Dueck is Professor of Music at the Open University and Chair of the Executive Committee of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology. He studies music and dance in central Cameroon and in North American Indigenous communities. He is the author of Musical Intimacies and Indigenous Imaginaries (Oxford University Press, 2013) and the co-editor, with Martin Clayton and Laura Leante, of Experience and Meaning in Musical Performance (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Essele Essele Kisito is an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist who specialises in Fang, Beti and Bulu musics of Cameroun, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. He is Lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Management at the Catholic University of Central Africa, Yaoundé Catholic Institute (Cameroon); Research Fellow at the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle (France); and a member of the Diversity and Cultural Evolution team in the Eco-Anthropology Laboratory at the Musée de l’homme (France).

20 October 2022

Jazz as Social Machine

Presented by Professor Thomas Irvine (University of Southampton)


Jazz has always been a sociotechnical activity in which "no one knows everything but everyone knows something." It shares this quality with what Web Scientists call a "social machine." This talk takes a novel generative jazz algorithm, the Jazz Transformer (JT), as a springboard for critical reflections on the changing relations between computer science, musicology, and the Digital Humanities by placing AI jazz in the context of social machines. It offers a "reverse engineering" of the JT and its accompanying data set, the Weimar Jazz Database, as a way to explore how thinking about generative jazz AI can uncover hidden relations between Music Information Retrieval, traditional editorial musicology, and critical and postcolonial theory (e.g. Latour, Derrida, Foucault, and Sylvia Wynter). The result is a new perspective on AI jazz that frames it not only as a series of technical operations but also a social process in which musicians, critical scholars, and technologists can find each other, in knowledge and action, in a new kind of social machine.


Tom Irvine is a global historian of music from 1500 CE to the present. His current research focuses on global music history, historical sound studies and the use of machine learning techniques in jazz. He is the author of Listening to China: Sound and the Sino-Western Encounter 1770-1839 (University of Chicago Press, 2020) and the co-editor, with Neil Gregor, of Dreams of Germany: Musical Imaginaries from the Concert Hall to the Dance Floor (Berghahn, 2019). He is a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute (the UK’s national institution for AI and data science) and a Non-Executive Director of the Southampton Web Science Institute. This paper is the presentation of research funded by a fellowship from the Alan Turing Institute.

17 November 2022

Queer Quality? Value, Reception, and Creative Agency in the Soundtracks of Ryan Murphy's Horror Television

Presented by Dr Catherine Haworth (University of Huddersfield)


Superstar writer-producer-director-showrunner Ryan Murphy is both emblematic and at the margins of trends within the production and reception of contemporary television. With a distinctiveness of style and consistency of theme across multiple shows and formats, Murphy’s work bears many hallmarks of the auteur – a common theme in television criticism, which often applies (not unproblematic) cinematic models to the small screen as markers of excellence. However, identification of Murphy as auteur is almost always accompanied by unease about the quality and/or value of his productions, which are both celebrated and censured for their extravagance; guilty pleasures that sit easily with the concept of event TV, but less comfortably within discourse around high-end, cerebral, ‘art’ television. Murphy’s ‘excesses’ – visual sumptuousness; sonic saturation; outlandish plots; exaggerated characterisation; liberal use of sex and violence; and recycling of stars across roles and series – are explicitly coded as queer, a positioning amplified by Murphy’s own queer celebrity, his frequent foregrounding of narratives of acceptance, and increasingly inclusive casting choices. Again, this coding is both positive and negative. Whilst celebrating diversity, subjectivity, and authorial creativity, it also aligns with a long history of marginalisation through the positioning of queerness as camp, theatrical, superficial… as just too much.

This paper examines excess in the soundtracks of Murphy’s horror television, and their uneasy position within the discourse of quality television. As a genre marked by boundary-crossing and the spectacular, horror is often both visually and sonically extreme, and Murphy’s musical collaborators on series including American Horror Story (FX, 2011-) and Ratched (Netflix, 2020) work both within and outside expectations of both the horror soundtrack and the ideals of cohesion, authorial agency, and ‘good taste’ that commonly underpin notions of artistry and value. These dense, attention-grabbing soundtracks (which variously include classic horror tropes, pre-existing tracks, intensely-rendered pastiche cues, musical moments, and crossover appearances by musical stars), demonstrate not only the ‘peakness’ of Murphy’s sonic approach but also the ways in which this might challenge – or queer – developing models of quality in television sound and music.


Catherine Haworth is Course Leader for Music and Music Technology at the University of Huddersfield. Her research focuses on musical practices of representation and identity across various media, with a particular interest in film and television music. Catherine has published on topics including the female detective in 1940s Hollywood; music, gender, and medical discourse; women and music in James Bond; film music and celebrity culture; and film and television musicals. Her editorial work includes a special edition of Music, Sound and the Moving Image on gender, sexuality, and the soundtrack; Gender, Age and Musical Creativity (Ashgate, 2015); and Singing Out: The Musical Voice in Audiovisual Media (forthcoming with EUP).


1 December 2022

The Sovereign Ghost: Antonio Caldara (1670-1736) and the Eclipses of Cultural History

Presented by Professor Harry White (University College Dublin)


The Venetian composer Antonio Caldara (1670-1736) has endured an afterlife of almost total eclipse. Despite an immense catalogue  (estimated at over three thousand works) and twenty years’ distinguished service at the court of Charles VI, Caldara has languished in the shadow of his close contemporary and fellow Kapellmeister in Vienna, Johann Joseph Fux (c. 1660-1741).  It remains legitimate to add, however, that both composers have received far less than their due in the annals of reception history, to say little of contemporary performance and circulation. In this lecture, I propose an explanation for this state of affairs which draws upon my recent monograph, The Musical Discourse of Servitude (Oxford University Press, 2020), in order to identify Caldara as a crucial agent in the development of a work-based autonomy, through which eighteenth-century music became emancipated from the servitude of liturgical practice. I shall also countenance the difficulties of rehabilitating Caldara’s prodigious musical estate at the present moment, when the very concept of European music (and within that fold, the legitimacy of ‘the composer’ as an abiding entity) is under siege. I shall (lastly) argue that a genre-based history of European music in the early eighteenth century, in contradistinction to our contemporary preoccupation with Bach and Handel in particular, is likely to throw Caldara’s significance into much sharper relief than has hitherto been the case.


Harry White is Professor of Music at University College Dublin and a Fellow of the Royal Irish Academy of Music. From 2003-6 he was inaugural President of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, and served thereafter as a council member of the society until May 2021.

He is perhaps best known as a cultural historian of music in Ireland, on which subject he has published over eighty papers and book-chapters and three monographs: The Keeper's Recital (1998), The Progress of Music in Ireland (2005), and Music and the Irish Literary Imagination (2008). He has also published extensively on music in early eighteenth-century Austria, and on the history of Anglo-American musicology since 1945.

He was general editor (with Barra Boydell) of The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (Dublin, 2013), and his most recent publications include The Musical Discourse of Servitude (Oxford and New York, 2020), The Well-Tempered Festschrift (Vienna, 2020) and Music, Migration and European Culture (Zagreb, 2020), the last of which he edited with Ivano Cavallini and Jolanta Guzy-Pasiak. Professor White was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 2006, the Academy of Europe in 2015 and the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2018.

Spring Trimester 2023

To be confirmed

UCD School of Music

Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 8178 | E: music@ucd.ie