Listening to music: people, practices and experiences

24-25 October 2015, Royal College of Music, London, UK

The conference is held as part of the Listening Experience Database (LED) Project

The keynote speaker will be Professor Simon Frith.

How have people responded to listening to music in their everyday lives?

We have access to plenty of professional critical opinion, but what new insights are offered by an examination of the observations and feelings of ordinary listeners – what can we learn about the effects of music, its cultural value and the manner of its consumption in a range of social, historical and geographical contexts?

The LED (Listening Experience Database) Project focuses on the building and interrogation of a large database of personal listening experiences, with the aim of establishing a more robust evidential base for the exploration of such questions.

As we come to the end of the first phase of the project, the conference is an opportunity to take stock of progress to date, to look ahead to future developments, and – crucially – to examine some of the themes and approaches to the study of music that may be supported by the mass of evidence of listening experiences that the database is accumulating.

Day 1
24 Oct 2015
Day 2
25 Oct 2015


David Rowland

Listening and life writing

‘Human voices are alone themselves sufficient’: Protestant and Catholic currents in the listening experiences of a 19th-century Anglo-Prussian family. Dr Helen Barlow, The Open University On 1 July 1817, in the...
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Practitioner listening 1

‘From where they sat’: listening experiences of 20th-century British wind players Dr Ingrid Pearson, Royal College of Music In 1956 in his Clarinet Technique, clarinettist Frederick Thurston remarked: ‘All the...
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Ingrid Pearson
11:15 - 11:40


Listening in 17th and 18th century London

The Harris family in eighteenth-century London: records of musical events from the Malmesbury archive Prof. Donald Burrows, The Open University James Harris (1709-80), father to the 1st Earl of Malmesbury,...
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Practitioners and the impact of recordings

Listening to recordings: perspectives on practitioners’ habits Dr Georgia Volioti, University of Surrey and Prof Aaron Williamon, Royal College of Music Controversy persists over the influence of recordings upon performers’...
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13:10 - 14:00


The listening experience of the concert hall

Round table: The listening experience of the concert hall: what do we learn about the experience and value of concert listening from researching with classical music audiences today? Stephanie Pitts,...
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Provincial listening

The impact of London musical cultures on listeners in the provinces c.1750-1850 Prof David Rowland, The Open University In the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries much of the cultural life...
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David Rowland

Listening and new technologies

Walking in the city with headphones on: music listening, digital technologies and big data Craig Hamilton, Birmingham City University Many of the ways in which popular music is consumed have...
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16:10 - 16:30


Colonial influences

Listening in semi-colonial Shanghai: The Shanghai Municipal Orchestra and its Chinese audience Irene Pang, The University of Hong Kong The Shanghai Municipal Orchestra was one of the earliest Western orchestras...
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Ordinary and expert listeners

‘A game of cards without faces and rules’: modern music’s listeners Ivan Hewett, Royal College of Music Pierre Boulez’s sarcastic description of the wilder reaches of modern music aptly catches...
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Ivan Hewett

Drinks Reception

The impact of war

The BBC and the listening experience in World War Two Kerri-Anne Edinburgh, The Open University During the Second World War, the BBC provided the nation with a constant supply of...
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Practitioner listening 2

Listening to Steve Reich listening to Africa: Reich, Ligeti and the nature of pulse Prof Robert Fraser, The Open University In the summer of 1970, when I was lecturing in...
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Robert Fraser

Technical Paper

Linkage in haze: challenges and take-home messages of crowd-sourcing vagueness in musical data Alessandro Adamou, The Open University With the transition of the Web of today from an information repository...
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11:40 - 12:00


Keynote lecture

More than meets the ear: on the sociology of listening Prof Simon Frith, University of Edinburgh Listening is something we do for ourselves. Sounds reach us through our ears but...
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13:15 - 14:00


Modernist writers listening to music

Round table: Modernist writers listening to music Dr Fiona Richards, The Open University, Dr Sue Reid, independent scholar/University of Northampton and Fraser Riddell, Durham University This session focuses on authors...
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Victorian listening contexts

Listening to a singing people: accounts of Methodist hymn singing Dr Martin Clarke, The Open University This paper explores the benefits of listening to a variety of Methodist voices and...
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Listening in entertainment contexts

Overtures, intermissions, entr’actes, and exits; or, the possibilities of closed-curtain listening Dr Ben Winters, The Open University The idea of encountering a variety of listening practices in the context of...
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David Rowland