Professor in Music
I teach and research in music psychology and in popular music studies in the Department of Music at the University of Sheffield. I previously edited two academic journals (Popular Music and Empirical Musicology Review) and am a subpanel member for the UK Research Excellence Framework.
My research investigates how people engage with music (primarily through listening) and what that engagement means for how people think about and make sense of themselves and the world. I’ve published three books and over 40 journal articles and book chapters, including Björk (2009), the co-authored Music and Mind in Everyday Life (2010) and Sounds Icelandic (2019), with a fourth forthcoming on Musical New Media (Bloomsbury). My consultancies and commercial collaborations include investigating effects of music on driving with an insurance company, and working with Björk on the artist’s multi-media app album, Biophilia (2011) - the first music album designed for tablet computer.
Understanding the social impacts of music-making
Music is commonly understood as having benefits for individuals and groups, and is widely used in contexts of health, wellbeing, and community building - what we might more broadly call ‘human flourishing’. Practitioners, public bodies and charitable institutions run music interventions to address social challenges, and, as we are discovering, want to better understand whether and how the work they do benefits their participants and society more broadly. Simultaneous with this, academics and research organisations investigate the processes which might underlie social benefits of music. Together with Dr Julian Cespedes at Icesi University, Colombia, I’ve been working with organisations in Colombia to co-develop tools to evaluate their work and ultimately help achieve their goals of improving the lives of children and their families in deprived urban areas in Cali. This project is funded by the Academy of Medical Sciences.
How does music-making benefit children in Cali, Colombia? This documentary describes the way we built a network of practitioners and academics in Cali Colombia interested in understanding how we might use music to bring social benefits. The research raises questions about how music brings benefits, to what extent the values and practices of specific music genres hinders or helps achieve specific outcomes, and what benefits, if any, music might afford as opposed to other cultural and sporting activities.