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Meet our PhD supervisors: Dr David Beard

David BeardBA (Hons) Durham University, MMus (theory and analysis) King’s College, London, DPhil University of Oxford(thesis on the early instrumental music of Harrison Birtwistle).

Research Interests:
Harrison Birtwistle, especially the operas and music theatre
Post-1945 opera
Music theatre and incidental music
Judith Weir
Steve Reich
Sketch studies
Cultural studies
Popular music

David has published extensively on post-1945 music, in particular that of British composers, notably Judith Weir, Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies. He is also researching Steve Reich’s audio-visual music theatre works, The Cave and Three Tales. His principal focus is on opera and music theatre (approached from various interdisciplinary perspectives), musical sketches, and music and identity. David has recently spoken at public events in Geneva (at the university and opera house) and the Archive for Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, Oxford University; he has also written essays for institutions, such as the BBC and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and music festivals, including Aldeburgh, Bregenz, Cheltenham and Wexford.

Harrison Birtwistle’s Operas and Music Theatre
Published by Cambridge University Press in 2012, this is the first definitive and comprehensive survey of Harrison Birtwistle’s music for the opera house and theatre, from the smaller-scale works to the full-length operas. Blending source study with both music analysis and cultural criticism, the book focuses on the sometimes tense relationship between abstract musical processes and the practical demands of narrative drama, while touching on theories of parody, narrative, pastoral, film, the body, and community.

The book was supported by funds from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, Cardiff University, the School of Music, and the journal Music & Letters. It draws on analysis of more than 4,000 sides of musical sketches stored at the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel, plus sketches held by the composer and his son, and more than 2,500 sides of unpublished drafts of libretti.

Current projects:

Dr Beard has experience supervising doctoral theses on the emergence of the musical avant-garde in post-war Germany, music and politics in late ‘60s Paris, and the instrumental music of Frank Zappa. He would be particularly happy to consider applications from students considering postgraduate research in the following areas:

Twentieth-century British music
Post-1945 music in general, especially opera and experimental music theatre
Source studies in contemporary music
Contemporary music and politics
Ethnographic studies and contemporary music
Ethnicity in twentieth-century music
Popular music

Postgraduate funding:

Interested in pursuing postgraduate research at one of the largest and most diverse music schools in the UK? The School of Music is currently offering three competitive Studentships that cover tuition fees at the Home/EU rate. More information on our funding opportunities is available at: