Dr David Beard BA (Hons) Dunelm, MMus (theory and analysis) KCL, DPhil Oxon

Dr David Beard BA (Hons) Dunelm, MMus (theory and analysis) KCL, DPhil Oxon

Reader in Musicology

+44 (0)29 2087 4388
0.21, 37 Corbett Road

I studied music at Durham University before completing an MMus in music theory and analysis at King's College London, and a DPhil at the University of Oxford on the early instrumental music of Harrison Birtwistle.

My research is focused on contemporary music, in particular intersections between archival, analytical and critical-theoretical perspectives on post-1945 concert music, experimental music theatre and opera. My interests include: composers Judith Weir, Harrison Birtwistle, Michael Finnissy, Peter Maxwell Davies and Simon Holt; creative practice; avant-garde music and theatre; Steve Reich; popular music.

I am author of Harrison Birtwistle's Operas and Music Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and co-editor of Harrison Birtwistle Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2015). My book Musicology: The Key Concepts (Routledge, 2005; second revised edition 2016), which I co-authored with Kenneth Gloag, reflects the learning environment at Cardiff, especially the MA courses in Musicology, and in Music, Culture and Politics. I have been an invited speaker at public events in Germany, Italy, Serbia, Switzerland, the UK and the USA, and contributed programme notes, essays and articles for the London Sinfonietta, BBC Proms, Music Theatre Wales, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Grand Théâtre Genève, London Southbank, and numerous international music festivals, including Aldeburgh, Bregenz, Cheltenham, Salzburg, and Wexford Opera.

I am a Trustee and Member of the Editorial Board of Music & Letters (Oxford University Press) and a member of the Advisory Board for the book series 'Theory and Analysis of Music Since 1900' (Routledge). 

I am currently (2016-17) on sabbatical funded by the Cardiff University Research Leave Fellowship scheme.

Previous academic positions

Tutor for Christ Church, Jesus College, St Edmund Hall and St Peter's, University of Oxford.

Speaking engagements

'Reconceptualising the performer in new music theatre', invited contribution to the conference 'New Music Theatre in Europe: Transformations between 1955-1975', Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 26-27 November 2016.

‘“Out of the Air”: Judith Weir’s emergence in 1970s Britain’, invited contribution to 'Michael Finnissy: Dialogues', one-day symposium in honour of Michael Finnissy's 70th birthday, British Music Centre, Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield, 17 November 2016.

Public conversation with Harrison Birtwistle at the 'Open Circuit' contemporary music festival, Liverpool University, 5 March 2016.

‘“Out of the Air”: Judith Weir’s emergence in 1970s Britain’, part of themed session: ‘When was British musical modernism? Post-war perspectives, 1945-1980’, 51st annual RMA conference, University of Birmingham Department of Music, 9 September 2015

David Beard in conversation with Judith Weir (Master of the Queen’s Music), University of Nottingham Department of Music Colloquium Series, 24 March 2015

‘“The mystery of the kiosk composer”: Harrison Birtwistle's creative processes explained’, invited talk for ‘Birtwistle at 80’, a Study Day jointly run by the Institute of Musical Research and the BBC, Barbican Centre, London, 25 May 2014

‘“Stand back and light the fuse”: Harrison Birtwistle and the redistribution of authorial subjectivity’, invited talk at Liverpool University, Department of Music, 18 February 2014

‘Instinctive interventions: Birtwistle at the National Theatre and beyond’, talk at ‘Poetry, Music, Drama: the creation of contemporary opera’, a one-day conference bringing together poets, composers, producers and academics to discuss the collaborative processes involved in the creation of contemporary opera, Institute of Musical Research, University of London, 16 January 2013

‘Wagnerian Opera Transformed: Birtwistle’s Io Passion’, paper delivered at the ‘Love to Death’ opera conference, Wales Millennium Centre, 31 May 2012

An invited talk to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Peter Hall’s 1981 production of the Oresteia, organized by the APGRD, Classics Faculty, University of Oxford, held in the Taylorian Main Hall, Ashmolean Museum (other speakers included Tony Harrison and Oliver Taplin), 19 November 2011

Invited academic and public talks and participation in workshops on emotion communication in music, with emphasis on the vocal functions underlying the production of affect bursts and speech prosody, in conjunction with singers and instrumentalists performing Daniel Kramer’s award winning production of Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy. The Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, the University of Geneva, and the Grand Théâtre de Genève, 4–5 April 2011

‘When Actors Meet Musicians: The Music for Peter Hall’s Oresteia and “the Agamemnon Experiments”’, invited lecture and seminar, University of Aberdeen, 19 March 2010

“Incidental” Music? Settings of Greek Tragedy by Judith Weir and Harrison Birtwistle’, invited lecture, The Faculty of Classics and The Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, University of Oxford, 27 October 2008

‘From Heroische Bogenstriche to Waldeinsamkeit: Gender and Genre in Music by Judith Weir’, invited paper, ‘Dichotonies: a Workshop on Gender and Music’, Cologne University (part of the Klang.Körper Festival for Contemporary Music and Gender), 15 June 2008

‘Escaping the Labyrinth: Deciphering the “scene-agent ratio” in Harrison Birtwistle and Tony Harrison's Yan Tan Tethera’, Second Biennial Conference of the North American British Music Studies Association, Saint Michael's College, Colchester VT, 4 August 2006; also given as an invited lecture at Bristol University, 2 May 2006 and University of Cambridge, 29 March 2006

‘A Theatre of Sculptural Sound: Birtwistle’s Concept of a Secret Drama in Gawain’, invited lecture, Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre, University of Sussex, 24 November 2004

‘The Music of The Second Mrs Kong’, invited talk and round-table discussion with the composer and librettist, BBC SO, Royal Festival Hall, London, 6 November 2004

‘Meta-Narratives and Multidimensional Opera: Harrison Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus’, invited paper, Music and Networking Conference, University of Belgrade, 14-17 April 2004

‘Subject Position, Style and Genre in Contemporary Electronica and Dance Music’, invited lecture, University of Surrey, November 2003; also presented as an invited lecture at the University of Durham, October 2003, and at the Third Biennial Conference on Twentieth-Century Music, University of Nottingham, June 2003

University committees

Director of Postgraduate Research (2014-16)

Subject Lead (Music) for Cardiff University on the Creative and Critical Practice Panel of the AHRC funded South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership consortium (2014–16)

Director of the MA in Musicology programme (2009–13)

Director of Undergraduate Admissions (2003–8, January–May 2011, and July 2012)

Convener of the John Bird Guest Lecture Series, School of Music (2000–08)

My teaching is focused on music since c. 1890 to the present and embraces a range of historical, cultural, political and music-analytical perspectives on European cultural centres (The Birth of Modernism), on the one hand, and the varied topography of British music since 1900 (Topics in Musicology 2B). I devised a module on Ambient music (Sounded Out) and supervise dissertations on a range of topics, including popular music, concert programming, and experimental contemporary art music.

My Masters teaching includes seminars on academic reading and writing, early modernism, ecomusicology, music and race, ethnicity and identity.

From 2014-16 I was Director of Postgraduate Research. My own PhD students are working on the emergence of the avant-garde in West Germany in the 1940s, virtual bands and vocaloids, and the music of Pavel Haas.


My chapter 'Listening to the River's Roar: Stance, Texture and Space in the Concertos', is forthcoming in D. Charlton (ed.), The Music of Simon Holt (Boydell & Brewer 2017), and I am currently writing the first book on the music of Judith Weir (Master of the Queen's Music).


I am author of Harrison Birtwistle's Operas and Music Theatre (Cambridge University Press, 2012), co-editor of Harrison Birtwistle Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and co-author of Musicology: The Key Concepts (Routledge, revised second edition 2016). I have published widely in peer-reviewed journals, including Music Analysis, Cambridge Opera Journal, Twentieth-Century Music and the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, and I have chapters in Peter Maxwell Davies Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Ancient Drama on the Modern Stage (Oxford University Press, 2010), The Ashgate Library of Essays in Opera Studies (Routledge, 2010), and Dichotonies: Gender and Music (Universitatsverlag, Winter, 2009). I am a Trustee and Member of the Editorial Board of Music & Letters (Oxford University Press) and a member of the Advisory Board for the Routledge book series Theory and Analysis of Music Since 1900.

Academic Schools