The Department of Music has research strengths in composition (instrumental and vocal, electroacoustic), historical musicology and editing (early keyboard music, Scottish music, 18th century Venetian music, 20th century music and aesthetics) and computational musicology (analysis). Composers, musicologists and performers within the department have a track record in collaborating in the organisation of events that bring normally disparate research communities together.


Vocal music is a research strand that cuts across traditional boundaries of musicology, performance and composition. Composers have written choral music and opera, and staff have musicological interests in contemporary European opera, 18th century Venetian vocal music, Peter Philips and the computational analysis of 16th and 17th century vocal music. 

In composition, research outputs include tonally-conceived choral music, microtonal music and electroacoustic music. SERG (Sound Emporium Research Group) was established to bring together staff, postgraduate and final year undergraduate students engaged in electroacoustic work and sound art based on its research theme, New Approaches to Sound and Place and in 2013 a Composers’ Forum was established to encourage interaction between the department's composers and to encourage younger composers to engage with composition as research.

The department works closely with Computing Science (computational musicology and creative uses of technology) and the Elphinstone Institute, which spearheaded a major research project around the James Madison Carpenter Collection in the Library of Congress, USA. The Music Department provides the UK team for ELVIS, a collaborative project involving McGill University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University.

The University is fully involved in sound, Scotland’s Festival of New Music which was shortlisted for a Royal Philharmonic Society award in 2013. Elphinstone Institute founded the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention (NAFCo), which has been exported worldwide. Conferences, festivals and study days are open to the public, and usually take place within the context of concerts, public lectures and workshops, educational projects and exhibitions. An online journal, Scottish Music Review, is a joint venture with the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland which demonstrates a commitment to open-access publishing.

As well as research undertaken by staff and postgraduates, the department aims to foster the next generation of researchers in composition through a project funded by the Leverhulme Trust in which undergraduate composers are paired with student librettists and work with Scottish Opera, and through the Composers’ Forum which brings together composers at all stages of their development from undergraduates to senior staff.