Earth in Vision: Communicating Research and Engaging Publics through Multimedia eBooks

8th June 2016 
11.00 – 14.00  (12.00 – Lunch will be served)
The Open University
Library Presentation Room
Open University Library
MK7 6AA Walton Hall
United Kingdom
The AHRC-funded Earth in Vision project is based in the Department of Geography at the Open University and has been working with archives of environment-themed BBC broadcast content from over 7 decades in order to path find what a gold standard digital broadcast archive (DBA) might be, and to write new environmental histories with broadcasting written into the script. 
11.00 – 12.00: Earth in Vision project presentation: Why an eBook?
This presentation introduces the use of ebooks in academia, illustrated through the Earth in Vision project’s multimedia ebook which we have been building as a tool to communicate our research findings to different ‘digital’ publics (or ‘digital citizens’). George Revill will consider digital ideologies in the context of our work, and we will talk about why we chose to take this route, our experiences of writing an ebook and what we hope to achieve through its production. We will be joined by our Media Curator, Dr Alison Kahn, who is an anthropologist and filmmaker, currently a Senior Lecturer in Film Production at Oxford Brookes University and Creative Director of Moving By Design Press. Alison will talk about the methods and approach she has developed for e-book production,  which draws on literary studies, material cultural studies, museum curatorship and documentary filmmaking.  Kahn suggests that ebooks present opportunities for the user to explore material by “hopscotching” through the book in a Cortázarian manner, allowing the user to choose unique pathways through the multimedia narrative (See Hopscotch (1963) By Julio Cortázar). The traditional sense of ‘reading’ a book is thus qualified: rather the experience has more in common with museum exhibition ‘visits’, with the self-paced movement among chapters and sections of the ebook being parallel to a tour of galleries and rooms.
12.00 – 14.00: Hands-on workshop on creating ebooks for public engagement with research.
The workshop will be in three stages:
1.      Exploring ebooks: looking in more detail at what an ebook is and what it can do, the different tools and techniques available for making them, and the different ways in which they can be made and used.
2.      Using ebooks: Helping attendees to think about what they might get out of making an ebook in the context of their own research / work
3.      Writing your own ebook – looking at production through 3 stages: 
a.       Pre-Production: planning, curating, audiences, content and rights
b.      Build: tools, techniques, design elements, multimedia content and formats
c.       Testing (functionality, pitch, content)
If you own an Apple Mac laptop or iPad, please install iBooks and iBooks Author and bring the laptop/iPad with you to the workshop. 
If you do not own an Apple device, there will be an Apple Mac computer available at the event for demonstration purposes.
Please register for the event through our Eventbrite link below before Friday 3 June.

The Academic Book Of The Future: The Changing Face Of Humanities Research

By Helen Barlow and Simon Brown

This is the first of several blog posts inspired by Academic Book Week. In this post, we discuss some of the issues the LED project team has encountered in doing research with a digital humanities approach. We think there are significant knock-on effects for academic publishing and how we choose to publish our outputs – a theme which will be picked up in subsequent posts.

As anyone who has been following the progress of LED will know, the project sets out to discover a mass of testimony of the experience of listening to music, and to record it in an open access database. It will produce a range of other outputs, but the database is really the core of the project – our most valuable and significant output is thus already an online publication (though it’s debatable how easily it would lend itself to submission to research assessment under the current REF system).

In particular, what we want is evidence of the experiences of ‘ordinary people’ – and we’re keen to find accounts that are not the obvious published ones. Of course we don’t ignore published sources – we have gathered an enormous amount of important and fascinating evidence from them. But our Holy Grail is the unpublished family letters and diaries that no-one outside the family has yet read – the private expressions of personal and intimate experiences of listening.

So from the outset, we wanted to open the database up to contributions from the public – to gather database content by crowdsourcing. This didn’t simply mean that we wanted people to send us their family documents (although this is possible, and some contributors have chosen to do it this way) – rather, we wanted it to be possible for them to create their own user accounts and enter their material into the database for themselves. This opening up of academic research is central to the LED project; not only can the public browse our open access database and draw upon it for their own purposes, but they can also directly contribute to and have an influence on the research being done by academics working on the project.

We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to add to the database a number of accounts from private family papers, and they’ve provided some real delights – this one is from the memoirs of Albert Edward Jones, who served in the First World War with the 18th King’s Liverpool Battalion:

Sitting on my pack after finishing breakfast, I noticed movement in the chateau. The shutters being flung open, and at one of the windows appeared a lady… the Colonel told us that the French madam, would be pleased if we would sing “God Save the King” for her. “Old Ted” was very nervous. He always was in the presence of ladies; he seemed to always find courage when he looked at his boys, as he called us. “haw-drum -major, will-hum-er-your band play “God Save the King”? “Sorry sir, as this is a bugle band it is not possible to do so” replied our battalion musician. Disappointment showed on our C.O’s face and he turned to the troops saying, “The Battalion will hae-er-sing “The King”. Someone with great courage started it, happily in the right key, and with everyone strict to attention, and the Colonel and his officer’s “at the salute” the thousand voices took up the patriotic air, with gusto, and in unison. Even Bill Foster sang. The last note died away on the clear winter air. To me it was inspiring. Our French hostess standing there mute and smiling, pleased at our courtesy, and obviously delighted. Our vocal abilities as a battalion were below par, but with such a well-known tune we got by alright. the next command brought horror and consternation to us. “The Battalion will haw-er-now sing “The Marseillaise”.

And here is John Evans-Pughe, a young man doing his National Service in Greece in 1947 and encountering a bewildering variety of music – he was a keen amateur musician and a careful listener:

There is every sort of orchestra here varying from Symphony orchestras, sort of Park bands, Modern dance bands American style, Dance bands Greek style, to odd little bands which play a very Arabic sort of music. The less primitive Greek music is very fascinating to listen to. Since most of their words end in a vowel their songs are specially characterised by the sustaining of the last note of each line which is usually a rather raucus (bother, I can’t spell it) (rawcus?) vowelsound which they hang onto till the last possible moment.

Of course, not all volunteer contributors necessarily have a stock of family papers they can mine, so it’s also eminently possible for them to enter data from published sources – diaries, letters, memoirs and so on – whether those that they come across in the course of their own reading, or that we suggest to them. We are constantly on the lookout for new sources of listening experiences. Through events, talks, conferences and social media we’re always asking people outside the project team to get involved – we have an ongoing call for contributions and volunteers.

But whether volunteers are entering quotations from their own documents or from published sources, there is a limit to the extent to which we can dictate the consistency of the inputting process. There are lots of reasons for this. Our community of inputters have different levels of expertise for one thing, and for another some sources tell us a lot more than others – some might give us plenty of biographical detail about the listener, as well as a description of how listening to a particular piece played by a particular performer on a specific date made the listener feel; with others, the listener might be anonymous, and the text might tell us little more than what was heard.

So each listening experience is unique, not only in the precise detail of the evidence being supplied, but also in terms of the peripheral information that is just as important: for instance, the type of source the experience appears in (such as a letter or diary entry, published book or unpublished manuscript); when the experience occurred (at a specific time on a single day or over several days, weeks or even years); what the piece of music was, who performed it, where it was performed, and if this differed from where and how it was heard. The evidence might describe the experience of an individual or of a crowd. The listener might not even be mentioned by name but given a description such as ‘A shopkeeper’ or ‘A group of soldiers’. Contributors will not necessarily have all of this information to hand. But it was important to ensure that the interface was both intuitive and versatile enough to accommodate as much information as they might be able or willing to offer.

There is really no practical way we could have achieved this without having at the core of the project an online, interactive repository that would enable crowdsourced contributions with all the variable, fuzzy data that these can entail. But when it came to thinking about how we should publish our ‘research outputs’ – in other words, the book or books that are the expected culmination of a humanities research project – the open, interactive nature of the research gave us pause for thought. Why would we do research in this way, and then publish in a traditional and – dare we say – ‘closed’ and exclusive format? We leave this question for you to ponder – suffice it to say that, for us, this is why the Academic Book of the Future project is such a timely and exciting prospect.


Helen Barlow and Simon Brown are Research Associates on the LED project, based at the Open University and the Royal College of Music respectively.

Listening to music: people, practices and experiences

24-25 October 2015, the 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.

Please click here for the detailed programme.

To register, go to: The early-bird registration fees are as follows:

The early-bird day rate is £30 (£24 concessions for students, unwaged, retired), to include tea/coffee and lunch.
The early-bird weekend rate is £55 (£40 concessions for students, unwaged, retired), to include tea/coffee and lunch.

After 24 September 2015, the registration fees will be increased to:

£35 full day rate, £28 reduced
£65 full weekend fee, £50 reduced

Please email to advise us of any special dietary requirements.

The deadline for registrations is 4pm on Friday 16 October 2015.

For directions to the Royal College of Music, go to

Please feel free to address any queries to the conference organisers, Dr Helen Barlow and Simon Brown, at

Image: Yes Music in the Amphitheater, students listening to music, 1970. Photo: © Ed Uthman.

Announcement of OU partnership with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

The Open University Music Department is delighted to announce a new partnership with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. The OU Music Department will collaborate with TL on the establishment of a new Graduate Certificate in ‘Participative Music Making’ (PMM). This will be administered and awarded by TL, but OU students will be able to incorporate the marks and credit into their degree (60 points at level 3). The certificate will involve students participating in, critically engaging with and reflecting on practical musical making activities. The certificate will be offered for distance learning with a residential component. Subject to validation, the certificate is planned to have its first presentation in October 2016. Further information will be available in due course.

RMA Study Day: Listening to the Listener: Contemporary Perceptions of Classical Music

16th November 2015, Sheffield University Humanities Research Institute

Keynote Speakers

Professor John Sloboda and Dr. Karen Wise, Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

The relevance of classical music today is in question. In the UK and US, it has been shown to consistently attract audiences who are predominantly white, middle-aged, middle-class and well-educated, struggling to draw new, younger and ethnically diverse attenders (Chan et al. 2008, League of American Orchestras 2009). Amongst these non-attenders, classical music is often perceived as stuffy and elitist, out of touch with an increasingly pluralist society. In order to attract new audiences, many organisations have tried alternative means of presentation, for example through informal concerts formats or use of digital technology. Any new ventures are however tempered by the current economic climate, with cuts to arts funding and reduced disposable income affecting the willingness to take risks of arts organisations and attenders alike.

Against this background, there is a growing body of research into current classical music audiences from within both academia and the industry. Much of this research goes beyond socio-demographics to explore their perceptions of classical music and experiences at concerts. Recent additions have challenged the paradigm of a ‘still and silent listener’ (Sennett 1977), instead highlighting the diversity of experiences and attitudes within an audience (Pitts 2005). More work is needed to understand how changes to the culture of classical music today are affecting both attenders and non-attenders. We hope that this Study Day will provide a space for further discussion on the current state of classical music and its audiences.

We welcome empirical or theoretical papers from research students, academics or practitioners on the following topics or any other topic related to the overall theme of the day:

  • The relevance of classical music today
  • Changes to the presentation of classical music
  • Impact of technology on classical music
  • Current audiences’ experiences at concerts
  • Understanding the non-attender
  • Methods and ethics of researching with audiences

Papers from research students are especially welcome. Submit proposals up to 250 words for 20 minute papers (followed by 10 minutes for discussion). Please include your name, email address, short biography and any AV requirements. Proposals and any enquiries should be sent to Lucy Dearn and Sarah Price at:

Deadline: Friday 4th September 2015


Numbers, Noises and Notes: Quantitative Data and Music Research Symposium

Tuesday, 16 June 2015 from 10:00 to 18:00 (BST)
Falmer, United Kingdom

This one-day symposium is the culmination of an AHRC Collaborative Skills Project on Quantitative Data for Music Researchers run by the University of Sussex, in partnership with the Institute for Musical Research at The University of London School of Advanced Studies. The project featured a series of workshops, hosted at the IMR, covering a broad range of topics around the use of quantitative data in music research, creative practice and composition. These workshops were led by Daniel Müllensiefen (Goldsmiths), Joel Ryan (Sonology, The Hague/STEIM), and Stephen Rose (Royal Holloway) covering topics including: music and the brain, music as data, quantitative music analysis, data analysis tools, data visualization, audience analysis, time/space in performance, performance technologies, data sonification, big data and music history, text-mining, digitization and the archive/library.

Presentations & installations:
Sally-Jane Norman – Introduction to Sussex Humanities Lab
Chris Kiefer – Earwyrm: Creating Gaming Experiences based on Realtime Music Information Retrieval
Tillman Weyde – Analysing Big Music Data : Audio Transcription and Pitch Analysis of World and Traditional Music
Sarah Price – Quantitative Research in Audience Studies; What Can Academics Bring?
Nicholas Stylianou – Working with MIDI data for Musicology
Michaela Palmer – Severn Sounds Player
Allan Seago – Multidimensional Scaling and Musical Timbre
Wesley Goatley – The Listener: Politics of Surveillance in Data Sonification

Contact Danny Bright – – for more information.

Tickets are free but places are limited. Lunch will be provided. If you sign up for a ticket but subsequently cannot attend, please get in touch asap so the place can be freed up.

Thirteenth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

From Digital Humanities to a Humanities of the Digital – Special Focus

University of British Columbia
Vancouver Campus, Vancouver, Canada
17-19 June 2015

I’ll be presenting a paper at the above conference titled, ‘The Listening Experience Database Project: Collating the Responses of the “Ordinary Listener” to Prompt New Insights into Musical Experience’, co-authored by: Dr. Helen Barlow, Dr. Alessandro Adamou, Dr. Mathieu d’Aquin.


The Listening Experience Database ( is the first project to collate and interrogate a mass of personal experiences of listening to music. Such accounts have received only isolated attention because they are challenging to locate and gather en masse. An extensive body of data about the responses of “ordinary listeners” (as opposed to professional critics) thus offers new ways of approaching music-related research. The underlying information system relies on linked data, including a knowledge base that is itself a linked dataset. The data management workflow fully supports both systematic contributions from the project team and crowdsourced input where knowledgeability and completeness of information can be expected to vary widely. The database demonstrates the potential of a mass of data as a robust evidential base for our understanding of how music functions in society. It contributes a large body of structured data to the global Web of Data. Through crowdsourcing, it taps into knowledge that exists beyond the academic world. The project not only contributes directly to the linked data paradigm, but also prompts new directions for anyone investigating the reception of music, including performers, teachers, social historians, musicologists, psychologists, and those working in the creative industries.

Listening Cinematically: a two-day interdisciplinary conference

25-26 June 2015, Royal Holloway, University of London

A two-day interdisciplinary conference supported by the British Academy and the Royal Holloway Humanities and Arts Research Centre (HARC)

Convenor: Carlo Cenciarelli (Department of Music, Royal Holloway, University of London)

It has long been suggested that films have changed the way we listen, but cinema’s contribution to broader cultures of listening has only recently started to receive serious academic attention. This two-day conference aims to bring together scholars who are working on listener-centred accounts of the cinema and on the relationship between listening practices inside and outside the movie theatre. In particular, it seeks to engage with the following broad themes:

• the history of the cinema as a place for listening;

• the way specific filmic texts and film genres structure listening;

• listening ‘cinematically’ outside the cinema.

There will be an exciting lineup of presenters from musicology, film and media studies, drama and art history, including: Emilio Audissino, Jeremy Barham, Martin Barker, Julie Brown, Jim Buhler, Warren Buckland, Beth Carroll, Ian Christie, David Code, Nicholas Cook, Kevin Donnelly, Peter Franklin, Simon Frith, Jonathan Godsall, Guido Heldt, Julie Hubbert, Anahid Kassabian, Jean Ma, Miguel Mera, Martin Parker, John Richardson, Katharine Rost, Ben Winters and Gavin Williams.

Digital Conversations @ British Library: Digital Music Analysis

Prof. David Rowland (The Open University) and I have been invited to speak at the next Digital Conversations event at the British Library. The event provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of current ideas and existing projects in the field of digital music research. It will give participants the opportunity to share their ideas, experiences and opinions about the application of digital technology in musicological and performance research.

Thursday, 21 May 2015 from 18:00 to 20:15 (BST)

The British Library
96 Euston Road
NW1 2DB London
United Kingdom

Here is the proposed programme for the evening:

Steve Cottrell (City University London)

18.00 Wine and nibbles
18.15 Introduction Aquiles Alencar-Brayner/ Steve Cottrell
18.20 Erinma Ochu (Hooked on Music)
18.35 Tillman Weyde (Digital Music Labs)
18.50 Simon Brown / David Rowland (Listening Experience Database)
19.05 Sandra Tuppen (Big Data History of Music)
19.20 Mark Plumbley (Source Separation and Automatic Music Transcription)
19.35 Pause for thought and refill glasses
19.45 Discussion with audience
20.10 Closing remarks
20.15 Departure

The event is free but tickets are required. Bookings can be done through Eventbrite:

Sound and Safe: A History of Listening Behind the Wheel

Seminar in Ethnomusicology and Sound Studies
University of Oxford
Ertegun House, 37A St Giles
Thursday, 7 May 2015, 5:00pm

Karin Bijsterveld, Professor of Science, Technology & Modern Culture
Department of Technology & Society Studies, Maastricht University

Title: Sound and Safe: A History of Listening Behind the Wheel

Abstract: Many people enjoy listening and singing along to music while driving—it is their auditory break in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But how did the car, noisy and open as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century, develop into a space for celebrating auditory privacy? This lecture unravels the history of the sonic ideals and acoustic practices of automotive engineers, marketing departments, and consumers. It shows how drivers learned to shift their auditory attention from the engine to the car radio, and how car sound design helped to sustain the visual ideal of the cinematic drive and the illusion of freedom on the road. It also reflects on how to study sensory experiences of people in the past.