Most academic research events or publications that use the term ‘music’ in their title (without an epithet such as ‘popular’) refer to western art music but that is a tiny subset of the music that is played and listened to in the 21st century. Indeed, the musical lives of contemporary musicians are far more inter-disciplinary than the academics who study them. This research network was established as a contribution to several recent trends towards more inter-disciplinarity in the academic study of music. By organising a series of study days about quite broadly defined themes the aim is to bring together academics and practitioners from a range of musical cultures – popular music, musical theatre, performance studies, music for visual media, recording, electronic and electroacoustic music, live sound, ethnomusicology and composition.
The focus on practice is also important in that it highlights the idea that music is a process or an activity rather than a thing. That doesn’t dismiss the music itself, but it does suggest a study of the ways in which listeners, composers and performers interpret the sound as opposed to the study of certain intrinsic features in a score. Indeed it’s not an ideological attempt to oust this more traditional approach to studying music, simply an attempt to continue a trend to see both flourish.
The 21st Century Music Practice Research Network was established by Professor Simon Zagorski-Thomas of the University of West London in the summer of 2016. The aim is to encourage and disseminate research and scholarly collaboration that includes all areas of contemporary musical activity. In particular the network will seek to stimulate discourse between disciplines: bringing together scholars from popular music, musical theatre, performance studies, music for visual media, recording, electronic and electroacoustic music, live sound, ethnomusicology and composition to discuss broad themes that are relevant across subject boundaries.