Interdisciplinary music research: What’s in play?

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


In this seminar, I will respond to two different interpretations of the title: 1. What does the concept of ‘play’ afford music and science research? 2. What’s at stake in interdisciplinary work, and the way that we approach it? In order to explore these questions and (try to!) offer some answers, I’ll present an interdisciplinary analytical commentary of short video examples featuring distinctive musical performances. I’ll also refer to programming decisions currently underway for the next Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology, CIM22 - ‘Participation’.

The main avenue of thought that I would like to share (for feedback) with the CMS seminar group, concerns the ways in which ‘play’ has both conceptual and practical potential for music and science research. ‘Play’ is inherent in descriptions of musical practice, and its direct experience is instrumental to artistic thinking and knowing. Conceptually, ‘play’ is a core characteristic of aesthetic engagement broadly conceived, applicable regardless of the theory-status of a given art form, practice, or performance context. At a practical level, a consideration of ‘play’ could help to support interdisciplinary research, through cognisance of the game rules which implicitly contain and constrain knowledge. With the analytical commentary on the video excerpts, I will try to offer some principles about play that could be flexibly adopted in a way that is sensitive to different musically expressive contexts, and which clarifies the object of analysis in cross-disciplinary terms. Advances in our understanding of ‘play’, then, might possibly help to decentralize WEIRD epistemologies and practices, which otherwise restrict the knowledge impact of music science research.
Period8 Mar 2022
Held atUniversity of Cambridge, Music Faculty


  • musicology
  • science
  • knowledge
  • playful
  • context
  • performance
  • art
  • decentre
  • concepts