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Name: Ed McKeon

PhD: Art & Music Theory / Cultural Studies

Thesis Title: 

Defining live music curation as both creative practice and as an emerging discipline of aesthetics and musicology


Thesis Description:

My research will be the first thorough investigation of curatorial theory to be applied to music as a creative practice. The role of curator in the visual arts has been established at least since the first postgraduate courses were set up in 1987 (O’Neill, 2012). Other than a six-day workshop at Wesleyan (USA) and a short-lived programme in the Netherlands, there are no courses in music curation worldwide, and the role is widely misunderstood (eg a Google search shows the usual conflation of ‘music curating’ with making playlists).


The central issue for my research is how to conceive the ‘contingent’ aspects of music production – performance preparation, site, economy, promotion, and documentation – as necessary elements of a musical act, whereby musical creativity is imbricated in the processes of making and reception.


Since the 1950s, there have been major changes in the ways music is thought and practised, with much greater emphasis given to the performance act in the works of Cage, Paik, Ornette Coleman and many others. Whilst music theory has focused on the creative processes of composition and performance, issues of production and reception have been the domain of cultural theory. The creative role of music curator is missing in both of these. At the same time, theories of curating largely ignore music, though interest in both performance and sonic art is growing (e.g. Kahn, LaBelle, Toop).


I’ve been producing music for 15 years: presenting and commissioning new composition, jazz, world music, experimental music, improvisation, and mixed media events in galleries, theatres, cinemas, nightclubs, churches and concert halls – whilst researching aesthetics, publishing articles and giving talks on embodiment (Interference journal), the construction of pleasure (Borealis Festival), on listening (Hayward Touring Exhibition) and on Heiner Goebbels (Third Text). I am Artistic Director of the British Composer Awards, and a Trustee of both NMC Recordings and of the Hinrichsen Foundation. I aim to bring practice and research together to give live music production a theoretical ground.


Supervisors and Institution(s): Dr Nicholas Gebhardt (BCU, School of Media); Prof Johnny Golding (BCU, Centre for Fine Art Research); Prof Tim Wall (BCU, School of Media)


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • Lead Tutor, Music Management MA, Birmingham Conservatoire (2015-16)


  • Core Tutor, Music Management MA module, Goldsmiths College, London (2013-14 onwards)


Other Research Interests:

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Social Media Presence:


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