Sue Miller – Cuban Flute Improviser, Writer & Academic

Music Analysis Talk at City UniversityJuly 21st, 2018

Sue Miller’s talk ‘The Sound is the Context’ was part of a round table discussion opening the 2018 Music Analysis conference at City University London 5-7 July 2018. Also taking part in the panel were Dr Chloë Alaghband-Zadeh (Manchester University) , Dr Joe Browning (University of Oxford),  Dr Laudan Nooshin (City, University of London), Dr Lara Pearson (Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics)  and Dr Byron Dueck (the Open University). Below is Sue’s abstract and further information on the conference can be found here CityMAC Conference Programme:

Dr Sue Miller (Leeds Beckett University): “The Sound is the Context – How Ethnomusicological Methods Inform and Direct Musical Analysis”.


Analysis necessitates various degrees of abstraction but often in the field of music analysis high levels of abstraction can mean losing sight of the social and cultural contexts. In the field of ethnomusicology the focus on the informant and ethnography at the expense of detailed musical analysis can similarly relegate musical sounds to the sidelines. Here I argue for the people who create and develop musical styles and genres to take a more central role in informing and directing musical analysis, giving specific examples of how music histories and the personalities of those who made them are encapsulated in their sounds on record and in performance. Assumptions regarding the aims of musicological research (e.g. categorization to uncover human universals or meta theory to explain issues of identity) need to be challenged in order to unite sound and context more holistically, whether within these two fields or outside of these boundaries.