5 November–10 December 2019
University of Huddersfield

Project leaders:  Prof. Robert Adlington and Prof. Aaron Cassidy


Last January, as part of a process examining the long-term vision for the Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM), the staff and post-doctoral fellows of CeReNeM started an informal discussion with a simple yet challenging prompt:

“What is the role of new music in the world?” (What do we do, why do we do it, why is it important?)

Coupled with a parallel discussion with the students of our community to rethink the format of our postgraduate seminar provision, and exploring more ways of integrating laboratory-like structures and events into our weekly activities, these initial conversations evolved into a wider project that would bring in members of our Speculations in Sound International Research Network as well as contributors from relevant third sector organisations to address a series of ‘grand challenge’ issues, including climate change, the refugee crisis, gender and identity, equality and access, etc.

In the late 20th century, the academy often served to insulate new music, to provide a safe but largely closed space for new music research, an ivory tower in which experimental research in music could proceed unencumbered. That model was in many ways very useful to progress in our field, but it is no longer sufficient as a model either for new music or for universities in our era. We see a role for universities as leaders in a vibrant, essential, critical, and powerful new music practice. Not a space away from the world, but instead a space that builds communities, audiences, and new artistic practices through collaboration and the forging of unexpected links between thinkers, makers, and the general public.


We seek to respond to and engage with the economic, political, social, and environmental crises that have changed the global conversation in the last five years. We believe the time is ripe for a reconsideration of the ways our work as thinkers and creators in new music connects to current global uncertainties, emergencies, and challenges.

As in the previous Speculations in Sound network events, our aims are open-ended, investigative, exploratory, and intentionally provisional. This five-week series brings together scholars, practitioners, advocates, and organisers to initiate conversations about four of the most important issues of our time—migration, borders, and statelessness; the crisis of ecologies and climate; disability and access; genders, sexual identities, and queerness—and to address the position of new music in relation to those issues. Despite the urgency of the issues, our aim is to open, to provoke, to question—the aim is to bring together voices, to provide a platform to share stories and experiences, to find ways to create pathways of understanding and empathy. And then: how can/does/might new music reflect, amplify, express, enable, shock, question, reject, promote, or engage, responding to those feelings and experiences?

In particular, this series aims to examine ways in which new music practice and scholarship can go beyond making art that is simply ‘about’ social/political/environmental crises. How can we rethink our materials, our practices, our methodologies of making? How can today’s crises provide new models for expression, new urgency for creation, and new relevance for new artforms? How can we reconfigure our venues, our institutions and platforms, our methods of communication and dissemination? What are the audiences for our work, and what is the gap between who we want to reach and who we’re actually reaching? What is the role of the university in new music with respect to both generating and responding to social change? What is the function of art in this environment?

Ultimately, our hope is that Speculations 3 will act as a pilot project for a larger series of events scattered across the Speculations in Sound network over the coming years, which will provide opportunities to include additional voices and additional urgent issues in our conversation.


Each session in this five-week series will focus on a central topic, and for each topic we have invited two speakers to begin with some initial reflections and provocations, which will then open up into wider discussion amongst everyone present, perhaps involving small group discussions and break-out sessions. Our goal is to foster discussion involving everyone present, as a means of sharing experiences, knowledge, enthusiasms, frustrations, confusions, and so on.
In advance, we will circulate to our research community a short list of key themes and questions that we intend to consider at the session. The timetable will be flexible and responsive, but as a basic model we have proposed:

14:15       opening thoughts and experiences from our invited speakers

15:15       follow-up discussion and questions

16:00       break

16:30       group discussions & self-organised activities, responses, etc. — we want to encourage all participants to engage with the ideas, share their own experiences, bring (or search online for) examples of relevant work, and perhaps engage performatively or creatively with the ideas

18:00       the conversation continues informally over pizza & drinks nearby

Much of the work of these sessions will be documented in various formats here on the Speculations website—including formal and informal writings, sketches, photos, etc.—with the possibility of further follow-up written or video work published through the Divergence Press online journal.


5 November‘NASA Releases Stunning Snapshot Of The World On Fire’
Aaron Cassidy, Director, CeReNeM, University of Huddersfield
Robert Adlington, Queen’s Anniversary Prize Chair, University of Huddersfield
Tim Rutherford-Johnson, independent music journalist
12 NovemberMigration, Borders, and Statelessness
Alyson Frazier, Head of Operations, Play for Progress
Almir Koldzic, Co-Director, Counterpoints Arts
Dijana Rakovic, Project Manager, Counterpoints Arts
26 NovemberThe Crisis of Ecologies and Climate
Joe Browning, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oxford
Juliet Fraser, independent performer
3 December Disability and Access
Claire Docherty, Director, Sonic Bothy
Laurie Stras, University of Huddersfield
10 DecemberGenders, Sexual Identities, and Queerness
Jennifer Torrence, Norwegian Academy of Music
Lisa Colton, University of Huddersfield

Speculations in Sound 3 is supported by the University Research Fund of the University of Huddersfield, with additional financial support from Erasmus+, and is organised by the Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM) at the University of Huddersfield.