About me

I am Professor of Music at the University of Oxford and am both a music theorist and musicologist, with wide-ranging interests in everything from the minutiae of musical structures and manuscripts to the broadest cultural, historical, and philosophical contexts for music. My principal focus has been on music and poetry of the fourteenth century, although I have also written about songs from both earlier and later periods.

I am the author of the interdisciplinary study, Guillaume de Machaut: Secretary, Poet, Musician, published by Cornell University Press in March 2011. I have published articles on the counterpoint of the French fourteenth-century composer Guillaume de Machaut in the Journal of Music Theory (2000), Music Analysis, (2000) and Plainsong and Medieval Music (2001). My interest in the musico-poetic aspects of Machaut’s songs resulted in articles on his Fortune balades (Early Music History, 2000), the opening five songs of the notated balade section (Journal of Musicology, 2002), and those on the themes of hope and merci (French Forum, 2003).

My earlier book Sung Birds: Music, Nature, and Poetry in the Later Middle Ages (Cornell University Press, 2007), deals with the ontology and ethics of musical sound through the lens of the earliest composed pieces that imitate birdsong. This book’s chapter on the problematic figure of the siren led to an article (in Music Theory Spectrum, 2006) on the gendering of semitones and anxieties prompted by the early history of the leading note, which won the Outstanding Publication Award of the Society for Music Theory 2007 and an article on sirens (in Music and Letters 2006), which won the Pauline Alderman Award from the International Alliance for Women in Music 2007. The first of these two articles has recently sparked controversy with the music theorist Sarah Fuller, resulting in an exchange of articles in Music Theory Spectrum.

My interest in musical lyrics interpolated into narrative led to an article on the Spice Girls in Popular Music (2001), which dealt specifically with the issue of their authenticity. I retain interests in popular music and the ethics of its analysis.

I have edited a volume of 18 essays entitled Machaut’s Music: New Interpretations. This project received the Sarah Jane Williams Award of the International Machaut Society for 2002 and was published by Boydell and Brewer in 2003. In 2005 I co-edited with Suzannah Clark a volume of essays to celebrate Margaret Bent’s 65th birthday, entitled Citation and Authority in Medieval and Renaissance Musical Culture: Learning from the Learned. My most recent co-edited volume (with Helen Deeming) appeared in 2015, which focuses on Manuscripts and Medieval Song.

Having co-edited the CUP journal Plainsong and Medieval Music for several years, I have served as the Chairman of the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society and remain on its Council. I was also a founder member of the Medieval Song Project, based at the Institute of Musical Research and am a Director of the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music. I served a term on the editorial board of Music Theory Spectrum and currently serve on the board of Revue de Musicologie. I am a member of the Royal Musical Association, the American Musicological Society, the Society for Music Theory, the Society for Music Analysis, and the Medieval Academy of America.

In the Oxford Music Faculty, I lecture on the core historical courses for the undergraduate degree, as well as offering options course on the music of Guillaume de Machaut, and on Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Medieval Musical Culture. I also teach on the taught Masters course and supervise masters and doctoral dissertations.

Interested in applying to St Hugh’s or Exeter to read Music? Want to know what to expect at interview? Enquiries welcome – email Professor Leach.