Dr Magnus Williamson
Senior Lecturer


My research focuses upon the music of late-medieval and early modern Europe, especially in the sources and contexts of early-Tudor polyphony. My teaching reflects these interests. I teach on several music modules in music history; medieval, renaissance and baroque music; techniques of counterpoint; notation and editing.

I read music at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating in 1990. After completing my DPhil thesis I was lecturer in music at Somerville College, Oxford, and then at Newcastle University (where I have been since 1997). 


My interest is mainly in the music of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, particularly in:

  • music manuscripts (who copied them, how, where and for what purposes); 
  • printed books of chant and polyphony (how they were produced and who bought them);
  • in social and religious rituals (how they worked in practice, who participated, who didn't);
  • musical cultures, especially outside the big urban centres;
  • early organ music, both improvised and written-down;
  • the critical editing of music (I am currently General Editor of the British Academy series, Early English Church Music).

I am also active as a performer.  In 1988 I became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, while I was organ scholar at Magdalen College, and won prizes as an improviser, giving recitals in the UK and abroad. More recently, my collaboration with the Early English Organ Project and with the ESRC/AHRC-funded Experience of Worship project has drawn together my academic interests and my experience as an improviser and church musician.   

Roles and Responsibilities

2013-14: LE STUDIUM® Research Fellow, Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissance, Université François-Rabelais de Tours, France

Qualifications and Awards

DPhil (Oxford): 'The Eton choirbook: its institutional and historical background' (1997)  

BA Hons in Music (first class), Magdalen College, Oxford (1990)

Fellow, Royal College of Organists, with Dixon Prize (1988)

Previous Positions

Lecturer in Music, Somerville College, Oxford (1995-7)

Director of Music, University Church of St Mary, Oxford (1992-7)

Assisting Organist, Magdalen College, Oxford (1990-1)


American Musicological Society; Royal Musical Association; Renaissance Society of America; 
Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society


French; Latin

Research Interests

Medieval and Renaissance music
Liturgy and ritual
Social and political contexts
Reformation studies
Source studies

Other Expertise

Early English organ music
Editing early music

Current Work

Music and the Reformation in England, Scotland and France

The late-medieval parish and college: soundscapes and resources

Printed liturgical chant books of the sixteenth century

John Sheppard (whose quincentenary falls in 2015 - more or less)

Future Research

French music, 1450-1700

Research Roles

General Editor, Early English Church Music

Postgraduate Supervision

Kirsten Gibson (PhD, completed 2005)

Numerous MMus candidates

Esteem Indicators

Expert Evaluator, Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (2005)

Assessor, National Heritage Memorial Fund (2005)

Palisca Prize for outstanding edition, American Musicological Society (2011)

Major Research Projects

Early English Church Music: the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries (AHRB Resource Enhancement Scheme, February 2004-7)

Undergraduate Teaching

Music History


and various historical/cultural options on subjects from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries

Postgraduate Teaching

Music Research Training

Notation and editing 

Performance Practice