Institute for Creative Arts Practice

Staff Profile

Professor Magnus Williamson

Professor of Early Music



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 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 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 background as an improviser and church musician. In 1988 I became a fellow of the Royal College of Organists (with the Dixon Prize for improvisation).

External Roles

General Editor, Early English Church Music (British Academy)

Internal Roles

UoA Co-ordinator, Music

Previous Posts

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 Medieval Music Society


French; Latin

Google Scholar: Click here.


Research Interests

The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries:

  • musical contexts: social, ritual, spatial
  • loss, damage and restoration: reconstructing lacunary polyphony, re-imagining mutilated and lost spaces
  • musical sources: manuscripts, chant and polyphony in print; choirbooks and partbooks, provenance and purpose; palaeography, codicology, notation, editing, formats: for instancethe Petre Gradual in Newcastle University's Robinson Library
  • change and upheaval, reform, innovation, reaction
  • organ and choral music in early-Tudor England
  • performance, particularly improvisation

Current Work

Since the 1990s I have focused on musical sources and contexts of the late Middle Ages, mainly in Britain, but more recently in France as well. I have several on-going research projects on the soundscape of the pre-Reformation parish, the printing of music books (particularly the oft-neglected but very significant corpus of printed chant books), and the Chapel Royal under the Tudors. Often mutually antagonistic, but culturally interconnected, Renaissance France and Tudor England make for interesting comparisons, not least in their divergent responses to religious change.

I have been Principal Investigator on various RCUK-funded projects, including Tudor Partbooks: The manuscript legacies of John Sadler, John Baldwin and their antecedents (Co-I: Dr Julia Craig-McFeely of Oxford University and DIAMM) (AHRC, 2014-17). More details can be found on the ICMuS Research pages and the Tudor Partbooks project site.

Future Research

Pipeline projects include:

  • musical cultures and contexts in France from the English invasion to the wars of religion (1340s-1560s)
  • spatial and acoustic experiences in medieval Europe, 1000-1500

Postgraduate Supervision

I welcome inquiries from anyone interested in pursuing research on Renaissance musical sources, North European historical contexts, sixteenth-century contrapuntal techniques, keyboard improvisation, editing, and notation. 

Recent Esteem Indicators

Leverhulme Trust: Visiting Professorship, Dr Kerry McCarthy (autumn 2017): host

University Research Committee: Visiting Professorship, Dr John Milsom (2015): host

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

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

Current Research Projects

Animating Texts at Newcastle University: AtNU is a large project investigating Digital Technology and the Humanities; led by Professor Jennifer Richards (English Literature), with Professor Michael Rossington (English Literature); Professor Paul Watson (Digital Institute); Dr James Cummings (English Literature). We have been awarded a grant of £476,132 by Newcastle University to develop a new field of study, Digital Technology and the Humanities.Over three years we are exploring how the digital can complement rather than replace the print edition, exploring different ways of understanding, explaining, and experiencing text as mobile, variable, adaptable, performable, while also helping us to re-imagine the reading experience.

Tudor Partbooks: the manuscript legacies of John Sadler, John Baldwin and their antecedents (AHRC, 2014-17): PI

The Sarum Hymnal in Manuscript and Print (British Academy, 2017-18): PI

Creative Exchanges (ARHC): Co-I

Early English Church Music: the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries (AHRB, 2004-7): PI



Undergraduate Teaching

Music History from the ninth to the seventeenth centuries, particularly 1400-1550

Historic Compositional Techniques


Edition and transcription

Postgraduate Teaching

Research methods in medieval and early modern studies

Notation and editing 

Performance practices