Caroline Bithell

Caroline Bithell


  • Professor of Ethnomusicology, Music
  • F.28 - Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama, University of Manchester

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Personal profile


Caroline has her roots in North Wales. She has also lived in Oxford, Germany and Corsica. She taught at Bangor University before moving to Manchester in 2005. She now counts Georgia as her second home.

Research interests

  • Traditional and contemporary music in Corsica
  • Traditional music of Georgia (Caucasus)
  • Vocal polyphony in oral traditions
  • Music revivals
  • Music and activism
  • Music and gender
  • Community choirs and the health benefits of singing
  • Cultural tourism
  • Cultural policy and heritage management
  • The politics and aesthetics of world music
  • Fieldwork methodology and ethics

My research falls mainly under the umbrella of Ethnomusicology (the study of music cultures from a combined musicological and anthropological perspective), while also drawing on approaches from Cultural Studies, Performance Studies, and Community Music. My first fieldwork site was the Mediterranean island of Corsica, the focus of my PhD thesis and my 2007 book Transported by Song. Subsequent projects have taken me to Sardinia, Malta, Bosnia, Georgia, Mali, Senegal and Cuba. I have presented papers relating to this work at conferences in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Poland, Bulgaria, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Brazil, Mexico, the USA, Canada, Ireland and the UK. 

Current and recent projects

My monograph A Different Voice, A Different Song: Reclaiming Community through the Natural Voice and World Song explores the history and significance of the natural voice movement and reveals how and why songs from non-Western traditions inform the movement's ideological, methodological and ethical principles while contributing in often unexpected ways to the rewards reported by participants. I show how the natural voice movement has become a key player in the democratisation of singing, representing a powerful force for building community and promoting intercultural understanding.

The Oxford Handbook of Music Revival grew out of my long-standing fascination with questions of cultural revival and transformation. The volume presents new theoretical perspectives on processes of revival, illustrated through a selection of ethnographic case studies of music and dance cultures from around the world by thirty contributing authors. Together, these reveal the potency of acts of revival, resurgence, restoration and renewal in shaping musical landscapes and transforming social experience.

My current research focuses on polyphonic singing traditions in Georgia, a country I first visited in 1998, and the recent proliferation of Georgian choirs outside Georgia. The Oxford Handbook of Music Revival includes a chapter in which I explore the links between cycles of national revival since the mid-19th century and the internationalisation of Georgian polyphony in the post-Soviet era. My subsequent investigation into contemporary processes of safeguarding and transmission of the musical heritage, with particular reference to Tbilisi-based vocal ensembles, is reported in my contribution to the volume Music as Heritage: Historical and Ethnographic Perspectives (2019).



Current teaching


  • Approaches to Musicology (team-taught)
  • Dissertation

Postgraduate taught (Master's)

  • Studying World Music Cultures: Themes and Debates
  • Ethno/Musicology in Action: Fieldwork and Ethnography
  • Dissertation

Postgraduate research

PhD supervision: ethnomusicology and related areas


  • BA and MA: University of Oxford
  • PhD: University of Wales
  • Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (Wales)

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

  • Member of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE), Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM), Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI), Natural Voice Network (NVN)
  • Member of the editorial board for International Journal of Traditional Arts, Journal of World Popular Music, Musicologist
  • Member of the advisory board for Cantos Cautivos


Caroline teaches a range of course units in Ethnomusicology and World Music Studies. With an academic background in music, social anthropology and languages, she holds degrees from the universities of Oxford and Wales.

Caroline is best known in the ethnomusicology world and beyond for her publications on the traditional musics of Corsica and Georgia (Caucasus), music revivals, and the natural voice and community choirs. Her book Transported by Song: Corsican Voices from Oral Tradition to World Stage (Scarecrow Press, 2007) was awarded 5 stars by Songlines magazine, as well as being positively reviewed in the academic press. Her latest books were both published by Oxford University Press: A Different Voice, A Different Song: Reclaiming Community through the Natural Voice and World Song (2014) and The Oxford Handbook of Music Revival (2014). Her current research focuses on the renaissance of vocal polyphony in post-Soviet Georgia and on music, health and wellbeing.

Caroline has served as Chair of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology and editor of the journal Ethnomusicology Forum. She is also active in the community music world as a voice practitioner and workshop leader and is a former Chair of the Natural Voice Network.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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