Roddy Hawkins

Roddy Hawkins


  • SU12 Martin Harris Centre


Personal profile


I work primarily on the social and cultural history of music in Britain since 1970.  I have published work on the historiography of contemporary classical music or ‘new music’ in the modernist tradition, though my musical and scholarly interests range much wider than this – including an essay on the ‘crisis’ of the whiteness and combustion-masculinity that can be heard somewhere between the mass-media BBC Top Gear brand, the everyday object of the compilation albums and the remediation of the Queen driving anthem ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.

At the crux of it all is a concern with the borders and boundaries that are produced, policed and challenged in the processes of making, disseminating, consuming and writing about music, especially music that makes a claim to be ‘contemporary’, ‘new’, ‘cutting-edge’, ‘experimental’ or ‘avant-garde’ (or music which absolutely rejects these categories). In 2021, I established the research group ‘States of Flux’ as a vehicle to probe these questions. Together with Stephen Graham, I co-organised the symposium 'Beyond the Avant-Garde? Rethinking Vanguardism in British Music since 1970' and organised the follow-up event ‘Mapping the Avant-Garde in British Popular Music’, to coincide with launch of the British Pop Archive at the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library.

I am particularly keen to hear from potential postgraduate students and scholars with interests in the States of Flux group and the British Pop Archive, and particularly from colleagues whose areas of study are under-represented in British music history.

I am currently working on a monograph called New Complexity and the Invention of Postwar Music in 1980s Britain. The book investigates the production and consumption of ‘elite modernism’ in Britain during the 1970s and 1980s. With a focus on the historiography of complex music notation and the emergence of the grouping and name New Complexity, the book explores material culture, creative labour, aesthetic discourse, performance practice, compositional process and critical reception. Building on a 2020 journal article in Music and Letters, the book is based on the premise that the emergence of ‘New Complexity’ must be understood as a symptom of the canonisation and definition of ‘postwar music’, ‘modern music’ and ‘twentieth-century music’, categorisations that were also emerging at this time and were themselves a product of the professionalization and increased specialisation of contemporary classical music culture.

One important topic to have emerged from this research has been the contemporary music ensemble. As major players in the production and consumption of New Music, research on contemporary music ensembles begets questions ranging from labour, patronage, exclusion, and collaboration to more specifically musical issues such as genre, timbre and instrumentation. I am currently editing a special issue for Contemporary Music Review on this topic, though it is but a first step into a very large field of practice, particularly as the very definition of ‘contemporary music ensemble’ struggles to cope with the diversification and globalisation of both new music and music history.

I am also keen to hear from musicians, organisations, teachers and individuals outside academia. I am part of the Greater Manchester Music Hub’s Regional Collaborative Group and have worked with the university platform Creative Manchester developing projects with external partners. I also sit on the committee for MusicHE, the HE subject association for music studies in the UK.

Research interests

Historiography; New Complexity; hermeneutics; masculinity; marginality; music notation; contemporary music ensembles; British music; music and politics; vanguardism since 1970.


I teach course units on the reception of contemporary music in Britain, aesthetics, music historiography, popular music, digital cultures, and theories of listening, and have supervised a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate dissertation topics. 


I gained a PhD in Musicology at the University of Leeds in 2010, with supervision from Martin Iddon and Mic Spencer. After working as a Teaching Fellow at the University of Manchester and the University of Leeds, in 2014 I was appointed Lecturer in Music at the University of Manchester. 

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

I am a committee member for MusicHE the association body that represents HE music providers in the UK.  

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures
  • Creative Manchester


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