The hidden listeners: uncovering the historical evidence for the experience of music

Wednesday 29 March 2017
Time: 11.00-15.00
Venue: Blythswood Room, Mitchell Library, North Street, Glasgow

How, where and why have people listened to music in the past? What did the experience mean to them? And where is the evidence found? This study day will consider some of the contexts in which people listened to music and look at some of the sources where their experiences are recorded. It is presented by the Listening Experience Database project, a collaboration between The Open University, Glasgow University and the Royal College of Music, which is gathering historical evidence of people’s listening experiences and their responses to music.

11.00-11.30 Registration
11.30-12.15 ‘How did past audiences listen to music?’ (David Rowland)
12.15-12.45 ‘Music on the Western Front’ (Helen Barlow)
12.45-1.30 Lunch (a sandwich lunch is provided)
1.30-2.00 ‘Americanism: real and imagined’ (Trevor Herbert)
2.00-2.30 ‘19th-century Glaswegians listening to music’ (Elaine Moohan)
2.30-3.00 Finish

Tickets are free but registration is required. Registration closes on 23 March 2017.

LED Honorary Associates Scheme

Our ‘Honorary Associates’ scheme has been devised to help us develop a network of scholars who share our interest in the history of listening to music, and to provide a way in which we can acknowledge the support and expertise of our contributors.

Who is eligible to become an Honorary Associate?

Anyone who applies and meets the criteria. We envisage that this might include, for example, members of current and past LED Project Teams, delegates at our conferences, symposia and seminars, and contributors to the database.

What are the benefits of attaining Honorary Associate status?

Honorary Associates form a network of those interested in the continuing work of the LED project. As an Honorary Associate you would be named (if you choose) on the LED ( and Network ( websites, where you can also have a research profile. You would receive information on developments and events, and may be consulted on future developments of the project. No remuneration or in-kind institutional benefits are conferred simply by virtue of being an Honorary Associate, but Honorary Associate status does not bar you from any paid employment opportunities that might become available on the project.

What are the criteria for attaining Honorary Associate status?

You need to be able to demonstrate a previous connection with the project. This could be, for example, as a member of the Project Team or Advisory Board, as a giver of a LED conference presentation, or as an inputter of entries into the database. You also need to demonstrate continuing engagement with the project; for example, by continuing to add entries to the database, or by being involved in some other way.

Who confers the status?

This is not an institutional affiliation; the status is conferred by the leaders of the LED project.

For how long would the status last?

Honorary Associate status is reviewed at a fixed point every two years.

What is the application process?

Applications are welcome at any time – there is no deadline. Letters of applications (1 side A4 maximum) explaining how you meet the criteria should be sent to

Past events

The Listening Experience Database Project Conference 2015

Listening to music: people, practices and experiences

24-25 October 2015, the Royal College of Music, London, UK

The conference is held as part of the Listening Experience Database (LED) Project

The keynote speaker will be Professor Simon Frith.

How have people responded to listening to music in their everyday lives?

We have access to plenty of professional critical opinion, but what new insights are offered by an examination of the unsolicited observations and feelings of ordinary listeners – what can we learn about the effects of music, its cultural value and the manner of its consumption in a range of social, historical and geographical contexts?

The LED (Listening Experience Database) Project focuses on the building and interrogation of a large database of personal listening experiences, with the aim of establishing a more robust evidential base for the exploration of such questions.

As we come to the end of the first phase of the project, the conference is an opportunity to take stock of progress to date, to look ahead to future developments, and – crucially – to examine some of the themes and approaches to the study of music that may be supported by the mass of evidence of listening experiences that the database is accumulating.

Proposals are invited for papers of up to 20 minutes (followed by 10 minutes of discussion), and panels or roundtables of up to 60 minutes.

We are interested in receiving proposals on a wide range of topics unrestricted by period, musical genre or culture. As a guide, you may want to consider some of the themes which already interest the project team:

Listening and travel
Wartime listening
Listening and gender
Listening and social class
Practitioner listening – performers and composers
Listening to early repertoires
The impact on listening of recording and other technologies
Your proposal should include:

the name(s) and institutional affiliation(s) of the participant(s)
title and abstract (250 words)
short biographical note(s) (100 words per participant)
The deadline for proposals is midnight on Sunday 12 April 2015.

Please email your proposal to

Abstracts will be reviewed and notifications of acceptance sent out by the end of May 2015.

Registration will open in June 2015. All speakers apart from the keynote speaker and project team members will be required to register.

Please feel free to address any queries to the conference organizers, Dr Helen Barlow and Simon Brown, at

The Listening Experience Database Project Symposium 2014

Thursday 20th November 2014
Time: 10:00am - 16:30pm
Venue: Parry Rooms, Royal College of Music, London, UK

The keynote speaker will be Professor Andrew Prescott, AHRC Leadership Fellow in Digital Transformations.

The LED (Listening Experience Database) Project is a collaboration between The Open University and the Royal College of Music which focuses on the building and interrogation of a large database of personal listening experiences, on the premise that a mass of data about the unsolicited observations and feelings of ordinary listeners provides the basis for new approaches and fields of musical inquiry.

November 2014 sees us approaching the end of year two of the project, and the symposium is an opportunity for us to reflect on progress and open up our research questions and interests to a wider audience.

Please see below for the detailed programme. To register, go to:

The registration fee is £12 (£9 concessions for students, unwaged, retired), to include lunch – please email to advise us of any special dietary requirements.

The deadline for registrations is 4pm on Monday 3 November 2014.

For directions to the Royal College of Music, go to

Please feel free to address any queries to the symposium organizers, Dr Helen Barlow and Simon Brown, at


  • 10.00 - Registration. Tea/coffee
  • 10.30 - Welcome and update on the current status of the database
    Professor David Rowland, Dr Helen Barlow, Simon Brown
  • 10.45 - Supporting crowd-sourced listening experiences with Web Data technologies
    Dr Mathieu d’Aquin, Dr Alessandro Adamou (The Open University)
  • 11.15 - Keynote lecture: Digital transformations
    Professor Andrew Prescott (AHRC Leadership Fellow in Digital Transformations)
  • 12.00 - Round table: Digital humanities – applications and directions
    Chaired by Professor Trevor Herbert (The Open University)
  • 12.45 - Lunch
  • 1.30 - Listening constraints in the English provinces c.1750-1800
    Professor David Rowland (The Open University)
  • 2.00 - Performers listening to performers
    Dr Ingrid Pearson and Dr Tania Lisboa (Royal College of Music)
  • 2.30 - Hearing and listening: sentient audiences and objective form
    Professor Robert Fraser (The Open University)
  • 3.00 - Tea/coffee
  • 3.20 - Experiencing by proxy: the mediated listening experience
    Ivan Hewett (Royal College of Music)
  • 3.50 - ‘In a pure and unadulterated style’: Celtic Renaissance responses to the music of Wales
    Dr Helen Barlow (The Open University)
  • 4.20 - Closing comments
    Professor David Rowland
  • 4.30 - Finish

LED live demo at the International Semantic Web Conference

Tuesday 21st October 2014
Time: 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Venue: Riva del Garda Fierecongressi, Parco Lido, 38066 - Riva del Garda (TN) - Italy

The Listening Experience Database has a booth at the demonstration session of the 13th International Semantic Web conference (ISWC 2014). The demonstration targets the approach adopted by LED to leveraging the wisdom of the community in the generation of Linked Data crossing the domains of music and literature. The audience is shown the benefits of reusing data from indexed datasets during the entry phase, as well as the novel implementation in Linked Data of a governance model that supports crowd-sourced and curated input.

LED at the 1st International Digital Libraries for Musicology workshop

Friday 12th September 2014
Time: 9:30am - 10:00am
Venue: City University London, Northampton Square campus
Homepage: (programme and info)

LED research associates Simon Brown and Alessandro Adamou will be presenting the research paper S. Brown, A. Adamou, H. Barlow and M. d'Aquin. Building listening experience Linked Data through crowd-sourcing and reuse of library data at The 1st International Digital Libraries for Musicology workshop (DLfM 2014), an event co-located with the ACM/IEEE Digital Libraries conference 2014. This will be the first time the formal underpinnings of the ever-evolving LED data model will be presented at an academic event. The speakers will jointly introduce the outcomes of the initial round of crowd-sourcing into a Linked Data set that incorporates reuse of digital library data in its life-cycle, as well as the semantics of its ontological framework and structure of the resulting digital object model.

The Listening Experience Database Project – Cheltenham Music Festival 2014

Friday 11th July 2014
Time: 10:00am - 10:45am
Venue: Pittville Pump Room, East Approach Drive, Cheltenham. GL52 3JE
(Directions & Booking Information)

Ivan Hewett (Chief Music Critic of the Daily Telegraph) is joined by Simon Brown (LED Research Associate), both from the Royal College of Music – to discuss the nature and aims of the project, what it has already uncovered about people’s encounters with music in their everyday lives, and how it will capture the everyday listening experiences that the critics miss. They will illustrate their discussion with examples ranging from eighteenth-century letters to social media.

The Listening Experience Database Project – Wales Study Day

Friday 23 May 2014
Time: 10.30am - 3.45pm
Venue: The Open University in Wales, Cardiff (Directions)

Wales is stereotyped as ‘the land of song’. But how have Welsh people responded to listening to music? And how have people, Welsh or otherwise, responded to listening to the music of Wales?

The Listening Experience Database (LED) project is holding a study day at the Open University in Wales. LED, an AHRC-funded collaboration between The Open University and the Royal College of Music, is bringing together a mass of data about people’s experiences of listening to music of all kinds, in any historical period and any culture, but the LED Wales Study Day aims to explore Welsh dimensions to the experience of listening to music.

The day will be as relevant to historians and those with an interest in Welsh culture as it will to musicians and musicologists, as well as to library and archive professionals whose collections may hold relevant material, and anyone interested in digital humanities.

Speakers will include Prof. David Rowland (LED principal investigator) and Prof. Trevor Herbert (both of The Open University), and Prof. E. Wyn James (Cardiff University).

The Study Day will begin with an overview of the project, followed by a series of short papers from members of the project team and external speakers, which will consider techniques and approaches for researching listening experiences and suggest Welsh angles on the experience of listening to music. The day will conclude with a discussion of potential future directions for the project in a Welsh context.

A detailed programme, including brief abstracts of the papers, can be found below.

Places are limited – to book, please email . Booking closes on 11 May. Lunch will be provided.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Open University in Wales on 23 May.

Dr Helen Barlow
Research Associate, The Listening Experience Database
The Open University, Faculty of Arts


  • 10.30 Registration. Tea/coffee
  • 11.00 Welcome. An overview of the LED project
    Prof. David Rowland and Dr Helen Barlow (The Open University)
  • 11.45 ‘When he played he broke his heart’: finding the working-class responses to music
    Prof. Trevor Herbert (The Open University)
    Knowledge of the response to music by the working class before the mid-twentieth century is confined to three source domains: autobiographical writings, oral histories and the observations of others. This short paper addresses two questions: techniques that can be used to reveal evidence, and the reason why such evidence should be regarded as more than ephemeral.
  • 12.15 Welsh Jumpers and German Chorales: Methodist Hymn-Singing in Wales, 1760-1860
    Prof. E. Wyn James (Cardiff University)
    This paper will examine the nature and development of hymn-singing in Wales from the beginnings of the Methodist Revival in the mid-eighteenth century to the ‘cymanfa ganu’ movement of the 1860s, a movement which contributed significantly to Wales becoming labelled ‘the Land of Song’. During this period fervent revival singing gradually gave way to more disciplined and institutionalized hymn-singing – a transition that was not without its tensions and critics, for and against.
  • 12.45 Lunch
  • 1.45 Provincial music-making in the 18th and 19th centuries
    Prof. David Rowland
    This paper will suggest possibilities for comparison with music-making in Wales, setting out a framework for studying music-making in the English provinces by answering the following questions: how did music in the provinces differ from what happened in London? when and where did music take place? who performed and who were the audiences?
  • 2.15 The J. Lloyd Williams diaries: A musician’s notes to himself
    Andrew Cusworth (The Open University/National Library of Wales)
    J. Lloyd Williams was a noted musician, botanist, and cultural figure of Wales whose career included periods as a schoolmaster, lecturer, and editor of Y Cerddor and the Welsh Folk Song Society Journal. His diaries and journals, intermittent between 1880 and 1945, and personalia are kept at the National Library of Wales and present a record of some of his experiences of music; however, in light of his changing musical interests and rôles, these sources also capture a tension that can exist between personal experience and professional interest within a highly personal range of documents.
  • 2.45 ‘Cultivating and perpetuating its music in a pure and unadulterated style’: Lady Llanover and Celtic Renaissance responses to the music of Wales
    Dr Helen Barlow
    Lady Llanover (1802-1896) is just the best-known figure in a circle of women who were significant in protecting, promoting and – it is often said – inventing Welsh cultural traditions. Their diaries and correspondence record their experiences of listening to Welsh music and their views on its cultural significance.
  • 3.15 Tea/coffee. Discussion: future directions for LED in a Welsh context
  • 3.45 Close

Digital Humanities in Practice seminars: The Listening Experience Database

3 April 2014
Time: 12.30-2.00pm
Venue: Arts Music Studio, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes

The seminar was recorded and can be viewed at

Presenters: Professor David Rowland and Dr Helen Barlow (The Open University) and Simon Brown (The Royal College of Music)

This session will give an overview of the project, focusing in particular on the architecture and development of the database, and some of the challenges of developing an effective crowdsourcing strategy.

The Listening Experience Database Symposium 2013

17 December 2013
Time: 9.30am-3.30pm
Venue: Parry Rooms, Royal College of Music, London


  • 9.30am - Tea/coffee
  • 10.00am - Initial database reporting (Simon Brown and Helen Barlow)
  • 10.20am - Developing the database (Alessandro Adamou)
  • 10.45am - Listening in the English provinces in the late 18th/early 19th centuries (David Rowland)
  • 11.40am - ‘Missing persons’: detecting the responses of the lower orders (Trevor Herbert)
  • 12.10pm - English listeners in Italy (Robert Fraser)
  • 12.35pm - Listening to historically-informed performance (Ingrid Pearson)
  • 1.00pm - The LED studentship (Kerri-Anne Edinburgh)
  • 1.15pm - Lunch
  • 2.15pm - Getting cross with Auntie – listeners' responses to the BBC's music output (Ivan Hewett)
  • 2.40pm - Listening to Britten (Simon Brown)
  • 3.05pm - Women listeners in the 18th and 19th centuries (Helen Barlow)
  • 3.30pm - Tea/coffee and finish