Emeritus Professor David Cooper

Emeritus Professor David Cooper


I am Emeritus Professor of Music in the School of Music and was previously the Dean of the Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications (PVAC). I am a musicologist and composer who has published extensively, including ten books, on the music of Béla Bartók, film music (especially Bernard Herrmann, Trevor Jones and Michael Nyman), music technology and the traditional music of Ireland.

Brought up in Belfast during the troubles, I studied at Belfast Royal Academy and the City of Belfast School of Music. I came to Leeds as an undergraduate student in 1975 and was awarded a first class degree in Music, studying composition with Alexander Goehr and the Gregory Fellow, Peter Paul Nash. I subsequently completed my doctorate at the University of York under the supervision of David Blake. I was appointed as a lecturer at the University of Leeds in 1988 and promoted to a personal chair in Music in 2003. I was Technical Director of the TLTP phase 2 Music Consortium Project (1993–6), and sat on the AHRC and EPSRC peer-review colleges. I was Head of The School of Music from 2001 to 2005 and was Dean of the Faculty of Performance, Visual Arts and Communications from 2005 to 2016. I retired on 1 August 2017.

Research interests

My research interests are underpinned by a concern for music's communicative power, whether considered in relation to film scores by composers such as Bernard Herrmann, Seán Ó Riada, Michael Nyman or Trevor Jones, to the art music of Béla Bartók or to the repertoire of traditional Irish music. I am also interested in approaches to music that are influenced by science and technology, whether as analytical tools or critical models, in particular through mathematics and computing. As a composer, I have worked across a range of media, both acoustic and electroacoustic, and my two saxophone quartets have been widely performed. My major study, Béla Bartók has been described in The National as ‘the most impressive musical biography of the decade’. 

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BA (hons) Music, University of Leeds (1978)
  • DPhil, University of York (1983)
  • BA Biology and biochemistry, Open University (1990)

Professional memberships

  • FHEA (2001)