Dr James Mooney

Dr James Mooney


I am a historian of music technology.

I joined the University as Lecturer in Music Technology in 2009 and was promoted to Associate Professor of Musicology and Music Technology in 2017.

I studied Music at Newcastle University before completing an MSc in Music Technology at University of York, where I wrote software and a dissertation on 3D audio (surround sound) using the Ambisonic system. I completed my PhD at University of Sheffield in 2005. My thesis, entitled 'Sound Diffusion Systems for the Live Performance of Electroacoustic Music', surveys multi-loudspeaker sound systems, explores the relationship between sound spatialisation technology and compositional philosophy in electronic art music (electroacoustic music), and presents a model for designing new systems. After my doctoral studies I took a position as Studio Manager at Culture Lab, Newcastle University (2006–09), where I continued my research while managing the studios, writing asset tracking software, and administrating web servers.


  • Programme Manager, MA Critical and Applied Musicology

Research interests

Current research interests include: Histories of music technology, electronic musical instruments, computer music, sound recording, and record production from the 1870s to the present day; electronic, avant-garde, and experimental music post-1945; creation, use, and reception of music technology in popular music and art music; recorded music; science and technology studies (STS); musical instrument studies; artefact-based research methods (e.g. involving museum collections); popular music studies; sound studies; history of technology.

Since 2010 I have worked primarily on electronic music history. My recent project, “Instrumentalising Electronic Sound 1945–75”, explored the invention of new electronic musical instruments in the post-World War II decades and was funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust – recent research outputs are linked below. Another recent project was my collaboration with Prof Trevor Pinch (Cornell University) entitled “Exploring Material Cultures of Electronic Music through the Methods of Science and Technology Studies”. Out of that project came our co-authored book chapter on “Sonic Imaginaries”, which extends theories of imaginaries and sociomateriality into the sonic and musical domain through case studies of Hugh Davies (experimental musical instrument maker and live electronic music pioneer) and David Van Koevering (former marketing director and vice-president of Moog Music), by showing how ways of imagining new musical futures were embedded in Davies’s and Van Koevering’s interactions with people, objects, and sounds in the mid-60s through early 70s. In partnership with the National Science and Media Museum (Bradford) I supervise an AHRC-funded doctoral project entitled “Objects of Electronic Sound and Music in Museums” that seeks to develop new approaches to the interpretation and display of electronic sound instruments in museums. I was recently a partner in a White Rose College of Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH) project entitled “Electronic Soundscapes”, an interdisciplinary project run jointly across the Universities of Leeds, York, and Sheffield, that explored electronic sound from a range of historic, musicological, and literary perspectives.

My research involves working, often collaboratively, with museums and archives. I currently hold the position of Science Museum Group Research Associate, based at the National Science and Media Museum (Bradford), with whom I share my expertise in electronic sound and music technologies. I am subject matter expert (SME) in electornic music for the Computer History Museum (Mountain View, California). I have previously worked with the Science Museum (London), and regularly consult with other museums and archives, including Canada Science and Technology Museum (Ottawa) and the Musical Instruments Museum (Brussels).

I have published several articles and book chapters on the English composer, musicologist, and experimental instrument-builder Hugh Davies (1943–2005). In 2015–16, during my AHRC Fellowship project, I worked with experimental musicians to stage concerts of Davies's music using period equipment and ran an instrument-builder residency and exhibition. In 2017, following an international conference that I convened at the Science Museum, I edited a special issue of the journal Organised Sound entitled 'Alternative Histories of Electroacoustic Music', which collected together 15 new essays/articles that look at electronic music history from different perspectives, exploring the early roots of electronic music, tracing unexpected paths from past to present, challenging historiographic, institutional and gender biases, and exploring electronic music's relationships with interdisciplinarity.

I currently sit on the committee of the UK Musical Instruments Resource Network (MIRN) as an expert in electronic musical instruments. I have previously held the positions of Edison Research Fellow at the British Library (2010–11), Research Associate at the Science Museum, London (2013–14 and 2015–16), AHRC Early Career Research Fellow (2015–16), and visiting researcher at the Department of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University (2019).

I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review College. 

<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>


  • PhD (University of Sheffield)
  • MSc Music Technology (University of York)
  • BA (hons) Music (Newcastle University)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

Student education

My teaching covers topics that are relevant to the study of music's relationships with technology, including:

  • history of electronic music and recorded sound
  • theory of music and sound technology (acoustics, analogue and digital audio, etc.)
  • social construction of music technology (i.e. the social processes by which music technologies are developed and used by people)
  • impact of new technologies upon musical practice and thinking
  • musical instrument studies (a.k.a. organology)

I am programme manager for the MA course in Critical and Applied Musicology, and the MA course in Electronic and Computer Music.

Current research students:

  • Louise Aimes-Hill (PhD Musicology)
  • Edward Wilson-Stephens (PhD Musicology, AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award)
  • Jamie Stephenson (PhD Musicology)
  • Caitlin Mockridge-Rice (PhD Musicology, University of Leeds funded)

Completed Research students:

  • Jean-Baptiste Masson (PhD History, WRoCAH Collaborative Doctoral Award)
  • Dorien Schampaert (PhD Musicology)
  • Daniel Wilson (PhD Composition)

Research groups and institutes

  • Music, Science and Technology

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>