Dr Ross Cole

Dr Ross Cole


I read Music at Christ Church Oxford before pursuing postgraduate research at York and King’s College Cambridge, where I completed my PhD. I then held a Temporary Lectureship in the Faculty of Music at Cambridge, and after that a Junior Research Fellowship at Homerton College, where I also served as Director of Studies. I was appointed Lecturer in Popular Music at Leeds in 2022. In 2022–23 I served as Director of Postgraduate Research Studies.

I have been invited to speak internationally, including at Cambridge, CRASSH, King’s College London, Leeds, Nottingham, New York University, Oxford, and University College Cork, as well as at the Ilkley Literature Festival and on ABC Radio National. Together with Michiel Kamp of Utrecht University, I currently convene a research network on retrofuturism.

I am author of The Folk: Music, Modernity, and the Political Imagination (University of California Press, 2021), which won the Bruno Nettl Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology, awarded to ‘an outstanding publication contributing to or dealing with the history of the field’. Reviews have described the book as ‘definitive’ (Music & Letters), ‘richly informed’ (Twentieth-Century Music), and ‘a wake-up call’ (Ethnomusicology Forum). I am also editor of The Cambridge Companion to Folk Music (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press) and co-editor of Remixing Music Studies: Essays in Honour of Nicholas Cook (Routledge, 2020).

Recent articles are published or forthcoming in Modernism/modernity, ASAP/Journal, Ethnomusicology, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Popular Music, 19th-Century Music, and Music & Letters. My 2020 article ‘Vaporwave a e s t h e t i c s: Internet Nostalgia and the Utopian Impulse’ was given an honourable mention for the RMA’s Jerome Roche Prize.


  • Academic Personal Tutoring Lead
  • Faculty Athena Swan SAT
  • PGR Progress and Examinations Group

Research interests

My work revolves around understanding the politics and poetics of popular culture. Although wide-ranging, my research is unified by a number of themes: nostalgia, radical politics, modernity, race, imagination, song, experimentalism, and the vernacular. My approach is defined by what I call ‘an ecological history of music’­—one that cuts insistently across disciplinary boundaries.

<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 Cambridge
  • MRes, University of York
  • BA (Hons), University of Oxford (Gibbs Prize)
  • LRSM Saxophone
  • FHEA

Professional memberships

  • Royal Musical Association
  • British Forum for Ethnomusicology
  • International Association for the Study of Popular Music
  • American Musicological Society
  • Society for Ethnomusicology
<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>