David is a musicologist and cultural historian. After gaining his Ph.D. (Harvard 2009), he took up a Research Fellowship in Class I at Christ’s College, and subsequently accepted a Lectureship, and later, a Readership, at the University of Bristol. He returned to the Faculty of Music at Cambridge, and to Christ’s, in 2015.
His research focuses on nineteenth-century intellectual history, Richard Wagner, and the philosophy of technology. Other interests include Franz Liszt and post-Classical Weimar, performance theory and the grey area between improvisation and composition, as well as posthumanism and musical creativity in the digital age. He welcomes applications from potential Ph.D. students in these areas.
Following an edited translation of Carl Stumpf’s The Origins of Music (OUP 2012), his first monograph, Wagner’s Melodies (CUP 2013), examines the cultural and scientific history of melodic theory in relation to Wagner's writings and music. Other publications include editions and translations, as well as research and review articles, and some media work.
In his research and teaching, David approaches music and its cultures in the widest interdisciplinary sense, incorporating perspectives of cultural and intellectual history, music theory and the history of science, and as well as mediality and the philosophy of technology.
His latest project, funded by an ERC Starting Grant, is entitled 'Sound and Materialism in the 19th Century.' This began in September 2015 and examines how a scientific-materialist conception of sound was formed alongside a dominant culture of romantic idealism. It will last five years, and three postdoctoral positions will be advertised in due course.
Alongside this, he is using a Philip Leverhulme Prize to support work on a monograph about music and virtuality. It views virtuality as the flipside of materialism, and examines the influence of cutting edge technologies on our relationship to music and sound within an environment, from HD simulcasts to prosthetic hearing.
Major prizes for research include the Lewis Lockwood Award and the Alfred Einstein Award of the American Musicological Society, the Bruno Nettl Prize of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Donald Tovey Memorial Prize of the University of Oxford, and a Deems Taylor Award of the American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers.
When time permits, David is active as a collaborative pianist, having performed in Germany, Italy, the UK, and on both coasts of the US.