The social psychology of orchestras

My research is focused on the social-psychological and socio-political aspects of orchestral music-making -- from the intricacies of co-performer communication in modern and historically informed contexts, to the politics of participation and orchestras' geo-political significance.

I explore these questions through a blend of practice-based research and empirical investigation -- combining my work as a conductor and performer with my academic pursuits. A hallmark of my work has been to develop new technological solutions for addressing methodological hurdles in orchestral research, such as gaining access to performers thoughts and experiences while engaged in the act of performance and capturing micro-timing data from large numbers of orchestral players simultaneously.

Two recent initiatives which combined my role as associate conductor of the Orchestra of St John's and my research interests have been in collaboration with composer/researcher Toby Young: Displaced Voices and Journey: Bridging Cultures Through Music. Both funded by Arts Council England and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, they explore the impact of intercultural socio-musical initiatives on musicians, participants and audience members, through a mixture of artistic practice and empirical data collection.

My doctoral research at the University of Oxford studied creativity and authorship in orchestral performance by investigating the influences that shape orchestral players' musical decision-making in rehearsals and performances while my postdoctoral work on the AHRC-funded Transforming 19th-Century Historically Informed Practice has researched the consequences for performers and listeners on experimental approaches to 19th-century style, with a focus on the effects of expressive asynchrony.

In March 2021, I will begin a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Sheffield to write a book on the remarkable history and current activities of orchestras in Afghanistan, contextualising them within orchestral practices of South-Central Asia. This research building on my on-going work with Ensemble Zohra (the Afghan Women's Orchestra) and the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.

Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey