Joseph Browning

Dr Joseph Browning is Lecturer in Music at City, University of London. He was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Faculty of Music, University of Oxford from 2018–20. He was previously a part-time Postdoctoral Research Fellow for ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, based at The University of Melbourne. He received his MA in 2008 and his PhD in 2015, both from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Joe is an ethnomusicologist specialising in ethnographic approaches to Western art music, the Japanese shakuhachi and central Javanese gamelan.

At CHE, Joe conducted ethnographic research into two collaborative projects, both of which combine Baroque music with new compositions. The first project, Voyage to the Moon, is a contemporary pasticcio opera, premiered and toured throughout Australia in early 2016 and produced in collaboration between Victorian Opera, Musica Viva and CHE. Joe was part of a CHE research team, led by Professor Jane Davidson, studying the emotional dimensions of this contemporary pasticcio and its historical precursors. His work will contribute an ethnographic perspective on the opera workshops and rehearsals, examining how the creative team work together to reimagine Baroque affect for contemporary audiences. The second project, Pleasure Garden, is an outdoor sound installation composed by Genevieve Lacey and Jan Bang, inspired by seventeenth-century composer and musician Jacob van Eyck. Drawing on ethnography of the sound design and installation process, and with audiences at the work’s premiere in the garden of Vaucluse House as part of the 2016 Sydney Festival, Joe’s research explored the confluence of ideas about music, nature and emotion in the production and reception of Pleasure Garden. By tracing the creative processes underlying both these projects, his work explores how contemporary musicians engage with the historically distant emotional worlds of Western art music and repurpose them for contemporary settings and concerns.

Joe’s PhD research was an ethnographic study of the lively transnational scene surrounding the shakuhachi, a Japanese flute often associated with Zen Buddhism. His research focused on how non-Japanese shakuhachi players, makers and composers take up ideas about the shakuhachi’s relationship with nature and place in order to root the instrument in new landscapes in Europe, North America and Australia, negotiate issues of cultural difference, and mediate contemporary environmental concerns. His current shakuhachi research focuses on the distinctive features of the Australian shakuhachi scene. Running through this work and his current research at CHE is an interest in music’s important role in Western society in exploring alterity – cultural difference, historical and geographic distance, and the otherness of the more-than-human world.



Voyage to the Moon

Pleasure Garden

Creativity, Collaboration and Emotion in Music

Selected Presentations

'Pleasure Garden’s Almost Politics', British Forum for Ethnomusicology 2018 Annual Conference, Newcastle University, UK, 12–15 April 2018. Conference paper (not invited).

‘Meeting the Garden Halfway: Ethnographic Encounters with a Sound Installation Microculture’, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Research Seminar Series, 30 March 2017.