Dr Joe Davies
My work is driven by a deep fascination with interdisciplinary approaches to music and death. What role can music play in articulating responses to or premonitions of mortality? In what ways might death serve as a catalyst for creative endeavor? And how might ideas of loss shape our engagement with music-historical narratives?
My first monograph, The Gothic Imagination in the Music of Franz Schubert (2024), explores these questions vis-à-vis a constellation of strangeness – irreconcilable contrasts, the sublime, the grotesque, the spaces between presence and absence, sound and silence. Through a series of case studies, I trace (implicit) dialogues across Schubert’s early horror ballads, where the presence of the gothic is well established, to the instrumental music he composed in his final years. As I do so, I listen closely to the sound of the gothic, its stylistic and expressive features, while reflecting on the role of music in shaping discourses about death and the gothic in the early nineteenth century.
My current project reframes the discourse of widowhood, often overlooked in music studies, as a catalyst for creativity – an open-ended mediation of past, present, and future. For each of my case studies, central among them Clara Schumann and Amy Beach, I demonstrate how the death of a spouse was poised between loss and liberation, a trigger for renewal across composition, pedagogy, and performance. This approach not only opens up ways of understanding the impact of death on creative endeavor, but also recenters acts of grief and remembrance as a basis for music-historical enquiry.
Collaborations are central to my work. I have co-/chaired five international conferences, most recently Women at the Piano 1848–1970 (2023), and with Yvonne Liao co-founded the Women in Global Music Network (WIGM), a research- and industry-led initiative that pioneers women’s voices across scholarship, performance, and advocacy. Alongside public engagement, I have a passion for editorial work. Recent projects include: Clara Schumann Studies (2021), the first in the Cambridge Composer Studies series to be devoted to a woman; Drama in the Music of Franz Schubert (2019, co-edited with James Sobaskie); the special journal issue “Clara Schumann: Changing Identities and Legacies” (2023, guest-edited with Nicole Grimes); and Clara and Robert Schumann in Context (forthcoming, co-edited with Roe-Min Kok). I am currently co-editing (with Natasha Loges) books on the global history of women pianists.
Across all work – research, teaching, public engagement – I am guided by dialogues that connect us to the past, to each other, and to the human condition. I warmly welcome conversations about potential collaborations or shared interests.