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Professor David Smith


Department: Humanities

David J. Smith is Professor and Founding Head of Music in the Department of Humanities, and is responsible for developing the exciting new degree programme in Music at Northumbria University. His research is situated in the Early Modern, specialising in English instrumental music of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. He has expertise in the critical editing of music, and as a performer has several recordings to his name.

David moved to Northumbria University in September 2018 from the University of Aberdeen, where he served as Head of Music and was Master of Chapel and Ceremonial Music. He studied at the University of Oxford, where he was organ scholar at St Peter’s College and then the first John Brookman Graduate Organ Scholar at Wadham. Before taking up a position at Aberdeen, he spent a year as an associate lecturer in Music at the University of Surrey.

David Smith

David's research is centred around English instrumental music of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. In particular, he has developed research expertise in the editing of music for scholarly editions, and has reflected on methodological questions relating to his own editions of music by Peter Philips (1560/61-1628) and Richard Dering (c.1580-1630) for Musica Britannica.

David considers music in the cultural context of its time, distinguishing traditions of domestic keyboard practice from professional ones, and arguing for a reappraisal the keyboard culture of seventeenth-century England. Moving away from old notions involving the influence of one composer on the next, he sees the production of instrumental music as relying on networks of composers, scribes and players which interconnect with broader religious and social networks. Much of David’s research is caught up in the religious and political turmoil of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries which resulted in English Catholic composers such as Peter Philips (1560/61–1628) and Richard Dering (c.1580–1630) living and working on the Continent.

David has a longstanding interest in historical performance practice, and considers the critical editing of music to be very closely related to issues of performance when it takes into consideration the role of scribe-players on the texts that have come down to us.

David performs the music he has researched, including Exiled, a recording on which he plays keyboard works by Peter Philips alongside consort music performed by internationally acclaimed Rose Consort of Viols, who are joined by the Choir of King's College, Aberdeen, in some motets which David directs.

Postgraduate Supervision

Previous research students of mine have worked on topics ranging from the revival of music in the worship of the Catholic Church in Scotland, 1789-1829, to the organ music of J.S. Bach, to the secular vocal music of Cornelis Verdonck (1563/4-1625).

Current PhD students are working on tonal design in organs by Harrison & Harrison, curriculum design in English music education and audience development in British orchestras.

I welcome PhD projects in the broad areas of

  • Early English instrumental music (keyboard, lute, consort)
  • Keyboard music
  • Scottish music

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Aspects of Early English Keyboard Music Before C.1630, Smith, D. 14 May 2019
  • Continuity, change and the emergence of idiomatic organ repertoire in seventeenth-century England, Smith, D. 21 Jun 2018, Studies in English Organ Music, London, Taylor & Francis
  • Exiled: Music by Philips and Dering, Smith, D. 11 Dec 2017
  • Philips and Dering: Consort Music, Smith, D. 2016
  • Networks of music and culture in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries: A collection of essays in celebration of Peter Philips's 450th anniversary, Smith, D., Taylor, R., Dokter, J. 28 Nov 2013
  • Peter Philips, Complete Keyboard Music, Smith, D. 1999


As a harpsichordist and recorder player, David co-founded AB24, a trio of musicians performing baroque music in a colourful range of instrumental combinations. He gives recitals as an organist, specialising in improvisation and early keyboard music from England and the Netherlands.


Co-founder and General Editor of Ashgate Historical Keyboard Series

Editor of Scottish Music Review

Board Memberships

Chair of Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, Panel B (2016–18)

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)

  • Council Member and Director (2015–2021)
  • Executive Committee (2010–2012)
  • ISM Governance Working Party (2010–2012)
  • Regional Councillor for East Scotland, Director and Trustee of Members Fund (2004–2007; 2008–2010)
  • Member, Council of Management and Trustee, North East of Scotland Music School (2012–18)

Board Member and Trustee of Grampian Youth Orchestra (2011–18)

Advisory Board, Electronic Locator of Vertical Interval Successions (ELVIS): The First Large Data–Driven Research Project on Musical Style (2012–14)

Member of the Elphinstone Institute Advisory Board (2011–2013

  • Music DPhil
  • Music MA
  • Music BA (Hons)
  • Performer's Dilpoma LTCL

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