Michelle Phillips

Deputy Head of Undergraduate Programmes and Course Leader GRNCM

BA(Hons), MA, ACA, PhD (Cantab)

Email: Michelle.Phillips@rncm.ac.uk

  • Research in the field of music psychology (music psychology, music and live audiences, music perception, music and time, music and maths, mindfulness, representing science through music)
  • Deputy management of the BMus programmes
  • Course leader for GRNCM (‘joint course’) 
  • Senior lecturer for undergraduate (music theory, music history, music psychology, music acoustics, music and time, music perception, performing contemporary music) and postgraduate (music psychology, repertoire studies) modules
  • Supervision of Masters projects
  • PhD supervision (5 current PhD students)

Michelle Phillips’ research explores music and the perception of time, music and maths, and audience response to live and recorded music. Ongoing research projects include a collaboration with the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology which attempts to effectively illustrate processes of genetic mutation through new music, and work with AHRC Creative Economies Engagement Fellow Dr Ioanna Filippidi on involuntary musical imagery in live music. An edited collection entitled Music and Time: Philosophy, Psychology and Practice, co-edited by Michelle and Dr Matthew Sergeant, is currently under contract with publisher Boydell & Brewer. Michelle is a founding member and Music Perception Lead of the PRiSM research hub (https://www.rncm.ac.uk/research/research-centres-rncm/prism/) at the RNCM and a member of the TimeLab Manchester (http://www.timelabmanchester.com/). Recent publications accepted and under review explore music and the golden section, music and mindfulness, music and memory, and perception of segmentation in contemporary music. Michelle is a senior lecturer and Deputy Head of Undergraduate Programmes at the RNCM, and a saxophonist.

Michelle completed her PhD (funded by a Domestic Research Studentship awarded by the University of Cambridge) under the supervision of Professor Ian Cross, Centre for Music and Science, University of Cambridge, following completion of undergraduate (Music and German) and Masters studies at the University of Nottingham. Michelle’s Masters (by Research) thesis explored the role of music and musical form in contemporary Austrian literature, and was funded by the AHRB (now AHRC). Michelle has also held teaching roles at the University of Cambridge and Leeds College of Music.

Michelle has extensive experience in public engagement, and has worked with multiple museums, festivals, schools and other events and organisations. As a museum gallery consultant Michelle has worked with the Science Museum (London), the Science and Industry Museum (Manchester), and Moscow Polytechnic Museum (Russia).

Michelle gives regular presentations at national and international conferences, and reviews for leading academic journals (Psychology of Music, Music Perception) and conferences (including ESCOM, ICMPC, SMPC). She is regular invited to present at science festivals (University of Cambridge, Edinburgh Science Festival, Manchester Science Festival) and public engagement events (e.g. Institute of Physics, Science and Industry Museum ‘Lates’, Google Digital Garages).

Michelle is a professional saxophonist (http://www.equinoxsax.org.uk/) and chartered accountant on a voluntary basis with a number of organisations, including King’s Junior Voices in Cambridge.(http://www.kingsjuniorvoices.org/home).

Twitter handle: @___Michelle____

Current and Future Research

Current research on involuntary music imagery (earworms) in live music performance (AHRC Creative Ecooies Engagement Fellowship), music and time, music and maths, music performance anxeity (beta blockers and mindfulness), and music and science.

Invited talks:

May 2018 – Music Perception – Time and Structure (3rd May 2018, University of Manchester research seminar)

October 2017 – The Music of Proof (with Emily Howard and Marcus du Sautoy): concert event with experiment involving data capture from a live audience, RNCM, Manchester

March 2017 – ‘Lates’ event, Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester

22nd November 2013 – “The Musical Time Warp,” Edinburgh International Science Festival (public engagement)

30th October 2013 – “The golden section in music analysis,” The College of Management (Tel Aviv)

15th November 2012 – “Perception of elapsed duration during music listening,” Goldsmiths University

17th October 2012 – “About time – the experience of duration during music listening and the role of the golden section in music analysis,” Royal Northern College of Music

10th May 2012, 2.30-4pm – “Perception of pitch and rhythm in music, and how this may inform theories of evolution and music,” Birmingham Conservatoire Saxophone Department

31st October 2011, 2.30-4pm – “Myths about the perception of music, and how the study of music psychology may contribute to the field of music analysis,” Birmingham Conservatoire Saxophone Department

16th June 2011, 2.30-4pm – “Perception of elapsed duration during music listening,” Birmingham Conservatoire Saxophone Department


College and External Research Roles

  • External Examiner (postgraduate), Open University (2019-2021)
  • External Examiner (undergraduate), Bath Spa University (2018-2021)
  • Writer and director of ‘Good Vibrations’, a show about music and mathematics staged as an RNCM Family day (2016) and as part of the University of Cambridge Science Festival (2010 and 2011)



Research Funding

  • AHRC Creative Economies Engagement Fellowship (Jan – Jun 2019) (academic lead)
  • Experiments relating to music and mindfulness supported by the University of Manchester
  • PhD supported by full Domestic Research Studentship awarded by the University of Cambridge
  • MA (by Research) supported by full AHRB (now AHRC) scholarship
  • Science Museum London ‘Live Science’ residency supported by SEMPRE

Undergraduate Teaching

Year 1: Music Theory 1, Music Culture and Performance 1

Year 2: Music Theory 2, Music Culture and Performance 2 (music post 1945)

Years 3 and 4: Performing Contemporary Music, Music Acoustics, Applied Music Psychology, Music and Time, Music Perception, dissertation

Postgraduate Teaching

  • Music Research in Practice (Music Psychology)
  • Major Project
  • Minor Project
  • Repertoire Studies
  • PhD supervision

Research Supervision

Current supervision of five PhDs at RNCM:

  • Jo-Yee Cheung: The role of parents in the development of metacognition in children during musical learning (primary supervisor)
  • Jen Hartley: Critical Creativity: listening to and composing new music (secondary supervisor)
  • Alexander Webb: Can British Light Music of the 50’s – 70’s (in particular the music of Ernest Tomlinson) be presented for a modern audience through wind orchestra and brass band? (primary supervisor)
  • Molly Marsh: Psychological wellbeing in performing musicians: Exploring the role that education can play in reducing music performance anxiety (MPA) (primary supervisor)
  • Tuula Jääskeläinen: Students’ experienced workload in higher music education (ERASMUS exchange student based at RNCM for six months)


    Talks, Workshops and Masterclasses

  • Perception of time during music listening – event structure matters , Leeds University Music Research Colloquium, Leeds, 7th November 2019
  • Music perception – time and structure , University of Manchester Research Forum, Manchester, 3rd May
  • Journal Articles

  • (2019). Rethinking the Role of the Golden Section in Music and Music Scholarship. Creativity Research Journal. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/10400419.2019.1651243
  • (2014). A Discussion of the Effect of Musical Context on Perception of Succession of Musical Events, and its Relevance for Philosophical Models of Temporal Experience. Empirical Musicology Review, 9(3-4), 230-235.
  • Phillips, M., & Cross, I. (2011). About musical time – effect of age, enjoyment, and practical musical experience on retrospective estimate of elapsed duration during music listening. Lecture Notes in Computer Science Time and Time Perception 2010, 6789, 125-136.
  • Conference Contributions

  • Goves, L., Phillips, M., & Williams, K. Music for the Silences between Heartbeats: An Embodied Creative Collaboration given at  Royal Musical Association 55th Annual Conference, Manchester 12th September 2019
  • Phillips, M., Sergeant, M., Redhead, L., Jones, L., Connor, A., & Smith, J. Music and Time: Psychology, Philosophy and Practice given at  Royal Musical Association 55th Annual Conference, Manchester 13th September 2019
  • Music and time – event structure matters given at  Time changes in experiences of music and dance, Hamburg, Germany 29th November 2019
  • New models of psychological time are needed to account for structural coherency of events given at  European Society for Cognitive Psychology (ESCoP), Tenerife 28th September 2019
  • Phillips, M., & Harrison, B. Notions of repetition in the late work of Morton Feldman given at  Again & Again, London 25th April 2019
  • Calibrating academic standards given at  Protecting the value of qualifications conference (AdvanceHE), London 22nd May 2019
  • Phillips, M., & Weise, N. Music and mutation given at  Interact 2019 – An Engagement Symposium for the Physical and Life Sciences, Preston 4th September 2019
  • Filippidi, I., & Phillips, M. Hacking the live music earworm given at  SPARC Audience Research in the Arts conference, Sheffield 5th July 2019
  • Phillips, M., Wilcoxson, M., Howard, E., du Sautoy, M., Willcox, P., & de Roure, D. What musical features influence perception of section boundaries in contemporary music? A live audience study with a bespoke data capture app given at  ICMPC/ESCOM10, Graz, Austria 27th July 2018
  • Phillips, M., & Jones, L. Is music a special case in time perception? given at  Troubling Time: An Exploration of Temporality in the Arts, Manchester 2nd June 2017
  • How can a performer shape experience of time for an audience? given at  Making Time in Music, Oxford 13th September 2016
  • Towards a combined theory of psychological time during music listening and dynamic attending theory given at  ESCOM 2014, Manchester 21st August 2015
  • Why large scale mathematical patterns in music are unlikely to be heard, using the golden section as an example given at  RMA Study Day, Music and Mathematics, Leeds 12th April 2014
  • Phillips, M., Marin, M., & Glowinski, D. Conference co-leader given at  Systematic Musicology 2013, Genoa, Italy 
  • Phillips, M., Knight, S., & Rabinowitch, T. Conference co-leader given at  Systematic Musicology 2010, University of Cambridge, Cambridge 
  • Phillips, M., & Cross, I. Conference poster: Effect of increased musical chunks on sense of elapsed duration given at  40th Anniversary Conference: Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE), London 14th – 15t
  • Phillips, M., & Cross, I. Conference paper: The role of factors associated with emotion in experience of elapsed duration during music listening given at  Society for Music Perception and Cognition Biennial Meeting, Toronto 8th August 2
  • Leader for conference discussion group given at  The Inaugural Nordoff Robbins Plus Research Conference, 20th September 2013, London 
  • Conference paper: Perception of large-scale structure given at  40th Anniversary Conference: Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE), 14h – 15th September 2012, London 14th Septemb
  • Phillips, M., & Cross, I. Conference poster: The effect of engagement of working memory during music listening on estimate of elapsed duration given at  ICMPC-ESCOM, 23rd-28th July 2012, Greece 24th July 20
  • Phillips, M., & Cross, I. Conference poster: The effect of musical segmentation on retrospective verbal estimate of elapsed duration given at  Time and the Conscious Brain Symposium, 31st October – 2nd November 2011, Delmenhorst, Germany 31st October
  • Conference paper: Problems in Proportion – why conceptual mathematical structuring of large-scale musical form lacks a perceptual counterpart given at  Summer Workshop on Music, Pattern and Mathematics, East Sussex 10th August
  • Phillips, M., & Cross, I. Conference poster: The musical time warp – psychological time and elapsed duration during music listening given at  International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition 2010 (ICMPC), Seattle 26th August
  • Phillips, M., & Cross, I. Conference poster: Expecting a call? Psychological time and elapsed duration during music listening – a ringtone study given at  CIM-SEMPRE Study Day for postgraduate students, Sheffield 22nd July 20
  • Conference paper: The golden section – seen but not heard? given at  Music and Numbers Conference, Canterbury 14th May 201
  • Conference paper: Music’s golden section – an empirical approach given at  2nd International Conference of Students of Systematic Musicology, Ghent 18th Septemb
  • Conference paper: The danger of performance, a 21st century golden sectionism given at  SMA Annual Theory and Analysis Graduate Students (TAGS) Conference, Durham 2nd May 2009

Professional Activity

  • Academic Lead on the HEA Calibrating Degree Standards in Music Higher Education Performance Assessment project (hosted by CUK, RNCM, HEA) (February 2017)
  • Member of National Association for Music in Higher Education (NAMHE) committee since January 2014 (elected position), and Treasurer since 2018.

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