Michelle Phillips

Assistant Head of Undergraduate Programmes

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

Email: Michelle.Phillips@rncm.ac.uk

  • Assistant management of the BMus programmes
  • Lecturer for undergraduate modules (music theory, music history, music psychology, music acoustics, music and time, performing contemporary music)
  • Lecturer for postgraduate modules (music psychology, repertoire studies)
  • Supervision of Masters projects
  • PhD supervision
  • Research in the field of music psychology

My research interests include music analysis and the golden section, perception of large-scale musical form and how music alters perception of time. My PhD (under the supervision of Professor Ian Cross, Centre for Music and Science, University of Cambridge) concerned the subject of prospective and retrospective experience of time (duration) during music listening.

I taught at the University of Cambridge and Leeds College of Music before joining the RNCM. I also maintain an active link with the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry and the Science Museum in London, where I was previously a resident scientist as part of the ‘Live Science’ project (investigating the perception of time during music listening). I have also acted as a gallery consultant for the Moscow Polytechnic Museum in Russia.

I completed my first degree in Music and German at the University of Nottingham, followed by a research Masters examining the influence of musical structure and culture on contemporary Austrian literature.

Current and Future Research

I am currently engaged in research in three areas:

  • how music listening may alter perception of time
  • methods of managing music performance anxiety (specfically mindfulness meditation and beta blockers)
  • music and mathematics (specifically, what relationships can be heard by the listener?)


Invited talks:

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

Other dissemination of research:

www.twitter.com – research has been shared over Twitter by the user “@___Michelle____” from July 2011.

College and External Research Roles

  • I was a gallery consultant for the Science Museum London and for the Moscow Polytechnic Museum in Russia (on concent relating to music and science)
  • I was invited to present my research on music and time at a ‘Lates’ event at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester (March 2017)



Research Funding

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

Experiments relating to music and mindfulness supported by the University of Manchester

Undergraduate Teaching

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

Year 2: Music Theory 2, Music Culture and Performance 2

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

Postgraduate Teaching

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

Research Supervision

  • Keith Phillips


    Journal Articles

  • ‘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 (2014), 230-235.
  • Michelle Phillips and Ian Cross, ‘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, 6789 (2011), 125-136.
  • Conference Contributions

  • Is music a special case in time perception? ,  Troubling Time: An Exploration of Temporality in the Arts, Manchester 2nd June 2017
  • How can a performer shape experience of time for an audience? ,  Making Time in Music, Oxford 13th September 2016
  • Towards a combined theory of psychological time during music listening and dynamic attending theory ,  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 ,  RMA Study Day, Music and Mathematics, Leeds 12th April 2014
  • Conference co-leader ,  Systematic Musicology 2013, Genoa, Italy 
  • Conference co-leader ,  Systematic Musicology 2010, University of Cambridge, Cambridge 
  • Conference poster: Effect of increased musical chunks on sense of elapsed duration ,  40th Anniversary Conference: Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE), London 14th – 15t
  • Conference paper: The role of factors associated with emotion in experience of elapsed duration during music listening ,  Society for Music Perception and Cognition Biennial Meeting, Toronto 8th August 2
  • Leader for conference discussion group ,  The Inaugural Nordoff Robbins Plus Research Conference, 20th September 2013, London 
  • Conference paper: Perception of large-scale structure ,  40th Anniversary Conference: Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research (SEMPRE), 14h – 15th September 2012, London 14th Septemb
  • Conference poster: The effect of engagement of working memory during music listening on estimate of elapsed duration ,  ICMPC-ESCOM, 23rd-28th July 2012, Greece 24th July 20
  • Conference poster: The effect of musical segmentation on retrospective verbal estimate of elapsed duration ,  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 ,  Summer Workshop on Music, Pattern and Mathematics, East Sussex 10th August
  • Conference poster: The musical time warp – psychological time and elapsed duration during music listening ,  International Conference of Music Perception and Cognition 2010 (ICMPC), Seattle 26th August
  • Conference poster: Expecting a call? Psychological time and elapsed duration during music listening – a ringtone study ,  CIM-SEMPRE Study Day for postgraduate students, Sheffield 22nd July 20
  • Conference paper: The golden section – seen but not heard? ,  Music and Numbers Conference, Canterbury 14th May 201
  • Conference paper: Music’s golden section – an empirical approach ,  2nd International Conference of Students of Systematic Musicology, Ghent 18th Septemb
  • Conference paper: The danger of performance, a 21st century golden sectionism ,  SMA Annual Theory and Analysis Graduate Students (TAGS) Conference, Durham 2nd May 2009

Professional Activity

I present regularly at public engagement events, such as the Edinburgh Science Festival, Cambridge Science Festival, and the ‘Lates’ series at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester.

My research feeds into my 3rd and 4th year BMus elective modules ‘Applied Music Psychology’ and ‘Music and Time’, where students are shown latest results and findings, and are encouraged to comment on these and critique the methodology and other factors.

I play the tenor and baritone saxophone in the Quadrangle saxophone quartet, and the Equinox saxophone ensemble (http://www.equinoxsax.org.uk/), with which I perform regularly. I am also a chartered accountant and currently act as voluntary accountant for the Cambridge-based charity King’s Junior Voices (http://www.kingsjuniorvoices.org/home).