Hi Edmund, congratulations on passing your viva! How does it feel?!
It was great to feel that years of work had come to fruition. I was very pleased to have passed, although it was a bit of an anti-climax; something which had been an all-consuming part of my life had come to an end. But it also felt like the start of a new chapter.
What was your PhD title?
‘The Difference Between Us’: Using Early Medieval Northern European Texts in the Creation of a Work for Instrumental Ensemble, Voices and Electronics.
Can you explain in a couple of sentences what your PhD was about?
My PhD investigated the different ways in which untranslated early medieval Northern European texts might be used in contemporary musical composition. I submitted a portfolio of about 90 minutes of notated compositions, including a 25-minute chamber opera for three singers, instrumental ensemble and electronics. My thesis provided a commentary on my music and explained how my compositions attempted to answer my research questions.
Can you sum up your PhD experience in three words?
Creative, exciting, broadening.
What was the viva like?
Although I was nervous beforehand, I actually enjoyed the viva; it was a privilege to have the chance to discuss my work with composers whose music I greatly admire.
What are your top tips to someone preparing for their viva?
Try to prepare detailed answers to some general questions regarding the purpose of your research, its relevance and impact in the wider world, and its relevance to your own research beyond the PhD. Re-read your thesis a few times, and make notes of any places where the arguments might be ambiguous, or where it might be possible to consider things from a different perspective. Try playing devil’s advocate, to consider how you would respond to contrary opinions. Don’t be afraid of spotting potential weaknesses when you re-read your work; the examiners will probably pick up on the same things, so there’s no harm in being prepared.
Any advice you’d tell your earlier PhD self now you’ve made it to the other side?
All the proof reading was worth it in the end!
What are you up to now and any exciting plans for the future?
At the moment, I’m working on various different composition projects, including ‘Adopt A Composer’ with a choir in Newcastle, the LSO ‘Soundhub’ associates scheme, and a duet piece for a workshop with the Manchester based group Psappha. I’ve also just begun a position as an Apprentice Composer at the Wigmore Hall in London. In April, I’m presenting my doctoral research at a composition conference at Sheffield University. I’m applying for postdoctoral opportunities as well as everything else, so at the moment the future seems exciting, albeit a little uncertain.
Thanks so much for your time Edmund, we wish you all the best for the future!