Musical Biography


Associate Professor Paul Watt (Monash University) and Dr Christopher Wiley (University of Surrey).

The Musical Biography and Life-Writing Studies Research Network is a joint Monash–Surrey venture that seeks to nurture research in the theory and practice of writing musical lives.

Although genres of life-writing occupy a prominent position in artistic and literary fields, as well as in the publishing lists of academic and trade publishers, musical biography has historically held an uncertain place within Musicology. Still, musical biography and autobiography have long been important sources for a wide range of readers including students, scholars, programme-note writers and makers of films, documentaries and YouTube channels.

The Research Network will further develop this burgeoning area of study though collaborative, interdisciplinary and international engagement.


The Monash–Surrey Musical Biography and Life-Writing Studies Research Network aims to:

  • Act as a focused forum for theoretical and practical innovation in musical biography
  • Foster collaborative work and methodological reflection among emerging and established international scholars alike
  • Investigate new ways of representing narratives of lives and institutions, as well as examining historical representations of this kind.

Its activities will include:

  • Conferences to generate scholarly exchange and public engagement
  • Publication outputs such as edited essay collections
  • Cross-institutional funding proposals
  • Hosting visiting scholars for a period of study.


Current projects

Christopher Wiley and Paul Watt  have recently been contracted to edit The Oxford Handbook of Musical Biography and Life-Writing, featuring the work of distinguished scholars on a range of historical, contemporary and theoretical topics.

Previous projects

‘Musical Biography: Myth, Ideology, and Narrative’, a special double-issue of Journal of Musicological Research (vol. 38/3–4 2019) edited by Paul Watt and Christopher Wiley. Table of contents.

Previous activities

Previous activities include a three-day international conference on ‘Writing About Contemporary Artists’ in October 2017, from which two edited volumes have been developed, the first of which was published in 2020.

Other current projects include an edited history of musical biography.

Further information