Professor Tia DeNora

BA (West Chester), M.A., PhD (UCSD)


Extension: 3280

Telephone: 01392 723280

Professor (Sociology of Music)

In company with the SocArts Research Group at Exeter, my work examines how culture is made and how it informs activity and experience in real places and in real time. 

Within that focus, the work I do deals with musical topics and, these days, is mostly addressed to qustions about health and wellbeing, understood with a wide lens and ecologically. I work in the area of sociological theory but am very commited to empirical research and to the values of 'gentle empiricism' and 'slow' sociology. With my collaborator, Professor Gary Ansdell, I have been involved in a longitudinal ethnography of mental health and community music therapy. We think that this is probably the longest longitudinal study in the area - over ten years.

The findings from this project fed in to a three volume book project. 

Vol 1, Tia DeNora, Music Asylums: Wellbeing Through Music in Everyday Life

Vol. 2, Gary Ansdell,  How Music Helps in music therapy and everyday life

Vol. 3, Gary Ansdell & Tia DeNora,  Musical Pathways in Recovery

Gary and I began a new study in January 2017. It is also ethnographic in focus. It is set within a range of scenes of care - from a flagship hospice to a care facility for people living with different forms of neuro-disability (primarily dementia), to the complex processes that surround people as they move from one scene of care to another (for example from home to hospital, from hospital to care facility). We are interested in the sounds of music making and the ways these are experienced by residents and clients, visitors, and staff (for example, what can count as 'beautiful' music and what bearing does such a question have on opportunities for action and wellbeing and - more critically - for who can do or be what, where and when). We are also very interested in what each person brings to the collective music making and how adaptations, technical innovations, and 'good enough' attempts at musical gesture and sound get blended into the whole sound matrix and in ways that sometimes lead to new things - new musical values, new ideas, new understandings (of issues but also of people) and new relationships. In this work we are collaborating with colleagues from Norway at the University of Bergen - Professors Randi Rolvsjord and Wolfgang Schmid. I am also involved with projects under development in Norway on everyday listening and wellbeing and in the UK on mental health and culture. My two current writing projects are: (1) a monograph on music's role in sustaining hope, The Dream We Carry: music, migration and hope and (2) (early stages) a monograph related to the Care for Music project.

More generally, I have a long-standing interest in lay expertise and local, or 'grass-roots', methods of knowledge production/transmission and with that, lay classification practices (folksonomies). (Linked to this interest, my research on cervical mucus contraception ('From Physiology to Feminism: reconfiguring body, gender and expertise in natural fertility control' [International Sociology 11:3]') won an International Sociological Association award in 1994.) More recently, I have been developing research and analytical techniques that promote ecological validity (see 'Time After Time: A Quali-T Method for Assessing Music's Role as a Health Technology' in International Journal of Qualitative Research on Health and Well-being  [2013]). 

I combine these interests in a volume that was published in October 2014 by Sage, entitled, Making Sense of Reality - culture and perception in everyday life

The SocArts journal, Music and Arts in Action (MAiA) is now in its ninth year. The most recent issue can be found here: MAiA is edited by a team of postdoctoral scholars who did their PhDs within SocArts.

SocArts celebrated its tenth anniversary last May with the international symposium, The Pebbles in the Pond

SocArts regularly hosts visits from scholars from all over the world. We host formal seminars and informal workshps. The most recent event was a Masterclass in Ethnographic Methods with visitors from University of Bergen, Japan, and Nordoff Robbins, and featuring Distinguished Professor Paul Atkinson as the 'Master Ethnographer'.

For more info, see:

Interview with Jason Chang, BA Soc:  

Interview with Nune Nikoghosyan: