I am a multi-instrumentalist, composer and researcher, working with the sounds and stories pushed to the side of our hectic world. Since December 2022 I have been Research Professor at Codarts, Rotterdam, and the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts at Leiden University.
As a composer I work with both acoustic and electroacoustic media, and I have engaged deeply with modal traditions associated with the oud.
Two of my earlier collaborative projects are Today is Good!, a song-writing project with asylum-seekers, and Beyond Mode, a quartet developing modal music of the Mediterranean. I am Founder and Director of the online platform for world music and sound art, Music Boat. For several years I collaborated with luthier and musician Karim Othman-Hassan on an internet resource about the oud Oudmigrations.
My most recent book project is The Oud: An Illustrated History, and I am currently working on Performance, Language and Memory: perspectives on the music of György Kurtág, co-edited with Gergely Fazekas (in progress, to be published in the musicological series ‘Contemporary Composers’ published by the Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini).
My early career was as a concert pianist, following studies at the Royal Academy of Music, London and the Liszt Academy, Budapest, where I was a student of Ferenc Rados and Gyorgy Kurtág. I also studied composition and saxophone, and performed widely in Europe as soloist and in ensembles, broadcasting regularly for Hungarian radio. My specialism was new music – repertoire written after 1945, and I had the privilege to work with several major figures including Messiaen, Berio and Kurtág. In 2003 I co-directed a major London Kurtág festival which won the Royal Philharmonic Society Award.
While Professor of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London, my research was generously supported by the AHRC, the British Academy, the Humboldt Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust. My teaching covered areas from Intercultural Performance to Music and Orientalism and Music during the Cold War, and I supervised doctoral research on topics from the Hungarian folk revival to Kuwaiti song. After 20 years in academia I worked freelance for some time, while Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, University of London.
As a scholar, I have published numerous articles and books, including Orientalism and Musical Mission: Palestine and the West (2013), and Ligeti, Kurtág, and Hungarian Music during the Cold War (2007). In 2021 I won the American Musical Instrument Society’s Frances Densmore Prize for my article “Orientation through Instruments: The ʿūd, the Palestinian Home, and Kamīlyā Jubrān” in the world of music (new series), vol. 8, no. 1, 2019.