Dr Christabel Stirling

Dr. Christabel Stirling is a musicologist specialising in ethnographic approaches to contemporary music and sound art. She joined the Royal College of Music in January 2023 as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow. Previously, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher on the ERC-funded project SONCITIES at Oxford University, having completed a DPhil in Music there in 2019 supported by the Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme.

Christabel’s primary research to date has focused on the reception of different genres of popular and experimental music and sound art in the UK, using a range of qualitative methods to explore the embodied experiences and social matrices that music and sound produce in live performance. She has been particularly interested in understanding the role of affect in the formation of musical scenes and publics, and in the potential for these publics to transform or reinforce prevalent social orders.

As a postdoc on SONCITIES, Christabel worked as part of an interdisciplinary team investigating people’s lived experiences of urban sound environments and exploring sound’s role in the politics of belonging, entitlement, and exclusion in urban areas characterised by high degrees of difference. 

Her current research at RCM focuses on the interrelations between UK sound art, sound system culture, and electronic dance music since 1980. The research aims to spotlight a particular genealogy of UK sound art that is deeply entwined with diasporic cultural exchange, (Black) popular musics, and nightclub performance, and to examine its active legacies in the present day.

Since 2014, Christabel has lectured and supervised for Music, Anthropology, Architecture, and Caribbean Studies departments at the Universities of Oxford, East London, and Westminster, UCL, and the University of the West Indies Mona. She is lead convenor on a British Academy Conference Award 2023-24. She also DJs with the London-based sound system Tanum.

Selected publications

Stirling C (forthcoming 2023), The gender of genre: affect, time, and addressivity in UK sound system music, in D Brackett & G Born (eds.), Genre and Music: New Directions, Duke University Press.

Stirling C (2021), Night cubes: revisiting UK sound art’s popular and club histories, in B Piekut (ed.), ‘Listening In’ column, Flash Art [LINK].  

Stirling C (2020), Sonic methodologies in urban studies, in M Bull & M Cobussen (eds.), The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sonic Methodologies (pp. 115-139), Bloomsbury [ISBN 9781501338755] [Open access version of chapter]. 

Stirling C (2019), Voice memos from the dancefloor [MP3, WAV], in G Ouzounian & J Bingham-Hall (eds.), Acoustic Cities: London and Beirut, Optophono [LINK].

Stirling C (2018), Sound, affect, politics, in M Bull (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Sound Studies (pp. 54-67), Routledge [ISBN 9781138854253].

Stirling C (2017), Crowds, cordons, and computers: rethinking density through London’s grime scene, in A Batista, S Kovács & C Lesky (eds.), Re-thinking Density: Art, Culture and Urban Practices (pp. 212-231), Sternberg Press [ISBN 978-3-95679-362-2].

Stirling C (2016), ‘Beyond the dancefloor?’ Gendered publics and creative practices in electronic dance music, Contemporary Music Review, 35(1), 130-149 [DOI].  

Stirling C (2016), Sound art/street life: tracing the social and political effects of sound installations in London, Journal of Sonic Studies 11 [LINK]. 

Faculties / departments: Research


Latest Publications


For enquiries please contact:

Dr Christabel Stirling

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow



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