Dr David Butler


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Research interests

My PhD, examined by Richard Dyer and Peter Martin, explored the use and representation of jazz in film noir. The thesis set out my interest in the way meaning (particularly ideological notions of race and gender) is created in music and how film takes account of and contributes to that process. This interest in the audio-visual relationship is now at the heart of my work.

As well as film music, my research interests include film noir, literary adaptations, non-naturalistic cinema/television and the fantastic on screen. I'd be delighted to supervise research in these areas and am always happy to discuss possible topics (even if not from the above list!) in person or via telephone/email.

Ever since the first School of Sound in 1998 and the inspirational presentations of Simon Fisher Turner and Peter Kubelka (among many others), I've been committed to the possibilities of juxtaposing sound with image (although my fascination stems from the magical credit Special Sound - Dick Mills and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop!). That commitment to sound has encouraged me to combine practice-based research with my more conventional academic work.

In 1998, I collaborated with the acclaimed composer David Shea on a speech and sound piece titled The Voice (the score is now available on John Zorn's Tzadik label). I collaborated with the celebrated jazz musician and composer, John Surman, on The Cairn, open to the public as an audio-visual installation in 2005. At the heart of this practice is a desire to create work that challenges the sensory hierarchy of contemporary Western culture and its privileging of sight over the other senses.

All of my projects are shaped by my research and the inspiration I've gained from my students. I've carried that creativity into my academic work and am keen to encourage practical work on my courses that is informed (I hope!) by an enhanced historical and critical awareness.

Current research projects

My recent research has focused on multiculturalism in contemporary science fiction television music and the portrayal of Cumbria and the Lake District on screen.

Running alongside is a long-term project on the life and work of Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001), one of the most significant and influential figures in British electronic music who worked across film, television, theatre and radio. In 2007, the Centre for Screen Studies and the NOVARS Electroacoustic Research Centre were honoured to acquire Derbyshire's tape and written archive, as a generous loan from the composer Mark Ayres on behalf of the Derbyshire Estate. The collection has grown to include items from Derbyshire's childhood, including her schoolwork, and the Delia Derbyshire Archive is now accessible to researchers and the wider public at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate.  

Since 2015, I have been the Chair and one of the founder members of the music education charity Delia Derbyshire Day, which aims to grow awareness and understanding of Delia Derbyshire and British electronic music more broadly as well as providing opportunities for emerging artists, commissions for new work and outreach activities with schools, colleges and families.   


Research and projects

No current projects are available for public display