Katherine Butler

Senior Lecturer

Research interests

My research focuses on the musical culture of sixteenth and seventeenth-century England and encompasses a wide range of themes including court music, civic pageantry, ballads and popular song, gender, death songs and elegies, music philosophy, mythology, manuscript studies, and early music printing.

My first book explored the political uses of music at the court of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). I reconstructed the significance of musical performances ranging from grand court pageantry to intimate music-making in the royal household to understand both the importance of music in Elizabeth’s royal image and how performances might be manipulated by courtiers and the nobility for their own ends. An off-shoot of this project also considered how cheaply printed and orally circulated songs for celebrating the Queen’s Accession Day shaped her image among the broader populace, and the extent to which these were official propaganda, opportunistic commercial exploitation, or genuine expressions of affection.

My second major project used myths and stories as windows onto musical thought in early modern England. Particularly fascinating was the how the increasing influence of empirical and experimental philosophy altered the reception of traditional stories about the powers of music, which opened up my interests in music’s place in early modern science and medicine.

Working on the Tudor Partbooks project provided an opportunity to develop skills in the digitisation reconstruction of damaged manuscripts and to pursue my interests in manuscript culture and early music printing. My extensive study of the only complete manuscript source of Protestant service music from the early years of the Elizabeth I’s reign (the ‘Hamond’ partbooks), shed light on liturgical practices and the training of boy choristers in this second phase of the Reformation, as well as music-making in Protestant households.

My current research interests are twofold: firstly, exploring musical manuscript miscellanies as social documents of how music was circulated, copied, collected, and practised in sixteenth-century England; and secondly, understanding the diverse social functions of rounds and catches - polyphonic songs that straddled oral and literate culture - in Tudor society.



Research Student Supervision Interests

I welcome enquiries from students interested in developing research projects on sixteenth- or seventeenth-century music, especially in relation to politics, theatre and pageantry, gender, ballads or popular music-making, manuscripts and early printing, mythology and literature, or science, medicine and natural philosophy.

Organisational affiliations

Education/Academic qualification

  • PhD, Music, Royal Holloway University of London

  • MA, Music, University of Oxford

    MSt Music (Musicology

  • BA (Hons), Music, University of Oxford


Professional Qualifications

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, FHEA

    1 Aug 2013 -