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Dr Hettie Malcomson 

Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Social Anthropology; Doctoral Programme Director (Music department)

Dr Hettie Malcomson's photo

Dr Hettie Malcomson is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Social Anthropology at the University of Southampton.

I am interested in what the ethnographic study of music tells us about social concerns. My last project examined what Mexican danzón tells us about race, age, gender, status and ambivalence. I am developing a project in Mexico, funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, in which rap music tells us how disenfranchised youth experience, promote and critique the intense violence and criminality they are subject to. These projects have highlighted that we need to know more about how musicians and researchers are engaging with risk. Together with José Juan Olvera Gudiño (CIESAS Unidad Noreste, Mexico), I worked on a project, funded by a British Academy Newton Mobility Award, that brought together scholars in the UK and Mexico to gain a more holistic understanding of the impact of Mexico’s omnipresent violence on musicians’ lives, livelihoods and music-making. And with DAEA Centro de Investigación e Intervención Psicosocial A.C., I worked on a HEFCE Newton ODA funded project to explore new practical and ethical strategies of self-care and self-protection for academic researchers and activists working in violent contexts.

My writings have appeared in Ethnomusicology, Popular Music and twentieth-century music, as well as in edited collections. And my article ‘Aficionados, Academics, and Danzón Expertise’ received the honourable mention for the Society of Ethnomusicology’s Bruno Nettl Prize (2015) which recognizes outstanding contributions to the history of the field of ethnomusicology.

Before coming to Southampton in 2012, I taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses in music, sociology and Latin American Studies at the universities of Cambridge, Manchester, and Royal Holloway, London, and I continue to give occasional lectures at universities in Mexico and the USA. At Southampton, I re-established teaching provision in ethnomusicology, with introductory ethnomusicology courses and more advanced offerings, including Global Hip Hop (MUSI2127/3132) and Music and Ethnography (MUSI2126/3131). These courses attract students from across the University, and aim to facilitate interdisciplinary discussion and opportunities to think critically together. 

I am currently Music’s Head of Research. I am also the ethnomusicology representative for the Institute of Musical Research Steering Committee; a member of the programme committee of the Latin American Music Seminar (Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London); and served as a committee member of British Forum for Ethnomusicology from 2013-2016 (including chairing the first British Forum for Ethnomusicology Book Prize in 2014). 

My background is in social anthropology (BA, London School of Economics), ethnomusicology (MMus, Royal Holloway), and sociology (PhD, Cambridge), and I have also worked in the music industry and as a composer for film, TV and theatre. I have been a shortlisted composer of the Society for the Promotion of New Music, and participated in the Sixth Composers and Choreographers Exchange (South Bank Centre, London). My compositions for film and television have been broadcast internationally (including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK and USA), and my works for concert hall have been performed at the Bath Festival, the Spitalfields Festival and on BBC Radio 3.

Research interests

  • Anthropology and sociology of music
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Analysing social inequalities through the ethnographic study of music
  • Critical experimental ethnographic writing
  • Ethnographic methods
  • Mexican popular music, especially danzón and hip hop

Research group

Musicology and Ethnomusicology

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Edited books

(Ed. with David Horn, Mona-Lynn Courteau, Heidi Feldman and Pamela Narbona Jerez) Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Vol. 9. Genres: Caribbean and Latin America. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.



'On Sensationalism, Violence and Academic Knowledge’, Transposition. Musique et Sciences Sociales Hors-série 2 (2020).

‘Point of View, Narrative Voice and Ethnographic Representation: Writing Everyday Violence in 2010s Mexico’. Irish Journal of Anthropology 22(1) (2019); 99-103.

‘Contesting Resistance, Protesting Violence: Women, War and Hip hop in Mexico’, Music and Arts in Action 7 (1) (2019); 46-63.

‘Negotiating Violence and Creative Agency in Commissioned Mexican Narco Rap’, Bulletin of Latin American Research 38 (3) (2019); 347-362.

‘Aficionados, Academics, and Danzón Expertise: Exploring Hierarchies in Popular Music Knowledge Production.’ Ethnomusicology 58(2) (2014): 222–53.

‘Composing individuals: Ethnographic reflections on success and prestige in the British new music network.’ Twentieth-Century Music 10(1) (2013): 115–136.

‘New generations, older bodies: Danzón, age and “cultural rescue” in the Port of Veracruz, Mexico.’ Popular Music 31(2) (2012): 217–30.

‘The “routes” and “roots” of danzón: A critique of the history of a genre.’ Popular Music 30(2) (2011): 263–278.


Book Chapters

‘The Expediency of Blackness: Racial Logics and Danzón in the Port of Veracruz, Mexico.’ In Afro-Latin@s in Movement: Critical Approaches to Blackness and Transnationalism in the Americas, edited by Petra Rivera-Rideau, Jennifer A. Jones and Tianna Paschel. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. 35-59.

‘Contradanza Cubana.’ In Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Vol. 9. Genres: Caribbean and Latin America, ed. David Horn, Mona-Lynn Courteau, Heidi Feldman, Pamela Narbona Jerez and Hettie Malcomson. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. 218–23.

‘La configuración racial del danzón: Los imaginarios raciales del puerto de Veracruz.’ In Mestizaje y Diferencia, ed. Elisabeth Cunin. INAH, UNAM, CEMCA, IRD: México DF, 2010. 267–98.



Sue Miller, Cuban Flute Style: Interpretation and Improvisation. Ethnomusicology Forum 24(3) (2015); 478-480.

Lise A. Waxer, The City of Musical Memory: Salsa, Record Grooves, and Popular Culture in Cali, Colombia. World of Music 47(1) (2004): 174–8.


Other Research Output


British Library recordings


Recorded and catalogued over sixty hours of audio material in 2006–7 in Mexico and Cuba for the British Library.




Compositions (concerts)


Circular Vision, 2001, for large ensemble, 7 mins.


First performed by Premiere Crew, Spitalfields Festival, London 2001.


Gamelanguor, 2000, for large gamelan ensemble, 3 mins.


First performed by the Royal College of Music and South Bank Gamelan Players, Bath Festival, 2000. Also broadcast on BBC Radio 3.



Compositions (film and television)


Score for ‘Ice Girls’. Documentary directed by Trish Dolman. 2002.


Commissioned and broadcast by BBC2, and CTV (Canadian TV), 2002.


Score for ‘Roy’. Film directed by Daniel Oron. 2000.


Broadcast by CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.


Score for ‘The Second Bakery Attack’. Film directed by Wolf Baschung. 1998.


Screenings include the Sundance, Deauville & London Film Festivals, 1998 and 1999.


Score for ‘Monomyth’. Film directed by Rachel Ara. 1997.


Screenings include the National Film Theatre, London, 1997.


Score for ‘From The Ashes’ (co-composed with Gregory Heath). Documentary directed by Jane Dibblin. 1996.


Commissioned and broadcast by Channel 4 (UK), 1996.


Score for ‘One More Push’ (co-composed with Gregory Heath). Documentary directed by Pratibha Parmar. 1996.


Commissioned and broadcast by Channel 4 (UK), 1996.


Score for ‘It's a Mitzvah’. Film directed by Fran Jacobson. 1994.


Screenings include the National Film Theatre, London, and film festivals in New York, Montreal, Köln, Turin and Australia from 1994.


Score for ‘Queer New World’. Film directed by Vicky Smith. 1993. Screenings include the National Film Theatre, London.



Compositions (theatre)


Score for ‘Trashed’. Play by Noël Greig, directed by Rosamunde Hutt and Michael Judge for Theatre Centre. 2004. UK national tour, 2004 and 2005.


Score for ‘As You Like It’. Play by William Shakespeare, directed by Sue Parrish for Sphinx Theatre Company. UK national tour, 2003.


Score for ‘Cinderella’. Adapted and directed by Jonathan Petherbridge for London Bubble Theatre Company. Cochrane Theatre, London, 2001-2002.


Score for ‘Jumping on my Shadow’. Play by Peter Rumney, directed by Rosamunde Hutt for Theatre Centre. 2001. Theatre in Education production for tour around UK schools, 2001.


Score for ‘Mushroom Man’. Play by Hannah Beecham, directed by Rosamunde Hutt for Hungry Grass Theatre Company. 2000. UK national tour, 2000.




Dr Hettie Malcomson
Department of Music, Building 2, Highfield Campus, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ

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