Dr Alexander C. Harden

Postgraduate Researcher in Popular Music

Qualifications: BMus, MA


Further information


I am a postgraduate research student in popular music studies based in the School of Arts under the supervision of Dr. Jeremy Barham and Dr. Nicholas Reyland (Keele University).

Before I began my PhD in October 2014, my academic training had focused on studio-based composition of electronica and electroacoustic music. I graduated from my undergraduate programme at the University of Surrey in 2013 and in the following year received an MA (Distinction) in electroacoustic composition and sonic art from the University of Birmingham, home of the prestigious Birmingham Electroacoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST). As a composer, my work has featured in the 2014 Festival de Cannes, and the London Southbank Centre in 2012 through the support of Sound And Music.

I was awarded a FAHS studentship and came back to Surrey in 2014 to begin my current project in the narrative analysis of popular music under the supervision of Professor Allan F. Moore and Dr. Tim Hughes. More specifically, my research investigates the ways in which recorded popular song affords to listeners ways of imagine a possible world in relation to which one interprets the work. Although my current project relates primarily to contemporary pop and rock, I also maintain an interest European electronic music of the 1970s.

I have presented research covering a variety of topics, which include: the changing musical uses of technology and its relationship with persona; political and social issues surrounding 1970s German rock practices, and; depicting worlds in song as a means of social commentary. My work on 'posthuman authenticity' has featured on BBC Breakfast and radio in 2015. In 2016, my essay 'A World of my Own' was also awarded the Andrew Goodwin Memorial Prize by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (UK&I) for best student research essay in popular music.


2016: Andrew Goodwin Memorial Prize for best student research essay in popular music (IASPM UK&I)

2016: Postgraduate Course Representative of the Year (University of Surrey Students' Union)

2014: Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences Studentship (University of Surrey)

2013: Shoana M Mackay Prize for best undergraduate dissertation in music (University of Surrey)

Research Interests

My research interests include:

  • Narrative and music
  • Cognitive narratology, particularly in relation to transmediality and worldmaking
  • The art of record production
  • Authenticity and digital musicianship


  • Logios Journal editorial board
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Careers and Training Advisory Group (RCTAG)
  • International Association for the Study of Popular Music [IASPM]
  • Royal Musical Association LGBTQ Study Group (as IASPM rep)
  • Oxford-area Popular Music Academics Network [Ox-PAN]
  • TECHNE Doctoral Training Programme

Internal Responsibilities

  • Joint coordinator of the Public Engagement Forum
  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Student Engagement Forum chairperson
  • Academic representative for the PhD Music cohort
  • University of Surrey PGR Conference Committee chairperson 2014-15
  • Undergraduate mentor for the Surrey's Top Achievers Recognized and Supported (STARS) programme
  • Peer reviewer for the Surrey Undergraduate Research Journal (SURJ)
  • Student member of programme validation and review panels

I also sit on the University's Impact Action Group and Researcher Training and Development sub-Committee.

In 2016, I was awarded the title of Postgraduate Course Rep of the Year by the University of Surrey Students' Union.

Conference Papers

'Transmedial Narrativity and Recorded Popular Song'; research paper accepted to Transmediations!: Communication across Media Borders, Linnaeus University Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies, October 2016.

'The Fantastic Worlds of Pop'; research paper given at the 2016 University of Surrey PGR Conference, University of Surrey, April 2016.

'Social Commentary as Storyworld Specification in the Music of the Pet Shop Boys'; research paper given at Pet Shop Boys: Symposium, University of Edinburgh, March 2016.

'The Studio as a Narrative Tool'; research paper given at the Royal Musical Association Postgraduate Research Conference, Bangor University, January 2016.

'Song Interpretation as Narrative Worldmaking'; research paper given at the International Association for the Study of Popular Music Postgraduate Research Conference, Cardiff University, September 2015.

'Phonographic Realism and the Changing Face of Fidelity'; research paper given at the Westminster-Goldsmiths Symposium for Student Research in Popular Music, Westminster University, June 2015.

'Towards the Analysis of Disruptive Editing in Recent Popular Music'; research paper given at the Royal Musical Association Postgraduate Research Conference, University of Bristol, January 2015.

'Kraftwerk and the Issue of Posthuman Authenticity'; research paper given at Kraftwerk and the Birth of Electronic Music in Germany Conference, Aston University, January 2015.

'Curation or Construction? The Case of Krautrock'; research paper given at One Century of Record Labels, Newcastle University, November 2014.

'Music Technology and the Independence of Musical Sound'; seminar paper given at Sines and Squares Festival, Manchester University, October 2014.

'Studio-Based Popular Music and its Interpretative Challenges'; research paper given at the Royal Musical Association Postgraduate Research Conference, University of Birmingham, January 2014.

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