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Congratulations to Dr Jacob Downs (2012, Music), who has been selected as a BBC New Generation Thinker for 2024! Find out more about Jacob as he discusses his award – and current research – with us.
24 Jun 2024
Jacob Downs
Jacob Downs

I’ve recently been announced as a BBC New Generation Thinker, a title bestowed in association with the Arts and Humanities Research Council that provides early-career academics with the tools to produce public-facing research outputs such as radio and television programmes. Christ Church has a solid pedigree when it comes to ‘NGTs’ with a penchant for music: Dr Leah Broad, who was two years above me during my time as a student in Oxford, has been a member of the scheme for some years now. Do keep an ear out for us both on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

My research explores contemporary listening experiences, adopting a range of approaches, from the scientific to the philosophical, to study perceptions of music and sound in both public and private spaces. For example, I explore how people use headphones to cushion themselves against the onslaught of contemporary life, what individuals are looking for when they listen to hours of whispered videos on YouTube, and why lots of us seem more and more to be choosing to play sound from our phones out loud on buses. It’s fantastic – if, at times, baffling – to know the BBC and the AHRC appreciate the weirder end of humanities research and have made me a New Generation Thinker for 2024.

I now work as a Departmental Lecturer in Music in Oxford, as well as acting as Chair of the Faculty of Music. As the Director of Studies in Music at Lady Margaret Hall, it gives me great pleasure to see the next generation of superb young thinkers come through the university. I’m especially lucky to have a Faculty office with a window facing out onto Christ Church’s War Memorial Garden, with Tom Tower behind it. I thank Christ Church for its support in the earlier stages of my academic pursuits.


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