The CHARM Website

Submitting Institution

King's College London

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media, Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

A major output from the AHRC Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music, the CHARM website—conceived, created and supported at King's—reports research, and provides tools and materials both supporting new research and of value and interest to a wide community of music listeners. These are extensively used by professional and amateur researchers and enthusiasts. Contents include an online discography, a library of historic recordings, studies of the history of recording, an eBook introducing ways of studying recorded performances, papers from CHARM symposia, data derived from recordings, and performance analysis software that has become internationally standard.

Underpinning research

Music has been researched from many perspectives but, because of the extreme difficulty of studying music as sound, relatively little research has considered how we might study music from and as performance—the medium through which it is normally experienced. The AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM), funded from 2004 to 2009, involved King's, Royal Holloway and Sheffield universities, and aimed to facilitate and encourage research on music as performance, as a first step using recordings (especially early recordings) as evidence. CHARM took three approaches. First it provided access to recordings so as to make them much easier to find and to study. This was achieved at King's i) by assembling the first online discography of the largest of the pre-War record companies, the Gramophone Company (later EMI), supplemented by discographies of many smaller labels; ii) by digitising ca. 5,000 78rpm recordings and making them available via an intuitive sound file search, thus providing recordings for researchers to work with and for other listeners to enjoy; iii) by commissioning musicological tools for new software for analysing recorded music (the software written at QMUL, the tools specified jointly by King's and Royal Holloway, their development led by and funded within the King's strand of CHARM). All the above were generated under the direction of Professor Daniel Leech-Wilkinson. Secondly, CHARM ran a series of symposia/conferences and other events, bringing together experts in recordings from beyond academia to inform and disseminate our work. Thirdly, we ran four major research projects developing approaches to the study of music as performance, evaluating and using recordings as evidence.

The King's research project, on expressivity in Schubert song performance, published in a book and six articles by Leech-Wilkinson and three articles by Renee Timmers (our project RA), used evidence from recordings to show how performance style has changed since 1900, and offered a range of ways of understanding these changes, drawing arguments from them about the nature of music; the relationship between score and performance; the ways musicians, drawing on tacit knowledge, use sound to suggest meaning; how that process depends on changes in society; and how, in turn, writing on music is influenced by changes in its performance.

The software, Sonic Visualiser, freely available via the King's CHARM website, supported by text and video tutorials by Leech-Wilkinson, has become an important tool for those working on recorded performance since it allows accurate data collection and visualisation of musical sound including tempo, rubato, vibrato, portamento, dynamics, melody, harmony and timbre. The discography and sound-file search allow users to trace and acquire recordings, free of charge, for use as research materials or for the wider community's education and pleasure.

The website also provides studies, authored or commissioned by Leech-Wilkinson, of the history of recording, as well as essays with sound illustrations on forgotten aspects of the history of performance, newly-discovered recordings preserved at King's, and a variety of tools for analysing recorded performances, all of interest far beyond the confines of academia.

References to the research

1. The CHARM website:, giving access to the outputs of the CHARM discographical and transfer projects, the software and associated studies.

2. Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, The Changing Sound of Music: approaches to the study of recorded musical performances (CHARM, 2009): online book available at

3. Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, `Recordings and histories of performance style', in ed. Nicholas Cook, Eric Clarke, Daniel Leech-Wilkinson & John Rink, The Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 246-62


4. `Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, Sound and meaning in recordings of Schubert's "Die junge Nonne" ', Musicae Scientiae 11 (2007), 209-36

5. Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, `Portamento and musical meaning', Journal of Musicological Research 25 (2006), 233-61.


Item 1 was described in final evaluations undertaken by the AHRC at the end of the project as follows: `The databases and collections of recordings are likely to be significant resources of long term value to the musicological community.' `That third parties, sometimes amateur, have contributed to the identification of problematic sources indicates the wider impact of this project.' `The archive of digitised recordings and the accompanying searchable catalogue is a real and hopefully lasting achievement.'

Items 2-5 are peer-reviewed publications. Comments in the independent project assessments include: `The on line book by Leech-Wilkinson makes a commendable attempt to engage non-expert readers'. `Leech-Wilkinson has written up this study, not least in a fine article in Musicae Scientiae...'

Based on the success of the AHRC-funded transfer (digitisation) project, a further grant of £100,000 (matched by King's) was awarded to the King's team by JISC to continue the project: `Musicians of Britain and Ireland, 1900-1950'. 2007-09.

The CHARM team was awarded £2m by the AHRC for a successor Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice, dealing with the study of live performance, of which £495k was awarded to King's for projects led by Leech-Wilkinson.

Details of the impact

The CHARM discography and knowledge transfer project was designed by Leech-Wilkinson from the start to be as valuable to the wider community of music listeners as to academics. Data was provided by leading non-university discographers, notably Alan Kelly, Michael Gray and Philip Stuart, all independent non-academic researchers. Records were chosen from 145,000 discs donated to King's by the BBC Archives. With these, and additions from private donors, Leech-Wilkinson has created a publicly accessible sound archive of early recordings, preserved as cultural heritage and used for research, teaching and public dissemination. For CHARM, discs were selected for digitisation in consultation with the British Library's `Archival Sound Recordings' project in order to avoid duplication. The transfers were made by sound engineers, appointed as King's TAs and hired from the independent record industry, using industry best-practice procedures. A £1.2m bid to rehouse, expand and use the sound archive with a variety of community groups, although not yet funded, was praised by the Heritage Lottery Fund particularly for its appeal to the public as demonstrated by user feedback and online visitor numbers.

Access to the website is open and free to all, regardless of territory. Access statistics show consistently ca. 6,000 unique visitors and 32,000 page views per month, with visitors mainly from the US, EU (including UK) and Japan. The majority of connections come from commercial rather than academic IPs, and most referrals are from Google rather than academic pages. After the discography and sound search, the next most frequently viewed pages are chapters of Leech-Wilkinson's online book, followed by the introduction to sound analysis software, all authored or created at King's. Judging by email feedback, many users are non-academic experts and enthusiasts, or family members of past recording artists. User feedback includes: `Congratulations for this wonderful web site' (Jean Thorel, France); `this indispensable and unique resource' (Albert Mendez); `this web site is really amazing!!!' (Michel Paillier, France); `Thank you for all listening pleasure you have given to me. I believe your website CHARM is the finest in the world beyond all compare in this field.' (Gustav Bergström, Sweden); `I just discovered CHARM and I am amazed. Thank you for putting such an astounding resource on the web. It's just marvellous' (Bill Dennehy, USA); `It's a superb resource' (Francesco La Camera, Rome); `Superb!' (Eitan Ornoy, Israel); `Thanks for sharing wonderful resources with us' (Ju-Lee Hong); `What a superb resource — many thanks, and congratulations' (Gavin Brockis, JISC Digital Media); `this is the best site I have ever encountered for vintage recordings, as well as information about them' (Herbie G).

Sonic Visualiser is now frequently cited as a principal research tool in articles and PhD theses, as well as in non-HEI work. See for example the special performance studies issue of Music Theory Online (issue 18.1, 2012); and, for an FE example, the YouTube video from Barnsley College at The online tutorial by Leech-Wilkinson and Nicholas Cook (Cambridge) has already been translated into Portuguese for the Brazilian research community: Three video tutorials authored and presented by Leech-Wilkinson were commissioned by Musicology for the Masses (

By providing new techniques and model applications in the study of expressive musical performance, the use of recordings as evidence, the implications of past performance styles for music ontology, the construction of musical meaning, and the implications for future performance practice, among many other topics, Leech-Wilkinson's CHARM-related work is having widespread influence within academic music studies; but it equally influential in the wider world. See Leech-Wilkinson's invited presentations to the Association of British Orchestras, the Royal College of Physicians and invitations to work with young professional performers — focusing on early recorded performance and its implications for performance creativity today — at the Liszt Academy in Budapest and the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, as well as to lecture at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Leech-Wilkinson's online book is used on HE courses in the UK and abroad, is discussed and quoted enthusiastically in a number of non-HE blogs, and his CHARM work has been the subject of profiles in the French magazine Diapason and in Classic Record Collector.

(Note for web searches: is an alias of which hosts and created the site.)

Sources to corroborate the impact

5.1 AHRC: Research Centres Scheme: Assessment of End of Award Report, `The AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music'

5.2 HE courses:;;

5.3 Blogs:;;

5.4 Profiles: `Billet: A science is born', Diapason 575 (2009), 73; Classical Music Magazine (11 September 2010, 32); Classic Record Collector (Winter 2009, 48-52).

5.5 Corroborating Individuals:

-Managing Director, The Barbican Centre (general impact of CHARM)

-Manager, Marlborough Rare Books (value for collectors and discographers)

-Owner, The Tully Potter Collection image library (value for biographers and non-HE writers on music)

-Head of Section, Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (value for archives and libraries)

-Independent researcher (value for independent research)