Professor Bettina Varwig

Photo of Professor Bettina Varwig

BMus (King's Lond), PhD (Harvard)

Official Fellow; Director of Studies in Music
Professor of Music History


I am Professor of Music History at the Faculty of Music, specialising in music of the early modern period. Previously I was Senior Lecturer in the Department of Music at King’s College London, where I also took my undergraduate degree in 2000. I completed my doctoral studies at Harvard University in 2006, followed by a Fellowship by Examination at Magdalen College, Oxford (2005-8) and a British Academy Fellowship at the University of Cambridge and Girton College (2008-9). I am originally from Germany, but have come to feel very at home in the anglophone circles that have welcomed me over the years.


My research concerns the cultural history of Western music in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, with a focus on the German-speaking lands. I have published extensively on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Heinrich Schütz and their contemporaries, exploring issues of musical meaning, listening practices and musical rhetoric, as well as historiography and reception, in particular the afterlife of J. S. Bach in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. At present I am especially interested in histories of the body, the emotions and the senses, asking where and how musical sound acted upon or within the bodies, minds and souls of early modern performers and listeners. My project explores how music and its perceived powerful impact on animate beings shaped contemporary ideas about human nature, its physiology and psychology; and how these past musical practices and discourses can aid in recovering particular historical forms of being-in-the-body. In aiming to develop a more fully corporeal understanding of the music of this period, I am also constantly drawn to the fascinating intersections and productive tensions between early modern thought and aspects of current scholarship in affect theory, sound studies and embodied cognition.