Samuel Cheney

Thesis title: "Sounds Exotic": British Perceptions and Representations of Chinese Musicality, 1793 - 1939


BA History, University of Oxford (2015 - 2018)

MPhil History, University of Oxford (2018 - 2020)

PhD History, University of Edinburgh (2020 - 2024)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Visiting Graduate Researcher - University of California, Los Angeles (Department of Ethnomusicology), Spring 2023

Undergraduate teaching

I have previously tutored on the following undergraduate courses in history:

  • Introduction to Historiography
  • Early Modern History: A Connected World
  • Historian's Toolkit

I have also tutored the following undergraduate courses in music:

  • Topics in Popular Music


Research summary

"Sounds Exotics": British Perceptions and Representations of Chinese Musicality, 1793 - 1939

My PhD research analyses Sino-British cultural interactions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through music and sound. It considers what British people though China sounded like in this period, and how British musicians and composers communicated their perceptions of Chinese civilisation through various musical forms.

Current research interests

Sino-British Relations; Histories of the Senses; Global Music History; Chinese Music in Global Contexts; Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century British Music History

Current project grants

Scottish Graduate School of the Arts and Humanities AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership Award (2020 - 2024)


Co-Convener, Edinburgh Centre for Global History Graduate Workshop (2022 - 2023)

Papers delivered

  • Borders and Crossings: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Travel Writing (University of Łódź, Poland), July 2023 – “From Wearied Ears to Maddened Brains: Aural Discomfort as Epistemological Disruption in British Travel Writing on China, c. 1860 – c. 1920”
  • Sounding Modernism Conference (King’s College London), June 2023 – “A ‘Sense of Strange Sadness’: Modernity, Nostalgia and Chinese Sounds in Early Twentieth-Century Britain” 
  • London Nineteenth Century Studies Graduate Conference 2023: Home and Away in the Long Nineteenth Century (Institute for English Studies, Senate House, University of London), February 2023 – “Listening to Empire, Hearing Race: Music and Sound in British Travel Writing from China, c. 1860 – c. 1920”
  • British Forum for Ethnomusicology/Royal Musical Association Student Conference (University of Northumbria), January 2023 – “Cool, Fragrant, and Allusive: Chinese Poetry in English Art Song, c. 1900 – c. 1930”
  • Cambridge Cultural History Workshop (Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge), October 2022 – “‘A Touch of the Real Chinese Character’: Hearing Racial Difference in Late-Nineteenth Century Descriptions of Chinese Music”
  • Postcolonial Faultlines Online Conference (Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee), October 2022 - “‘The Discordant Roar of the Multitude’: Sonic Encounters with China in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Travel Writing"