DMusPerf Research

The RIAM DMusPerf is intended to develop the capacity of performers to make a contribution to the advancement of knowledge and professional practice in their particular field of music. The performance-based character of the programme gives an opportunity to advanced musicians to undertake research into questions which are of direct relevance to their own professional interests and concerns.

Read more about our current DMusPerf research projects below:

Imelda Drumm, Singer 


Roles for Leading Ladies: A study of the cognitive and physical ramifications of habitual stress and sex hormones in elite western female solo singing

This study examines the occupational and life stresses of female vocal soloists. Both men and women elite vocalists exert significant vibratory effort when singing especially in opera, where the combination of orchestral scoring and auditoria size can be significant. Singing is a whole body activity. Maintaining health is prioritised. Income is dependent on vocal and mental reliability. Female singers, unlike their male counterparts, are subject to monthly variations in sexual hormone affecting both instrument and emotional states. Gender response to stress differs between the sexes. Women self-report experiencing higher anxiety than men.

Female performers can experience significant organisational complexity when starting a family. Constant travel and performing can interfere with home life. Health, performing, logistical and home-life stress may impact physical and mental wellbeing over time. Habitual elevated stress alters the brain. The cumulative long term effects of elevated stress on female singers has not previously been investigated. Cognitive overload such as that caused by adverse life events may trigger the onset of music performance anxiety (MPA).

This study is a quantitative and qualitative examination of the lifestyle and lifecycle concerns of solo female professional vocalists investigating occupation, levels of stress, physical illness, perceived vocal indisposition, hormonal effect and music performance anxiety (MPA). A general survey and trait test was administered and compared to state anxiety, MPA, hormone affect, and perceived vocal impairment on a solo performance day. Findings demonstrate the health implications for women choosing this career.

Working conditions and opportunities for training within the classical music industry are discussed. Current performance research and research in related disciplines, such as, arts medicine and performance psychology including treatment options and health providers for those experiencing performing difficulties provided. This new study benefits elite singers, vocal teachers, educational institutions, and sister disciplines concerned with the research and management of MPA.


Gavan RingGavan Ring, Singer

Performance considerations for Robert O’Dwyer’s Eithne (1909): a contextual study and edited vocal score 

Robert O’Dwyer’s Eithne (1909) is recognised as the first opera to be performed in the Irish language. Based on the Irish folklore legend, Éan an cheoil bhinn or ‘bird of the sweet music’, the work is at once representative of the late-romantic era in classical music and the broader Irish cultural revival. Despite this apparently strong cultural locus, however, an adequate and fair reception of the musical and dramatic merits of Eithne has been severely obstructed. As a result, the work has not been performed for over one hundred years.

Current research suggests that, rather than on the basis of artistic merit, Eithne’s neglect has been motivated by the partiality of a complex political and cultural environment. The condition of cultural polarisation as a result of the troubled Anglo-Irish saga of sectarian tension beset upon Irish society for centuries has greatly inhibited the understanding of classical music as a national art form in the Irish cultural imagination. Furthermore, despite Eithne’s embryonic link with fin-du-siècle Irish cultural revivals, these movements did little to assist a universal cultural acceptance of the work due to factors such as the subconscious isolation of the Irish language as the mother tongue of Irish Catholic nationalism and the seizure of classical music constructs as vital tools in the creation of contemporary (primarily English) literature.

Given the drastic improvements in Anglo-Irish relations over the past two decades, there have been fresh calls for culturally maligned works such as Eithne to be performed again and re-evaluated in an attempt to re-examine the role of opera within the cultural history of Ireland, redress the taciturn attitude to Irish opera in general and, simultaneously, rescue some very fine works from the backwaters of history.

In response to this entreaty, this thesis provides a revised contextual study of Eithne, the first revised, performance-focused edition of Eithne’s vocal score and a comprehensive exposition regarding an array of previously uncharted performance considerations with regard to the vocal realisation of the Irish language for operatic purposes.


Marie-Charline Foccroulle, PianistMarieCharline

Final thoughts: Interpretation of the first movements of Beethoven’s and Schubert’s last three piano sonatas

Considered as the apex of the literature for piano sonatas in the classical period, Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas, Opp. 109, 110, 111, and Schubert’s last three piano sonatas, D. 958, 959, and 960, are still well appreciated by pianists and are often played in concert. Much has been written about these pieces but this thesis examines the interpretation of the first movements of these works, by highlighting their particularities, explaining the impact of these on the interpretation, and, therefore, helping the understanding of the music for the performing process.

These six first movements contain fascinating and striking particularities, typical to each composer’s style, which strongly influence their interpretation. The thesis identifies the techniques that are responsible for these particularities in the music. It demonstrates why Beethoven’s three first movements are concise, driven by an inner energy, always moving forward, and it examines the purpose of the length in Schubert’s three first movements. This research also shows that all six first movements possess elements of unity, clarity, and coherence, and that these are reached through very different means, depending on whether it is a movement by Beethoven or by Schubert.

It is a special and tremendous experience to perform these sonatas. It is the role of the pianist in his/her interpretation of these movements to underline and point out their particularities, as these represent the essence and hallmarks of Beethoven’s and Schubert’s musical discourse. This thesis gives answers inasmuch as it explains what performers have to be aware of, what they have to emphasize in their interpretation, and why they have to emphasize it. Thereafter, it is easier to give an eloquent interpretation of these movements, where their particularities are then clearly understandable.



Horng Kent ThamHorng Kent Tham, Pianist 

Interpretation and performance: an investigation into Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A major D959

The investigation is based on the understanding of the role of the performer as narrator in the performance of early nineteenth-century piano music in general and Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A Major, D 959, in particular. In addition to considering aspects of the musical and cultural context as well as piano construction in Schubert’s own time, this research highlights and examines two general areas. The first area contains three central themes – tempo, articulation and dynamics. The second area will shed light on a ‘paradigm shift’ between what Lawrence Zbikowski termed ‘static form’ and ‘dynamic form’, where the traditional sonata form represents the ‘static form’ which consists of balanced structure built from regular sub-units with clear harmonic connections between each other. The ‘dynamic form’ was conceived as ‘form as process’ where the emphasis was given to a performer in defining the musical structure throughout a piece. This creative role of a performer in giving shape to music suggests the idea of narration and Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A Major, D959, particularly in the first and second movements, presents an interesting example for musical narration in early Romantic music.

There appears to be no consensus as to a ‘stylistically correct’ rendition of Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A Major, D959, and it possesses some unique musical features which invite performers and researchers to conduct an investigation of the sonata. Hence, a consequence of this investigation would be a deeper understanding and awareness of the problems of interpretation in this work as well as the unique characteristics of the sonata.


Soo-Jung Ann, Pianist

The use of Korean folk song ‘Arirang’ in contemporary Korean piano music

Ann Soo Jung


Nadene Fiorentini, Pianist

An investigation into the risk of injury for Irish pianists and consideration of prevention and treatments

Nadene Fiorentini


Owen Gilhooly, Singer

The vocal music of Thomas Roseingrave

Owen Gilhooly


Thomas Kehoe, Conductor

The choral music of Francis Poulenc



William Lees, Violinist

Gerald Finzi, Concerto for Small Orchestra and Solo Violin (1927)



Conor Linehan, Pianist

A study of orchestration of French piano music



Pedro Lopez Lopez, Conductor

Opera at the Teatro de los Caños del Peral, 1786-1799

Pedro Lopez


Adrian Mantu, Cellist

1916-2016 retrospective: 100 years of string quartet history in Ireland



Sylvia O’Brien, Singer

Irish Art Song: an exploration of the genre focusing on the works of Seóirse Bodley



Fearghal O’Conchubhair, Conductor

The choral music of Ēriks Ešenvalds


Redmond O’Toole, Guitarist

The Hudleston collection of guitar music at the Royal Irish Academy of Music

Redmond O'Toole


DMusPerf Dissertations 

Keane, Mark, ‘Domestic sacred music in Jacobean England : John Amner’s Sacred Hymnes … for Voyces and Vyols (1615)‘, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2019).

Sherlock, Bernie, ‘Contemporary Irish choral music and an outline of its historical origins’, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2018).

Drumm, Imelda, ‘Roles for leading ladies: Investigating the influence of ovarian hormones on performance anxiety and vocal impairment in elite singing’, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2017).

Foccroulle, Marie-Charline, ‘Final thoughts? Interpretation of the first movements of Beethoven’s and Schubert’s last three piano sonatas’, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2017).

Tham, Horng Kent, ‘Interpretation and performance: an investigation into Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A major D959’, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2016).

Chen, Archie, ‘Towards a historically informed performance of Chopin’s op 10 Études‘, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2016).

Ring, Gavan, ‘Performance considerations for Robert O’Dwyer’s Eithne (1909): a contextual study and edited vocal score‘, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2016).

Papadimitriou, Dimitri, ‘An exploration of the key characteristics in Beethoven’s piano sonatas and selected instrumental repertoire’, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2013).

Earley, Desmond, ‘French basso continuo performance technique: a study of the arpeggiated gesture in the prélude non mesuré c1650-c1720’, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2012).

Flanagan, Orla, ‘Music, text and context in Felix Mendelssohn’s choral works for Berlin Cathedral’, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2012)

Cleary, Annette, ‘The process of preparing Irish cello sonatas (1968-1996) for performance’,  (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2010).

Moynihan, Fionnuala, ‘Considerations for a modern performance of John Field’s Piano Sonata, op 1 no 1 in E flat major’, (DMusPerf dissertation, Royal Irish Academy of Music, 2009).

Hard copies of all the completed DMusPerf dissertations are held in the RIAM Library. The dissertations are also available online through TARA.