Yvonne LIAO
Assistant Professor, Musicology
Research and Pedagogy Stream Coordinator
208, Hui Yeung Shing Building
BA (Oxon); MA in Chinese Studies (SOAS); MA in Arts Administration (Columbia); PhD (KCL)
music history and historiography; global musicology; postcolonial studies; performing arts organizations and contemporary society; music, materialism, lives

Yvonne Liao is a music historian. Among her current research interests are global canonicity, coloniality, and their signifying life forms, in (but not limited to) the contexts of China's treaty port history, and its material and institutional legacies across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Her related funded work from the academic year 2023–24 includes the project, "Inventive Lives: Indigenous Musical Canons and Symphony Orchestras in Contemporary Hong Kong," supported by the Early Career Scheme of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (Ref. No. 24606123); and a smaller project, "Between the Cartoon and the Canon: McDull's Epistemic Significations for Global Musicology," supported by a Direct Grant from the Faculty of Arts, CUHK.

To Hong Kong, a childhood city, Yvonne relocated and joined CU in summer 2022. In the preceding years, she worked at the University of Oxford as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Music Faculty and TORCH, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (2017–20), as a Postdoctoral Associate in the Humanities at St Cross College (2017–20), as an Early Career Representative in the TORCH Management Committee (2019–20), and as a Research Associate at TORCH (2020–21), before spending a rewarding year in Scotland as a Teaching Fellow in Musicology at the University of Edinburgh (2021–22).

Time could still do with another stretch: Yvonne read Music as an undergraduate at Christ Church, University of Oxford between 1999 and 2002, graduating with a first-class degree. After completing an MA in Chinese Studies at SOAS University of London in 2003, she worked at Naxos and Universal Music as a project manager and marketing manager, and gained an MA in Arts Administration from Columbia University, before returning to higher education in 2012 and obtaining a PhD in Musicology from King's College London. Her identified angle for this project was western music and municipality in 1930s and 1940s Shanghai, for which she cross-examined surviving materials in Chinese, English, French, and German. While pursuing this research in London and Shanghai, Yvonne also spent a term at Hong Kong Baptist University as a Scholar-in-Residence at the David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies. The resulting dissertation (passed without corrections December 2016, PhD awarded January 2017) was given 1st Honorary Mention for the International Musicological Society's first Outstanding Dissertation Award in 2018. Yvonne's writings among other publications have appeared in Cambridge Opera Journal, and The Musical Quarterly, for which she was awarded the Royal Musical Association's Jerome Roche Prize in 2017 for a distinguished article by an early career scholar.

Yvonne's latest publications include a special issue of Postcolonial Studies co-convened with Philip Burnett and Erin Johnson-Williams, entitled "Music, Empire, Colonialism: Sounding the Archives"; and an article on the colonialities of pianos and place signification in The Chopin Review. With Erin Johnson-Williams and Roe-Min Kok, meanwhile, she is co-editing The Oxford Handbook of Music Colonialism (forthcoming 2024), a collection of research chapters and recorded practitioner testimonies. She is also preparing a monograph, under the working title, Imperfect Global: Thinking European Music Cultures in Shanghai and Hong Kong, 1897–1997 (under contract, University of Chicago Press/ New Material Histories of Music Series).

Yvonne's wide-ranging interests as a teacher extend from re-exploring questions of music history and historiography, to unlocking their applications in contemporary creative practice, to articulating their imbrications with class, gender, and race. In addition to having supervised PGT and UG dissertations and individual research projects at Oxford and Edinburgh, she has contributed to a range of taught courses, including: Introduction to Musicology (MMus), Music, Philosophy and Politics (MMus), Music and Global History (MSt), Archives and Music Research (MSt), Thinking about Music (BMus), Research Methods in Music (BMus), Jazz on Film (BMus), Arts in Context and Music Advocacy (BA), and Issues and Topics in Western Music and Music History from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern World (BMus). While at Edinburgh she was nominated for the Edinburgh University Students' Association 2021–22 Teaching Awards, in the category Teacher of the Year.  

A keen advocate of collaborative work, Yvonne is a founding co-lead of CPAGH, Colonial Ports and Global History, an interdisciplinary research network established at TORCH in 2018 with Julia Binter, Olivia Durand, Helena F. S. Lopes, Katharina Oke, Min-Erh Wang, and Hatice Yıldız. With Joe Davies, Yvonne is a founding co-lead of WIGM, Women in Global Music, a research and industry network launched in 2021. With Olivia Bloechl and Gabriel Solis, she is a founding member of the American Musicological Society's Global Music History Study Group. In November 2023, she will give a keynote at the International Musicological Society's Global Music History Study Group Conference at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines.

Selected Publications
  • Imperfect Global: Thinking European Music Cultures in Shanghai and Hong Kong, 1897–1997. Under contract, University of Chicago Press/ New Material Histories of Music Series.

Edited Volume
  • The Oxford Handbook of Music Colonialism. Edited by Erin Johnson-Williams, Roe-Min Kok, and Yvonne Liao. Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2024.

Research Articles
  • "Penning the stakes: paper and the post/colonial music archive in Shanghai and Hong Kong." Postcolonial Studies 26.3 (2023). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13688790.2023.2243075
  • [Special Issue Corresponding Author/ Joint Introduction with Philip Burnett and Erin Johnson-Williams] "Music, empire, colonialism: sounding the archives." Postcolonial Studies 26.3 (2023). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13688790.2023.2243070
  • "Coiled Colonialities: Pianos and Place Signification in Shanghai's Treaty Port History." The Chopin Review 4–5 (2022): 30–55. DOI: https://doi.org/10.56693/cr.6
  • "'Die gute Unterhaltungsmusik': Landscape, Refugee Cafés, and Sounds of 'Little Vienna' in Wartime Shanghai." The Musical Quarterly 98 (2016): 350–394. 

Review Article
  • "'Chinatown' and Global Operatic Knowledge." Review of Nancy Yunhwa Rao, Chinatown Opera Theater in North America (University of Illinois Press, 2017). Cambridge Opera Journal 31: 2–3 (2020): 280–290.

Refereed Chapters
  • "Terra Firma Shanghai: Musical Life Formation in the Treaty Port, c.1922." In The Oxford Handbook of Music Colonialism, edited by Erin Johnson-Williams, Roe-Min Kok, and Yvonne Liao. Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2024.
  • "Post/Colonial Bach." In Rethinking Bach, edited by Bettina Varwig, 59–76. Oxford University Press, 2021.
  • "Empires in Rivalry: Opera Concerts and Foreign Territoriality in Shanghai, 1930–1945." In Operatic Geographies: The Place of Opera and the Opera House, edited by Suzanne Aspden, 149–161. University of Chicago Press, 2019. 
  • "'A Foreign Cosmopolitanism': Treaty Port Shanghai, Ad Hoc Municipal Ensembles, and an Epistemic Modality." In Music History and Cosmopolitanism, edited by Anastasia Belina, Kaarina Kilpiö, and Derek B. Scott, 162–174. Routledge, 2019.

List of Recent Courses Taught
  • UGED1085 Beethoven in China and the West
  • UGEC2135 Decolonizing Classical Music [New SDG-GE Course from AY 2023–24]
  • MUSC2882 History of Western Music II
  • MUSC3213 / MUSC6358 History of Western Music: Special Topic I (UG) / Topics in Musicology II (PG): Towards a Global Western Art Music (TAGWAM)
  • MUSC3582 Selected Topic in Music and Society: Understanding Classical Music Organizations (UCMO)
  • MUSC4243 Research Methods in Music