Yvonne Liao is a music historian. Currently, her research centers on two key interests or strands of an evaluative global musicology. The first of these revolves around the assessment of 20th-century European music cultures in the contexts of China's treaty port history, with an intersectional focus on ideas of place, coast, and international relations. The second, a more nascent but concomitant interest, is concerned with institutional discourses of the (reimagined) "western musical canon," placed in global view, and with interpreting its material life forms in the 21st century, including but not limited to performing arts organizations in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.
To HK, a childhood city, Yvonne relocated in summer 2022, joining CUHK as an Assistant Professor in Musicology. 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.
Forthcoming publications include, first, a special issue of Postcolonial Studies co-convened with Philip Burnett and Erin Johnson-Williams, entitled "Music, Empire, Colonialism: Sounding the Archives," to which Yvonne is contributing a joint Introduction and an individual article on "The 'Post/Colonial Music Archive' in Shanghai and Hong Kong." A second upcoming publication comes in the form of an article provisionally entitled, "Coiled Colonialities: Pianos and Place-Signification in Post-/Treaty Port Shanghai," to appear in a special issue of The Chopin Review guest-edited by Jim Samson, on/around Chopin in East Asia. With Erin Johnson-Williams and Roe-Min Kok, meanwhile, she is co-editing The Oxford Handbook of Music Colonialism (forthcoming 2024), a collection of written research chapters and recorded practitioner testimonies, to which she is contributing a chapter on understanding global limits of encounter in Shanghai's treaty musical lives. She is also writing 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/ 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.