Profile of Prof Pwyll ap Siôn

Image of Dr Pwyll ap Sion
Prof Pwyll ap Siôn
Professor in Music
+44 (0) 1248 383808
Main Arts Building (first floor, up the stairs opposite Powis Hall)


Pwyll ap Siôn is a musicologist and composer. He read music at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating in 1990. He studied composition at Bangor University with John Pickard and David Gottlieb, then with Martin Butler, receiving his PhD in 1998. He has been a member of staff at the School of Music since 1993.

His research and teaching interests include minimalist music, Michael Nyman, the new tonality of the twenty-first century and reference and quotation in contemporary music. In 2007 he co-organized the First International Conference on Minimalist Music and helped establish the Society for Minimalist Music. His monograph on The Music of Michael Nyman (Ashgate, 2007) was described in Music and Letters as a ‘groundbreaking study … it represents a substantial contribution to musicology’. Two edited volumes were published in 2013: Michael Nyman: Collected Writings and The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music, the latter co-edited with Keith Potter and Kyle Gann (both Ashgate). He has published articles and reviews in The Soundtrack, Twentieth-Century Music and Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, and produces regular reviews and blogs for Gramophone magazine.

Ap Siôn has also published in the area of Welsh popular and Celtic music. His most recent article – on popular music in Wales between 1979–97 – was published in the Welsh-language journal Ysgrifau Beirniadol (Vol. 29, 2011). In 2011 he was invited by the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies to give a paper at the Scottish Parliament on ‘Welsh Culture and the Politics of Devolution’, and has contributed a chapter on Celtic Music for a volume entitled Nations on the Move (SUNY Press, forthcoming). He is chief editor of the forthcoming Companion to Welsh Music, which has been funded by the Welsh Federal College (Y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol).

As composer his music is broadly postminimalist in style. Recent commissions have included The White Wheat, a test piece for solo violin for the 2008 Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition (the score was published in The Strad magazine), the Opera/Oratorio Gair ar Gnawd (‘Word on Flesh’) for Welsh National Opera Max, and Sevi for Soprano, String Orchestra and Piano, first performed by Elin Manahan Thomas in Wales and Cornwall in 2013. His orchestral work Gwales was included in the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra’s 2012 season. He has also produced music for film and television documentaries, including Channel 4’s Cutting Edge series.

In 2014-15 Pwyll was awarded a Small Research Grant by the British Academy/Leverhulme Foundation to carry out research on the impact of American Minimalism in Europe during the 1970s. His research was carried out mainly at the Paul Sacher Stiftung, Basel, which now houses all of Steve Reich's papers and sketches. You can read a draft report on Pwyll's research project here.


  • Minimalism
  • Michael Nyman
  • Cage and Experimental Music
  • The Beatles
  • Media and Popular Music
  • Songwriting Skills
  • Composition
  • Twentieth-century music


  • Joint Deputy Head of School
  • Senior Tutor

Research Interests

  • Minimalism and Postminimalist Music
  • Michael Nyman
  • Quotation / Intertextuality
  • Composition
  • Welsh Music

Recent Publications


Authored Books, Edited Books, Chapters in Edited Books and Published Reports

  • Michael Nyman: Collected Writings (Ashgate Press, 2013).
  • (Co-editor, with Keith Potter and Kyle Gann) The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music (Ashgate Press, 2013).
  • ‘Reference and Quotation in Minimalist and Postminimalist music’, in the Ashgate Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music (Ashgate Press, 2013), pp. 259–278.
  • The Music of Michael Nyman: Texts, Contexts and Intertexts (Ashgate, 2007)
  • (with Tristian Evans) ‘Parallel Symmetries? The Relationship Between Minimalist Music and Multimedia Forms’, in Graeme Harper (ed.) Sound and Music in Film and Visual Media: A Critical Overview (Continuum Press, 2009), pp. 671–91.
  • ‘Seeds of Change? Art, Folk and Popular music in Ireland, Scotland and Wales: 1960–2000’, in Margaret Connell-Szasz (ed.) Nations on the Move (SUNY Press) (due 2014).
  • Co-editor with Lauren Redhead on themed issue for Contemporary Music Review journal on Quotation in late 20th century and early 21st century music (in preparation, due 2014).
  • (Principal Editor) The Companion to Welsh Music (due 2015).

Articles in Refereed Journals

  • ‘Understanding Minimalist Film Music: the case of Man on Wire’, Soundtrack 5/1 (2012), pp. 51–66.
  • “‘Ysgrifen ar y mur’? Traddodiadau’r Canu Pop Cymraeg 1979–1997”, Ysgrifau Beirniadol 29 (gol/ed. Gerwyn Williams), 2011, pp. 110–132.
  • ‘John Adams’s Nixon in China’, review in Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland (forthcoming).
  • ‘Robert Carl, Terry Riley’s In C’, in Twentieth-Century Music, 7/2 (September 2010), pp. 248–53.
  • ‘Nationhood, and the Welsh Composer’ in Welsh Music History, vol. 7, 2007, pp. 285–303.
  • ‘‘Yn y Fro’: Mudiad Adfer and Welsh Popular Song during the 1970s’, Welsh Music History, vol. 5, 2002, pp. 190–216.

Dictionary Articles or Book Prefaces

  • ‘Michael Nyman’, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell (London: Macmillan, 2001), vol. xviii, pp. 247–9
  • ‘Welsh music [4] contemporary’, in Celtic Culture: a historical encyclopaedia ed. John T. Koch (California: ABC Clio, 2006), pp. 1768–9
  • ‘Light Music’ in The Academi Encyclopaedia of Wales, eds. Menna Baines and Nigel Jenkins (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007);
  • ‘Cerddoriaeth Ysgafn’ yn Gwyddoniadur Cymru Yr Academi Gymreig gol. Menna Baines a Nigel Jenkins (Caerdydd: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, 2007)

Reports, website publications and pedagogical publications

Conference papers and invitations to present at research seminars in other institutions (English)

  • ‘Nationhood and the Welsh Composer’, Nations Before Nationalism conference, WISCA, University of Wales, Bangor, 29 October 2005.
  • ‘Towards a Typology of Code Mixing in Recent Welsh-language Popular Music’, paper given at the North American Association for the study of Welsh Culture and History conference, Swansea University, 13-15 July 2006.
  • (with Tristian Evans and Ruth Barnett) ‘Towards an understanding of the perception of sounds, silences and repetition in American experimental and minimal music’, Rhythms In The Brain conference, School of Psychology, Bangor University, 26–8 May 2006.
  • (with Ruth Barnett) ‘“Nearly Stationary”: The use of silence in Cage’s String Quartet in Four Parts’, Ninth International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition, Bologna, 22–6 August, 2006.
  • (with Tristian Evans) ‘Parallel Symmetries? Exploring Relationships between Minimalist Music and Multimedia Forms’, paper given at the First International Conference on Music and Minimalism, Bangor University, 31 August–2 September 2007.
  • ‘Towards a Typology of Code mixing in Recent Welsh-language Popular Music’, guest speaker at the ESRC Centre for Research on Bilingualism in Theory and Practice, Bangor University, 29 October 2007.
  • ‘Minimalism, Multimedia and Nyman’s Man on Wire’, guest speaker for the music research seminar series at Birmingham Conservatoire, 24 March 2009.
  • ‘Exploring Musical Settings of the Cynghanedd’, part of the AHRC-funded Beyond Text project led by Dr Sally Harper, Bangor University, 16 May 2009.
  • “‘Taking a Line for a Second Walk”: Mapping Intertextuality in Nyman’, paper given at the Second International Conference on Music and Minimalism, University of Missouri–Kansas City, 3–6 September 2009.
  • ‘Celtic Music’, Nations on the Move colloquium, hosted by the AHRC Centre for Scottish and Irish Studies, University of Aberdeen, 29 October 2009.
  • ‘“Sign of the Times”? The Rise and Fall of Nationalism in Welsh Popular Culture between 1960 and 2000, in Music in Wales: the old and the new: Centre for Advanced Welsh Music Studies conference jointly held by St. Fagans and Cardiff University, 12 November 2009.
  • ‘“Timeless Voices”? The evocation of nostalgia in post-minimal music, Tenth International Conference of the Department of Music, University of the Arts, Belgrade, 17 April 2010.
  • ‘The Music Industry in Wales’, guest speaker for the music research seminar series held at the ATRIUM, Cardiff, 26 May 2010.
  • ‘The Culture of Devolution: Language, Media, Arts – A Welsh Perspective’, guest speaker at a conference on The Politics of Devolution, Scottish Parliament, 5 November 2010.
  • ‘Reference and Quotation in Minimalist and Post-Minimal music’, music colloquia at Bard College, New York State, 11–13 March 2011, and at Wolverhampton University, 8–10 April 2011.
  • “‘Conspicuous Allusions and Hidden Quotations’: Analysing Intertextuality in Postmodern Music’, paper given at the Seventh International Conference on Music Since 1900, Lancaster University 28–31 July 2011.
  • ‘“I’m now concerned with making beautiful music above everything else …”: new light on Michael Nyman’s interview with Steve Reich, La Rochelle, 1976,’ paper given at the Third International Conference on Music and Minimalism, Catholic University, Leuven, 12–15 October 2011.
  • ‘Understanding minimalist film music: the case of Man on Wire’, paper given at the Fourth International Conference on Minimalist Music, California State University, 3-6 October, 2013.

Miscellaneous Articles

  • Reviewer for Gramophone music magazine from 2007–2013 – presently around eighty CD and DVD reviews, plus composer profiles on Philip Glass and Gavin Bryars and the ‘Specialist’s Guide to Minimalist and Post-Minimal Opera’
  • ‘Outside Looking In’, insight article on Nyman published in the official programme accompanying the Nyman Live at Cadogan Hall series of concerts held between 6–8 June 2008
  • Accompanying articles and programme notes for Nyman Prom premiere of The Musicologist Scores, The BBC Proms, 25 August 2009
  • Programme notes on Alun Hoddinott’s Celebration Dances and Symphony No. 10 for BBC NOW concerts at the Wales Millennium Centre, 2010


Orchestral and Stage Works

  • Gwales (orchestra), 14’, performed by BBC NOW under Grant Llewellyn, Bangor New Music Festival, 26 March 2010, Radio 3 broadcast on Here and Now, 31 July 2010; also performed by the North Carolina Symphony at Raleigh and Wilmington as part of their 2012 Spring Concert Series
  • Y Gair ar Gnawd / The Word (staged oratorio with words by Menna Elfyn) (chamber ensemble, two soloists and SATB choir), 60 minutes, to be performed by members of WNO, part of WNO Max project, Galeri, March 2012
  • Sefi/Syvi (18 minutes) song-cycle for Elin Manahan Thomas and the European Union Chamber Orchestra, using folk material from Wales and Cornwall, performed in Galeri, Caernarfon, and Truro’s Hall for Cornwall, January 2013

Solo, Chamber and Vocal Works

  • Rok Tab (solo Piano), 1’, performed by David Appleton, part of Bartok – Subject and Reflection series, Vibe Bar, London, 16 February 2010

Film Music, Arrangements and Adaptations

  • The White Wheat, 4’, arrangement of Welsh folk song for solo violin; commissioned by the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition, Cardiff 11-20 April 2008, as test piece for the under 16s category; first performance by winner of the composer’s prize, Yu
  • Ah Ok at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff, 20 April 2008 (all performances web-streamed during the event and score published in March edition of the Strad magazine, 2008)
  • Three Folk-Song Arrangements for Solo Violin, 12’, ‘Y Gwenith Gwyn’ [The White Wheat], ‘Y Bore Glas’ [The Fine Morning] and ‘Y Deryn Pur’ [The Gentle Dove]
  • Y Chwarelwr [The Quarryman] (piano quintet), 40’, soundtrack to reconstructed 1930s film for Cwmni Da TV; premiere 7 October 2006; S4C broadcast 10/12/06
  • Frongoch (large ensemble), 45’, soundtrack to drama-documentary about the aftermath of the Easter Rising, joint commission between RTE and S4C (various broadcasts on RTE and S4C during 2007)
  • The Horse Hoarder – incidental music for programme broadcast as part of Channel 4’s Cutting Edge series, first broadcast 7 January 2013

CD and DVD recordings

  • ‘Merch’ (‘Lady’) (baritone and piano), on Songs for Jeremy, Jeremy Huw Williams (Baritone) and Nigel Foster (Piano), Sain Records (SCD 2266), 1998
  • Un Vibrante Apparecchio Uccidi-Silenzio (Brass Quintet) on WNO Brass Consort’s Celtic Diversions, Black Mountain Records (BM512), 1998
  • Waltz, on Welsh Portraits, Iwan Llewelyn-Jones (Piano), Sain Records (SCD 2308) 2001
  • Three Folk-Songs, on Songs of the People, Buddug Verona James (Mezzo) and Andrew Wilson-Dickson (Piano), Fflach Records (CD295H) 2006
  • Y Chwarelwr (The Quarryman), on Y Chwarelwr DVD, Cwmni Da / S4C (ISBN 186225053) 2006
  • Emyn (Piano Duet), on Diversity – Amrywiaeth, Davies Piano Duet, Campion Cameo (Cameo 2073) 2007
  • Three Folk Songs, arrangements for solo piano, recorded by Iwan Llewelyn-Jones on Songs Without Words (Sain SCD 2646, 2011)

External Funding Successes

3.1 External funding successfully applied for (2008– )

  • Academic Expertise for Business (A4B) Knowledge Exploitation Capacity Development Fesibility Study: ‘Developing New Business Strategies for the Music Industry in Wales’ (Welsh Assembly Government)
  • Welsh Federal College – Companion to Welsh Music Project (September 2011–12)
  • British Council Overseas Scholarship for Composers

3.2 Successful PhD Grant Captures

  • 4-year Welsh-medium PhD scholarship
  • 1-year Post-doctoral fellowship, 2007-8
  • KESS maxi scholarship (Mared Emlyn) (2009–12)
  • KESS mini scholarship (Hannah Way) (2012–13)
  • 125 Scholarship (Twila Bakker) (2012–15)

Research Supervision and Examination

4.1 Research students currently supervised

  • Gorwel Owen: PhD Dissertation and Portfolio of Compositions
  • Mared Emlyn: Performance and Composition
  • Twila Bakker: The Counterpoint Pieces of Steve Reich

4.2 External Examiner for PhD theses

  • Robert Doyle, ‘Tempomorphism: Nested Temporalities in the Music of Robert Fripp’, University of Middlesex, 2005;
  • Gareth Churchill, ‘A Portfolio of Compositions (with commentary)’, Cardiff University, 2007;
  • Michael O’Shaughnessy, ‘Music as Consolation? Meaning and Emotion in the Film Music of Michael Nyman’, University of Western Australia, 2010;
  • A. M. Patterson, ‘The Minimal Kaleidoscope’, Cardiff University, 2010;
  • Jeremy Huw Williams, ‘Serialism, Modality and Poetic Rhetoric in Alun Hoddinott’s Five Poems of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Op. 152 no. 2 (1994)’, Cardiff University, 2013;
  • John Pymm, ‘Narrative Trails in the Speech-Based Music of Steve Reich’, University of Southampton, 2013.

Indicators of Peer Esteem

5.1 Invited to peer review article submissions for the following journals:

  • Music Analysis
  • American Music
  • Twentieth-Century Music
  • Welsh Music History
  • American Music
  • The Soundtrack (also on editorial board)

On following society committees and councils:

  • Society for Minimalist Music (committee member 2007– )
  • Music Advisor for the Arts Council of Wales (2000–)