Research at Leeds Beckett
Dr Sue Miller
About Dr Sue Miller
Dr Sue Miller is a Reader in music, teaching on the undergraduate and postgraduate courses in performance and production. As an academic and practitioner she specialises in popular music analysis, improvisation, ethnomusicology and performance.
Sue's book 'Cuban Flute Style: Interpretation and Improvisation' was published by Scarecrow Press in 2014 and explores the role of influence in the development of a style, combining historical musicology with music analysis, ethnomusicological method and practice-led research. Specialising in Cuban popular music Sue has published two entries on ‘Cuban Son’ and ‘Cuban Guajira’ for The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World (EPMOW): Part 3 Genres (Caribbean and Latin American genres) edited by David Horn (Bloomsbury 2014). Her next book ‘Improvising Sabor: Afro-Cuban Dance Music in New York’ for the University Press of Mississippi (2018) examines Latin music in New York from historical, analytical and ethnographic perspectives.
Sue is also a professional flute player and musical director of the UK's only full charanga orquesta 'Charanga del Norte' which she founded in 1998. Recent recordings include ‘Charanga Time’ (2017), and ‘Atilana’ (2015) a recording which forms part of a collaborative music, dance and animation project. Sue completed her PhD on 'Flute Improvisation in Cuban Charanga Performance' at the University of Leeds having previously studied charanga flute improvisation with Richard Egües from Orquesta Aragón in Havana in 2000 and 2001. In addition to performing with her own group and other UK salsa bands she has performed with veteran charanga musicians in Havana and New York including Estrellas Cubanas, Charanga de Oro, Orquesta Sublime, Orquesta Barbarito Díez and Orquesta Broadway. Her research is therefore informed by her experiences as a professional musician as well as by her academic research into improvisation and Cuban music.
As a linguist with degrees in languages (French, Hindi and Linguistics) and translation (at the Universities of York and Leeds respectively) Sue is committed to the teaching and research of popular music with a broad international reach. A qualified teacher (PGCE) and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Sue has also published in the field of music education contributing a book chapter entitled ‘Creative Approaches to the Teaching of Improvisation in Higher Music Education’ to ‘Activating Diverse Creativities for Changing Higher Music Education: Contemporary Research and Practices,’ edited by Dr Pam Burnard (University of Cambridge, 2015) and Dr Liz Haddon (University of York).
- Selected recordings
- Sue Miller and her Charanga del Norte, Atilana, CDN00CD11, 2015
- The Essential Guide to Salsa Union Square Records, ESGCD303, 2005 and re-issued 2012.
- Sue Miller and her Charanga del Norte, Look Back in Charanga CDN00CD10, 2010.
- Charanga del Norte, Our Mam in Havana CDN00CD09, 2008.
- Everybody Salsa Volume 2 Avid Records, BMG, AVC 677, 1999.
- Everybody Salsa Volume 1 Avid Records, BMG, AVC 636, 1998.
- Selected Performances
- 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005 Arts Council of England funded UK tours, Charanga del Norte. Various Venues.
- 2003 Performance with Charanga del Norte at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester supporting Buena Vista Social Club’s Eliades Ochoa (2 July).
- 2007 Performance in New York as guest flautist with Orquesta Broadway at the Mamoncillo Festival, New Jersey.
- 2009 Charanga del Norte in Victoria Park, London with Orquesta Aragón & Changüi de Guantánamo (Barbican booking).
- 2009 Performances in Havana as guest flautist with Orquesta Sublime in the Cabaret Nacional and with Estrellas Cubanas at the Union Fraternal and Teatro América.
- 2013 Charanga del Norte, Mumford Theatre, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge.
- 2014 Charanga del Norte, Senate House, London.
- 2015 Charanga del Norte, University of Reading
- 2016 Cambridge Big Weekend and Cambridge Jazz Festival
- Selected Compositions
Dance Theatre Productions (Arts Council commissioned)
- 2004 Cusan Dance Theatre show “Valentino” (toured).
- 2004 Cusan Dance Theatre show “La Carmela” (toured).
Lecturing on the BA (Hons) Performance and Production course and the MA in Popular Music and Culture, Sue is currently teaching the modules Live Music Performance, Music Performance Project, Analysing Production and Performance, Composition and Music Theory, and Music Independent Projects at Undergraduate level. MA teaching includes the modules Popular Music Analysis and Research Practice. PhD supervisions include the co-supervision of PhD candidate Leah Stuttard (improvisation and performance practice) at Huddersfield University under the NECAH Programme. Sue is also Director of Studies for PhD candidate Carl Flattery (practice-led research examining memory and place in songwriting and production) and second supervisor for PhD candidate Aris Lanaridis whose research looks at how musical meaning is conveyed between composer and audience.
Sue's first book provided new perspectives on the history of Cuban music, and included primary ethnographic, technical and analytical resources, and has received very favourable reviews to date:
“For all the academic and anthropological research work done in the past 60+ years in the Latin Music field, very few have been successful in conveying the essence of their subject matter. Sue Miller’s remarkable book does not only succeed in its comprehensive approach to introduce and educate both performing flutists and academicians to this wonderful music and its history, she captivates the reader through her passion, love and commitment to the genre... Sue Miller deserves the highest praise for a work of the highest caliber... I declare that Cuban Flute Style is brilliant and without precedent. The research work is thorough and meticulous. The historical narrative of the flute styles and its protagonists is comprehensive, consistent and most importantly, respectful of the music’s tradition and filled with palpable affection. Her improvisation transcriptions and music samples from a wide selection of recordings (most of them commercially released) are accurate and accessible... Sue Miller has created a work that celebrates and guarantees the perpetuation of Charanga and its Cuban Flute Style Tradition for many generations to come. Its historical, cultural, and pedagogical value cannot be overstated.’ (Latin flute player Nestor Torres, ARSC Journal)
Association of Recorded Sound Collections
"Sue Miller’s monograph on Cuban flute style will be of interest to ethnomusicologists and flautists alike. It is a clearly written, highly musical book that serves as both a guide to performance practice and an academic text. Miller brings together performance as a research technique, interviews with musicians, lessons with renowned flautists, and detailed and extensive transcription and analysis of recordings to create a ‘musical archaeology’ (246) of creative processes, interpretation and improvisation in Cuban charanga flute performance.”
Dr Hettie Malcomson, (University of Southampton)
Building on this initial work her second book 'Improvising Sabor: Latin Flute Style USA' (University of Mississippi Press) includes detailed ethnographic and analytic work on Latin forms of improvisation and expands the remit to look at Latin aesthetics in music and social dance in the USA with a focus on New York. It encompasses musicology, ethnomusicology, music history, popular music studies, aesthetics and interdisciplinary areas (including dance). It is due for publication at the end of 2018.
Present practice-led research includes an interdisciplinary project entitled 'Animating Musical Movement: a Music and Dance Animation Project.' This research and artistic collaboration with Cuban dancer-animator Guillermo Davis will result in a joint production of an animation film and soundtrack by El Iyawo Productions and Sue's band Charanga del Norte in 2019.