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Research Case studies

Latin Music Performance Aeshetics, Practice and History

Our Work

Cuban Flute Style: Interpretation and Improvisation (Scarecrow Press, 2014) by Dr Sue Miller was the first book worldwide on Cuban flute improvisation and performance practice. It presented original material (five-key flute fingering sets, ethnographic material and annotated transcriptions) alongside a practice-informed history of the Cuban charanga dance band tradition. Dr Miller has since become known as a leading scholar and performer in the field of Cuban and Latin music studies. Her second monograph for the University Press of Mississippi, Improvising Sabor – Afro-Cuban Dance Music in New York (forthcoming) expands on this work through a detailed ethnographic study of Cuban music performance practice in the USA. Dr Sue Miller was awarded a British Academy grant in 2018 to add to this body of work through a production and performance research collaboration recording her band Charanga del Norte with 1950s/60s ribbon microphone technologies live in the studio. This project has international reach and is mentored by US-based Latin musicians Nestor Torres (Latin Grammy winner) and Eddy Zervigón (Orquesta Broadway). Research findings are disseminated through traditional means as well as in digital formats including audio recordings (Charanga Time 2017 and Improvising Sabor 2019), and live performance documentary film. A film animation collaboration with Cuban dancer-animator Guillermo Davis investigating music and gesture in the context of Cuban music and dance has resulted in the production of an audio recording based on this practice-as-research (Atilana, 2015), a journal article entitled ‘Moonwalking, Swiss Chachachá and the Macuta Dance: Music and Dance Relationships in Improvised Choreographed Performance’ (under review for the Journal of the Society of American Music Society JSAM) and an animation film short production Atilana (in progress 2019).

Our Impact

Dr Miller is an internationally recognised leading scholar in the field of ethnomusicology (history, analysis and performance) with a specialism in Cuban music and Latin music in the USA. In academic journal reviews her work has been described as ‘pioneering’ (Jazz Journal), and ‘without precedent’ (ARSC). Nestor Torres, renowned Cuban flute improviser based in Miami, has also stated that her first book’s ‘historical, cultural, and pedagogical value cannot be overstated.’ Leading scholar in the field of Cuban music studies, Professor Robin Moore (University of Texas, Austin), in the preface to Cuban Flute Style, commends her work for being ‘exactly the sort of publication that is needed in the new millennium’ as it ‘provides important documentation of musical traditions whose influence can be seen not only in the Caribbean, but around the world.’ The reader’s report for her second monograph Improvising Sabor similarly comments on her valuable contribution to improvisation studies, stating ‘It contributes namely to the field of Cuban and Latin music performance studies,’ which ‘will set an important marker for others to follow as this field will surely grow as more students are exposed to books such as this one.’

Dr Miller’s work combines performance, music analysis, ethnography and music history addressing both academic and more public-facing audiences. Dr Miller’s professional band Charanga del Norte which she founded in 1998. Has undertaken UK-wide tours and as a soloist she has performed internationally with other renowned Latin bands in Havana and New York; over a 20 year period her work has been disseminated to a wide international public.

Dr Miller’s books combine performance-led research with musical analytical work, cultural theory and (ethno)musicological methodologies. With excellent reviews in academic journals (Ethnomusicology Forum, Association of Recorded Sound Collections, Jazz Journal), specialist press (Flute Journal, British Flute society, Jazz Journal) and public sites (Amazon 5* reviews) Dr Miller’s work has clear beneficiaries in terms of readers, audiences, promoters and performers. Additionally her articles ‘Cuban Son’ and ‘Guajira’ in The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World (EPMOW): Part 3 Genres (Caribbean and  Latin American Genres) have also disseminated her work internationally and prove that her research has impact in the wider public domain as well as within the scholarly community.

Dr Miller’s ability to combine traditional written scholarly work of world-leading quality with professional level performance and outreach work provides a cohesive and logical research trajectory with dissemination and impact within and without academia.

Next Steps

  • Publication of Improvising Sabor: Afro-Cuban Dance Music in New York, under contract to the University Press of Mississippi in 2019
  • Completion of British Academy Project in March 2020
  • Commission to write a book chapter ‘Latin Gainsbourg’ in Gainsbourg (ed. Olivier Julien (Sorbonne, Paris University) and Olivier Bourderionnet (University of New Orleans) for publication in 2020
  • World Premiere of co-production animation short Atilana 2019/20
  • British Academy researchjournal articles.
  • Release of recordings by Sue Miller and Her Charanga del Norte Improvising Sabor (2019) to accompany the new book.
  • Expansion of work on music and gesture (interdisciplinary music dance and animation) with possible AHRC large bid.
  • Special Issue Journal Recontextualising Ragtime co-edited by Dr Sue Miller and Professor Rachel Cowgill, 2020/2021.

Research Outputs

Plus Icon Books
  • Cuban Flute Style: Interpretation and Improvisation, Scarecrow Press, 2014.
    ISBN 978-0-8108-8441-0 Published.
  • Improvising Sabor: Afro-Cuban Dance Music in New York, under contract to the University Press of Mississippi, forthcoming 2019.
Plus Icon Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles
  • ‘Moonwalking, Swiss Chachachá and the Macuta Dance: Music and Dance Relationships in Improvised/Choreographed Performance’ submitted to Black Music Research, 2017. Under Review.
  • ‘Innovation, Creativity and the Típico Tradition in New York’ submitted to Latin American Music Review, 2017. Under Review.
Plus Icon Book Chapters
  • ‘’Latin’ Gainsbourg and the Parisian Nightclub Scene’ in a volume on the music of Serge Gainsbourg SergeG edited by Dr Olivier Julien (Sorbonne, Paris University) and Dr Olivier Bourderionnet (University of New Orleans) Forthcoming.
  • ‘Activating Improvisational Creativity in the Performance of ‘World’ and ‘Popular’ Music’ in Burnard, P. and Haddon E., (eds.) Activating Diverse Creativities for Changing Higher Music Education: Contemporary Research and Practices. Bloomsbury 2015 (published).
  • ‘El Danzón Ingles?’ Book chapter in Spanish accepted for publication in El Libro del Danzón edited by Alicia Valdés, Cuban musicologist at UNEAC. Cuban publisher Ediciones Unión, Havana, Cuba. Forthcoming
Plus Icon Articles
  • ‘Cuban Son’ and ‘Guajira’ in The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World (EPMOW): Part 3 Genres(Caribbean and  Latin American Genres). Bloomsbury 2014, pp. 782-794, and pp. 337-341. ISBN 978-1-4411-4197-2. Published.
Plus Icon Selected Performances
  • 2019 Charanga del Norte, Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds.
  • 2018 Charanga del Norte, Senate House, London
  • 2017 Charanga del Norte, Seven Arts, Leeds
  • 2016 Charanga del Norte, The Big Weekend, Cambridge and Cambridge Jazz Festival
  • 2009 Charanga del Norte in Victoria Park, London with Orquesta Aragón & Changüi de Guantánamo (Barbican booking).
  • 2003 Performance with Charanga del Norte at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester supporting Buena Vista Social Club’s Eliades Ochoa on 2 July 2003.
Plus Icon Selected Recordings
  • Sue Miller and her Charanga del Norte, Improvising Sabor, CDN00CD14, June 2019
  • Sue Miller and her Charanga del Norte, Charanga Time, CDN00CD12, June 2017 Published.
  • Charanga del Norte - Charanga Time
  • Sue Miller and her Charanga del Norte, Atilana, CDN00CD11, 2015 Published.


Charanga del Norte - Charanga Time

Charanga Del Norte Live 2017

Media mentions

Plus Icon Online Reviews

Academia.edu Analytics

Websites documenting concerts, reviews, recordings, conferences:



Plus Icon Performance Press Quotes

"Outta Sight!" - Max Salazar (New York Latin Music Historian, author of 'Mambo Kingdom).

"Top-notch music from one of England's leading Latin combos and the only 100 percent genuine charanga and pachanga band in the land. They are making some fine music that stands up shoulder-to-shoulder proudly with the best charanga musicians still around today, like Orquesta Aragon." - The Beat

"Superb UK-based salsa and charanga band" -  Songlines

"Inviting supporting acts to perform with legendary Cuban artists involved in the Buena Vista Social Club project is no easy matter, finding an outfit in the UK that can hold its own with a well-informed audience makes the task all the more difficult...Bridgewater Hall has a reputation for authentic, first class music and Charanga make the grade." - The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

"Latin music, but not as you may know it, this band are deliciously different and incredibly danceable" - The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

Conference Organisation and Special Issue Journal:

Dr Miller co-initiated and co-organised an international conference with Professor Rachel Cowgill entitled ‘Recontextualising Ragtime’ at the University of Huddersfield (6 & 7 May) which drew on her work on Latin influences in jazz and featured leading scholars in music and dance. She organised performances and workshops for this event including a ‘speakeasy’ event at Heritage Quay that was free to the public to attend. Keynote speakers included leading academics in the fields of music and dance, namely Professor Catherine Tackley (University of Liverpool), Associate Professor David Garcia (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Professor Susan C. Cook (University of Wisconsin), Dr Gayle Murchison (William and Mary College University, VA), Dr Vic Gammon (Newcastle University) and Professor Theresa Buckland (Roehampton University). A co-edited special issue journal featuring work and new ideas generated at this conference is planned for 2020/2021.

Website: http://news-archive.hud.ac.uk/news/2017/march/recontextualisingragtimeconnectionsinfluencesperspectives.php

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