Dr. Andrew Barker

The Pseudo-Aristotelian de audibilibus

April 1, 2016

A biographical sketch provided by Dr. Andrew Barker:

A bald summary of my academic career would look something like this. In 1970, after a first degree in Lit. Hum. at Oxford and a PhD in the philosophy of biology at the Australian National University, I joined the University of Warwick’s Philosophy Department as their ancient Greek specialist. I stayed at Warwick till 1992, with a gap between 1976 and 1978 when I taught in the Classics Faculty at Cambridge.

By 1990 I was thinking that I’d like to detach myself from the philosophers and become something more like a regular classicist; so I moved first, in 1992, to the Classics Department at the University of Otago (New Zealand), and from there in 1996 to its counterpart at Birmingham, from which I finally retired in 2008. From 2000 to 2003 I held a British Academy Research Professorship, and in 2005 the Academy elected me as a Fellow.

Early in my time at Cambridge in the 1970s I came across texts in ancient musical theory, a topic on which very few people were working at that time; I was immediately hooked, and have been at it ever since. Since then I have published a ridiculous number of articles and a total of eight books on the practice, literature and theory of music in the ancient world.

In 1993 I founded an international society for the study of Greek and Roman music (called Moisa), whose initial aim was merely to locate others who were interested in the subject world-wide and to put them in touch with one another (there turned out to be surprisingly many of them). In its original form the society lapsed after a couple of years – I was too busy with other things – but thanks very largely to the efforts of colleagues in Italy, Canada and the USA it was re-founded in 2006, on a much more ambitious basis; anyone interested can read all about it on its website (  In 2013 I helped to establish the first specialist journal devoted to research in ancient musicology, Greek and Roman Musical Studies (, of which I am currently the Editor.

Nowadays the discipline is flourishing. There is a healthy number of dedicated specialists (including some very talented scholars whose doctoral research I was lucky enough to supervise at Birmingham), but it has also taken its place on the regular agenda of philosophers, historians of science, students of ancient poetry and drama, social historians, archaeologists, iconologists and many others. Conferences and seminars crop up like mushrooms, and whereas in the 1970s it would have been hard to fill a shelf with relevant publications, a glance at the bibliographies on the Moisa website will show that there are now enough to stock a small library. There are plenty of people well able to carry the work forward without me now, but I don’t plan to pack it in just yet.


Dr. Andrew Barker will speak at the Sound and Auditory Culture in Ancient Greece and Rome conference,  to be hosted by the department of classical studies on April 1, 2016 from 11am-12:15pm in SS 2205 A/B. Presenting a talk titled “The Pseudo-Aristotelian de audibilibus,” Dr. Barker will speak about the authorship, meaning, and significance of one of the earliest scientific works dedicated to the production, dissemination, and perception of sound. Poster Program2