By Merrick Powell. Merrick is a recent PhD Graduate in the Music, Sound and Performance lab group at Macquarie University. Follow Merrick on twitter

Only in the last couple of weeks, since receiving the confirmation of my PhD thesis completion, have I been able to take myself back into the headspace of what it was like to complete my research thesis project. I undertook my PhD between December 2019 and December 2022. This meant that the vast majority of the project was impacted by COVID in one way or another. 

Having been involved in the Music, Sound and Performance lab group at Macquarie University since 2017, I was very familiar with my supervisors, fellow students, and general surroundings when undertaking my PhD. I had written an Honours thesis and a Masters thesis on a similar topic – investigating the different functions that violently themed music serve for its fans – and was ready to undertake a bigger research program and some larger-scale projects in the same field. However, after about three months doing some background reading and developing some early research designs, all project ideas started to have the same final sign-off question: “Do we think that is possible to do online?” 

I do not want to bring up too many challenging memories for anyone by focusing on the challenges of COVID in this post. One thing that I do want to do is reflect upon the strange feeling of being highly aware of the functions that music was serving for me during this time, while researching a very similar topic. Much excellent research from AMPS members in the last two or three years has investigated the important of music during lockdowns. As well as giving me a very big project to do to pass the time, music gave me ways to maintain connection with my friends and colleagues whether it was through talking about records at out weekly ‘albums club’, through online song writing sessions over Zoom, listening to music while cooking, as well as serving many other personal and emotional functions.

Conducting a three-year research project over COVID was a challenge, but it also provided many upsides. It provided me with something to create a routine around, it facilitated creative thinking about how to answer our research questions outside the lab, but most importantly, it brought me face-to-face with the importance of this topic that we are all so passionate about. In the end, it was a really enjoyable process. Having said that, I am also very excited to get back into the lab and for some more face-to-face catchups this year and beyond! 

Read one of Merrick’s latest publications here.