Dr Yvonne Liao

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Faculty of Music; Early Career Fellow, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH); Postdoctoral Associate in the Humanities, St Cross College

BA (Oxon), MA (SOAS & Columbia), PhD (KCL)


Music, diplomacy and international history; music and human geography; music, empire and treaty port colonialism; western musical practices in nineteenth- and twentieth-century China; historiographies East and West; archives


Yvonne re-joined the Faculty in 2017, having read Music as an undergraduate at Christ Church (1999–2002). She worked at Naxos and Universal Music Hong Kong before returning to research in 2012. She completed her doctorate in 2016. In addition to her funded position at the Faculty as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, she is also an Early Career Fellow at TORCH, and a Non-Stipendiary Postdoctoral Associate in the Humanities at St Cross College.


Yvonne is a music historian, whose latest research is concerned with the historical modelling of empire/s and treaty port colonialism in music studies. Within that context she is particularly interested in local perspectives of music and human geography, and global perspectives of music and diplomacy. These perspectives meet and clash in her Leverhulme project, ‘Dissonant Empires: Musical Venues in China’s Treaty Ports, 1880s–1940s’. In juxtaposing local and global perspectives, the project explores the tensions between performance, territoriality and internationalism in multi-colonial treaty ports such as Shanghai and Tianjin. Of equal salience is the epistemological dimension of the project: how the treaty port past is reflected (variously) in historiographies East and West, and in present discourses of East-West encounter.


Yvonne’s teaching has ranged from Issues and Topics in Western Music and Music History from the Middle Ages to c.1780 (King’s College London), Jazz on Film (King’s College London) to Arts in Context and Music Advocacy (Hong Kong Baptist University). In 2015 she co-organised a KCL-funded conference on music, the British empire and the attendant politics of archives. In 2016 she co-organised the LAHP study day ‘(Re)Configuring Sound and Space: Creative Practices and Critical Perspectives’. She has presented at annual meetings of the American Musicological Society, the Royal Musical Association and the Society for Ethnomusicology, as well as in Asia, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University and the University of Hong Kong. Upcoming talks include an International History of East Asia seminar at Oxford’s China Centre, and a keynote at the Royal Musical Association 2019 Research Students Conference. Her article in The Musical Quarterly was awarded the Royal Musical Association 2017 Jerome Roche Prize.



Liao, Y. ‘“Die gute Unterhaltungsmusik”: Landscape, Refugee Cafés, and Sounds of “Little Vienna” in Wartime Shanghai.’ The Musical Quarterly 98/4 (2016): 350–94.

Liao, Y. ‘Empires In Rivalry: Opera Concerts and Foreign Territoriality in Shanghai, 1930–45.’ In Operatic Geographies, edited by Suzanne Aspden. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.



Faculty of Music

St Aldate’s

Oxford OX1 1DB

Yvonne.Liao@music.ox.ac.uk | TORCH profile: http://torch.ox.ac.uk/yvonne-liao