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School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Courtney Nicole Reed

Photo of Courtney Nicole Reed for interview page
Tell us about your work

I am a part of the Centre for Digital Music, where I work with Dr. Andrew McPherson in the Augmented Instruments Lab. My PhD research exists in several different realms, such as cognitive science, interaction and design, and signal processing. I focus on vocal performance and how a singer can use their personal experience and relationship with their body (which is also their instrument!) to create emotional musical expression, maintain healthy singing habits, and adapt when something goes wrong. I am working currently with surface electromyography (EMG); as a biosignal, EMG measures the electrical neural impulses of the muscles before contraction, which can tell us not only how someone moves but also their intention to move. In this case, EMG can reflect a singer's intention to use different physical techniques and their application of musical imagery to rehearse or perform. Through this work, I hope to learn more about how we learn to sing and also to develop new controllers and interactive methods for singers to use their physical techniques (and not just the sound of their voice) for creating and manipulating digital audio synthesis, and play with their embodied relationship to their voice.

Tell us how you got into Electronic Engineering and Computer Science? 

During my undergraduate programme, I studied music technology in addition to more traditional vocal performance. I became really interested in digital audio and sound design and worked for a while in the video game industry as well as a freelance sound designer for digital instrument libraries, in films, and in art installations. I began to teach myself some methods of audio programming through these jobs and started working backwards from this niche application to broader computer science topics which have musical relevance, such as app development, digital signal processing, and procedural programming.


What brought you to Queen Mary?  

I had previously lived abroad and loved the experience, so I decided that, if I were going to get my MSc, I would go abroad to do so. In my process of searching for a university outside of the US (where I'm originally from) with a well-known and highly-respected Computer Science programme, I ALSO found that QMUL was home to the Centre for Digital Music and has many exceptional audio and music related programmes and courses, so I felt I would fit in very well. Apparently, I fit in so well that I am still here, about halfway through my PhD, and feel that I have found a home-away-from-home in London and in EECS. 


What’s the best thing about your work?  

The people I work with are the best part of my work by far. I am completely ecstatic that I get to work on this very interdisciplinary project, and the people in my lab are the most inspirational bunch I've ever met by far. They are very supportive, and I have had so many opportunities to extend my work not only through academia, but also to reach out into the community for performances, workshop leadership, and other creative and artistic roles. I always look forward to our weekly meetings and the collaboration and fun we have together. I am so lucky to be around others who constantly look to build each other up and do increasingly impactful (and super awesome) projects together - all my love to the AIL.


When not at EECS, what are your interests?

I am also a professional musician - I have been trained in the Italian and German styles of opera as a mezzo soprano and regularly perform with the London Philharmonic, several chamber choirs, and as a soloist in London. I also play French horn - not very well, but I love it! I also enjoy cycling, playing video games, travelling (under non-COVID circumstances of course), drinking lots and lots of coffee, and bothering my cat, Marble.