Academic and Research Page

Dr. Peter Auker discusses his academic work at the University of Nottingham

PhD Research

In December, 2020, I successfully completed my PhD on the composer Benjamin Britten. Examiners’ comments remarked that my thesis ‘makes for compelling reading’, ‘presents a lucid and convincing argument’, offers hitherto unexplored ‘fascinating insights’, ‘shows exceptional versatility in its approach to analytical methodologies’, and ‘makes an important contribution to Benjamin Britten scholarship’.  Specifically,  my thesis examined the composer’s personal engagement with cinema and television, and how this has influenced his operatic work, particularly his 1954 opera, The Turn of the Screw. Working under the guidance of my supervisor, Professor Mervyn Cooke (who has an international reputation in both the fields of Britten Studies and Film Music), the thesis also explored  how subsequent screen versions of this opera have developed up to the present day. My work on this project has entailed extensive archival research at the Britten-Pears archive in Aldeburgh, the British Library, the British Film Institute, and the National Archives, and has also involved interviewing directors Brian Large and Margaret Williams, and Britten’s musical assistant during the 1970s, Colin Matthews, amongst others.

Having successfully concluded my doctoral studies at Nottingham I am now an independent researcher and a member of The Royal Musical Association, currently working on a book about Benjamin Britten for publication by Boydell and Brewer in 2024.

Teaching Summary
Undergraduate Teaching (BMus)

Until the impact of Covid-19 in 2020, I worked as a Teaching Affiliate in the Music Department at Nottingham University, and have prepared and delivered seminars in the following areas:

First Year Repertoire Studies (Opera), October 2015: preparation and delivery of seminars on Benjamin Britten’s television opera (Owen Wingrave).

Third Year Research Module on Britten and Sondheim, 2016: preparation and delivery of seminars on Benjamin Britten operas (Death In Venice and The Turn of the Screw), and on Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd, Company, and Into the Woods). Also, related material on stage directors Jonathan Kent and John Doyle, and musical theatre composers influenced by Sondheim (Robert Lopez, Adam Guettel, and Jason Robert Brown)

Third Year Film Music, March 2018: preparation and delivery of seminars on Kubrick’s use of music in his films, and on film musicals.

Second Year Repertoire Studies (Twentieth Century Music), March 2019: preparation and delivery of seminars on Musical Theatre, covering work by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Lopez and Marx, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Forthcoming in February and March 2020:
Preparation and delivery of more Britten/Sondheim seminars.

In addition to teaching, I also contribute to assessment and marking of assignments within the Music Department.


I received a Louise Dyer Award from Musica Britannica in 2015 to support my research into Britten’s operas.

Academic Conferences and Papers

In January 2016 I delivered a paper at the RMA / BFE Research Students Conference (located at the University of Bangor) entitled The Prelude from Britten’s Owen Wingrave: Methodologies of Music/Cinematic Analysis.

In June 2017 I delivered a paper at Musical Multiplicities, an international Song Stage and Screen Conference hosted by the Guildford School of Acting (University of Surrey) entitled Britten’s The Turn of the Screw – an early TV adaptation, which outlined some of my research into Peter Morley’s 1959 production of the opera.