Ardal Powell

Hello, I’m Ardal. This website provides information about my research, publications, and other activities.

During a decade in publishing, I spent three years at RILM’s International Center in New York City, helping to develop new products that leverage RILM’s core expertise in data to deploy information about music on dynamic, search-driven digital platforms.

For the previous three years I developed innovative and media-rich music-related publications for mobile devices, computers, and print at my own media startup, Music Word Media.

In the three years before that I was Director of Operations at Pendragon Press, an independent musicology publisher in upstate New York, where I helped grow the company at a consistent annual rate of 40% through the 2008 recession.

In the 90s and aughts, I published extensively on the flute and flute-playing, musical performance practice, and the sociology of musical performance. My book The Flute (Yale University Press, 2001) has a companion website I created at

In 1984 I co-founded Folkers & Powell, Makers of Historical Flutes, from which I retired as President after 25 years in 2009. At that time too I handed off my role after two decades as founding Editor of TRAVERSO, a quarterly historical flute newsletter.

In my spare time (ha!) I do as many things as possible outdoors, including walking, running, sailing, biking, morris dancing, playing golf, swimming, and building dangerously large fires.

Education and Research

After an M.A. English at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and a Certificaat in baroque flute at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, I received the Ph.D. in Music from Cambridge in 2004.

In my academic work I’m interested in understanding music as cultural practice in light of recent insights from the sociology and philosophy of art. I focus on the conventions and technologies of performance, listening, writing, teaching, theory, and talk, in both historical and new-media spaces.

I have specialist knowledge in the history of the flute and flute-playing, particularly in the baroque and classical periods, and have published studies of the writings and instruments of J. G. Tromlitz (1725–1805), who wrote about flute-playing and designed and built innovative flutes as well as performing and composing. Having studied and published in conventional historical musicology until the early 2000s, I added social science methodologies to my toolkit and have subsequently read, written, and taught in the tradition of cultural sociology.

My research has been supported by awards including a Fellowship for College Teachers and Independent Scholars from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and presented in several books and a number of articles and conference papers listed in detail on on other pages here. 

I am delighted to teach and mentor students interested in investigating musical performance in its cultural, aesthetic, and historical dimensions.