Francesca Lawson

Professor, Comparative Arts & Letters

3034 JFSB


Curriculum Vitae

Research Areas: , , ,

Teaching Experience

My goal as a teacher is to share my enthusiasm for cultivating the art of deep learning in studying the humanities—an emphasis on what neuro-scientists refer to as “single-tasking.” Consequently, I not only emphasize the value of critical thinking and judgment as we learn the content of each course, but I also encourage students to develop the highly focused skills of deep listening, attentive viewing, close reading, and reflexive analysis in learning how to approach the new and unfamiliar.


My ongoing interest in the relationship between language and music stems from field research on narrative genres in northern China. My research took a different turn when I began to study empirical research on the origins of music and language. The scientific study of music has led me to one of the most perplexing questions facing music scholars today: What is the relationship between the study of music as a product of human culture and the study of musicality as a biological phenomenon?

Selected Publications

2017 The Women of Quyi: Liminal Voices and Androgynous Bodies. SOAS Musicology Series. New York: Routledge, 188 pages.

2011 The Narrative Arts of Tianjin: Between Music and Language. SOAS Musicology Series. Hampshire, UK: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 210 pages.

2020 “Hidden Musicality in Chinese Xiangsheng: A Response to the Call for Interdisciplinary Research in Studying Speech and Song.” Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, Volume 1: 1-9. (2020) 7:24

2020 with Joshua D. Sims and John S. Lawson (co-authors). “When Audiences Become Performers and Speech Becomes Music: New Tools for Analyzing Speech, Song, and Participation in Chinese Crosstalk.” Music & Science, Volume 3: 1-18. DOI: 10.1177/2059204320937986

2018 with Shawn M. Nissen (co-author). “The Significance of the Vocal Signature in Chinese Narrative Performance: A Look at Pitch and Duration Using Praat Acoustic Analysis Software.” Analytical Approaches to World Music Journal. Volume 6 (2): 1-15.

2015 “Music Creating Literature and Literature Creating Music: Luo Yusheng’s Beijing Drum Song Versions of the Story of Yu Boya and Zhong Ziqi.” CHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature 34(2): 115- 138.

2014 “Is Music an Adaptation or a Technology? Ethnomusicological Perspectives from the Analysis of Chinese Shuochang.” Ethnomusicology Forum 23(1): 3-26. (Winner of the 2015 Jaap Kunst Prize for the most influential article written in the field of ethnomusicology during 2014)


Service to the BYU Community is the best way to contribute meaningfully to the functioning of the university and to become acquainted with faculty, staff and students in a way that goes beyond our work in the classroom. As Section Head of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Section, I have seen our program make great strides in promoting a more global perspective in our curriculum and in expanding our online classes, making IHUM classes more diversified and accessible to the BYU student body.

Citizenship assignments

  •  Section Head of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Section, 2014-present
  •  Added 3 new classes outside the Western European and North American traditions: Humanities of East Asia, Humanities of Africa, Humanities of South Asia
  •  Initiated the yearly Humanities Symposium in which students present their scholarly research
  •  Initiated the semi-annual meetings for IHUM majors in order to encourage students to share their work experiences with one another
  • Expanded the online program in IHUM to include online courses for 101, 201, 202 (revised), 240 (archived), and 243
  •  Co-Chair of the Cognitive Ethnomusicology SIG in the Society for Ethnomusicology, 2013-present
  • Organized panels at four international conferences
  •  Overseen a growth in international membership from 5 to currently over 70 members