Dr Colin Huehns


Academic Studies - Academic Studies
Research Programmes - Academic Studies

Researcher, violinist and far-Eastern instrument specialist

Colin studied violin with Emanuel Hurwitz. His first experience in music from outside the Western Classical tradition came at King’s College, Cambridge, when he wrote a dissertation on the music of Hunza Valley and Gilgit, Pakistan, an interest which culminated in a PhD thesis awarded by Cambridge University for ‘Music in Northern Pakistan’ in 1992.

He studied composition for at the Academy and has remained active as a composer. Following a three-year British Academy Research Fellowship at Cambridge, Colin spent three years as a student at the Xi’an Music Conservatoire, studying the erhu with the distinguished virtuoso Jin Wei.

Since returning to the UK in 1999, he has taught electives in non-Western, traditional, and folk music at the Academy. He has also taught electives, which include learning the erhu, and Chinese and British members of the dulcimer family. As well as continuing to play the viol, viola, violin, rebec, Renaissance fiddle, and various dulcimers, his main teaching, research, performance, and composition interests now centre on his Chinese instruments, which include some twenty different members of the erhu, yangqin, and Mongolian horsehead fiddle families.

Colin’s erhu performances have included recitals in Munich, Leeds, Cambridge, and Edinburgh, but he is particularly proud of having recorded two CDs of erhu music written especially for him.

Research Statement

Colin is a performer on some thirty different European and Asian stringed instruments, principally members of the violin, erhu, horsehead fiddle, and dulcimer families. For each of these, he devises original performable repertoire: currently he is arranging pieces for the bass Inner Mongolian horsehead fiddle and the English dulcimer.
As part of this research, Colin commissions craftsmen to make historic replicas of important instruments, including, most recently, the Renaissance fiddle depicted in Raphael’s Parnassus in the Papal Apartments in Rome, and a Renaissance dulcimer on the basis of a picture by Zoppo which hangs in the Louvre. Current projects include restoration of a vernacular nineteenth-century English dulcimer, and a horsehead fiddle copied from the specimen in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in the University of Cambridge.  
A fluent Chinese speaker, Colin enjoys reading Chinese literature, both ancient and modern, including the pre-Confucian Book of Songs, which yields occasional mentions of the instruments he plays, and together with depictions in the visual arts, old photographs, and moving image footage, the historical development of these instruments over several thousand years is gradually revealed.  Colin frequently revisits teachers and colleagues in East Asia, in 2014, returning to the Hohhot Fine Arts College in Inner Mongolia to improve his horsehead fiddle technique and his Mongolian.

Staff Finder