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Thomas Cressy

Thomas Cressy

Educational Background

  • MSc (Distinction), Social Anthropology, University of Oxford (2018)

  • MA (Acanthus Music Prize), Musicology, Tokyo University of the Arts (2017)

  • MA (1st Class Hons),  Music, University of Glasgow (2012)


Thomas is currently exploring the academic intersection between anthropology, social theory, and musicology – with a focus on indexicality, affordance theory, and ethnographic approaches to Western art music. His field site for his work has been Japan for the past five years, where he has been researching the Japanese reception and social conceptions of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music in particular. He has also conducted historical and archival work on the music of the foreign trading settlements of 19th century East Asia, and Japanese music conservatoires.  He is currently a first year Ph.D student at Cornell University, where he hopes to delve deeper into Bach studies and historical source based approaches, alongside ethnomusicology and the anthropology of music; as well as developing earlier interests in critical theory, ludomusicology, and the uses of Western art music as a progressive and creative force in rock, metal, jazz, and video game music.

Thomas was born in British Sovereign Cyprus and was educated in Scotland, studying classical guitar and lute with Peter Argondizza. He completed his MA (first class, highest mark of the year) at the University of Glasgow in 2012, submitting a portfolio of compositions supervised by William Sweeney, also submitting a dissertation on the aesthetics and philosophy of Bach’s fugal works and their philosophical relevance to modernity (supervised by John Butt). After securing the MEXT research scholarship from the Japanese government in 2013, he explored the reception history of Bach’s music at Tokyo University of the Arts, while also studying Japanese language at Saitama University. In 2015 he entered the master’s course in musicology at Tokyo University of the Arts, achieving the Acanthus Music Prize in 2017 for his thesis on the reception of Bach’s music in 19th century Japan (written in Japanese) supervised by Kinya Osumi. He has been working as a research assistant for the anthropology department of the University of Oxford between 2017-2018 and completed an MSc there in social anthropology under the supervision of Inge Daniels and Roger Goodman, with a thesis exploring anthropological approaches to Western art music in contemporary Japanese music practices. His work includes several published translations, conference presentations, articles, and book chapters focusing on the music, history, and religion of Japan, and is also currently an administrative assistant for Bach Network.


  • Music


As translator:

  • 東京藝術大学130周年記念(スペシャル・プログラム 戦没学生のメッセージ~戦時下の東京音楽学校・東京美術学校 (Current translation project by Tokyo University of the Arts)

  • Tadashi Isoyama, ‘Secular Cantatas’, in Yo Tomita (ed.), The Cambridge Bach Encyclopedia, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (submitted in 2014, publication forthcoming).

  • Hidemi Suzuki, Commentary on Johann Sebastian Bach's 6 Unaccompanied Cello Suites (translation currently underway, book originally published as Mubansō chero kumikyoku kaisetsu by Tokyo Shoseki in 2009).

  • Tanaka Shōhei ‘Incentive for the Idea of Just Intonation’ Tanaka Shōhei Translation Workshop Collection, (submitted for publication, based on a workshop in Wadham College, University of Oxford, 13-15 March 2018)

  • Ryuichi Higuchi, My Beethoven Pilgrimage and the Missa solemnis, Motto Fine: Tokyo, 2018, CD Booklet, pp. 17-19.

  • Tokyo University of the Arts Archive Centre, Educational Affairs Annual Report, for the years 1905 (Meiji 38) to 1915 (Taishō 4), 2016,

  • Tokyo University of the Arts Archive Centre, Rhapsody of Youth (Wakakihi no Kyoushikyoku) by Yamada Kōsaku, the Handwritten Manuscript, 2017,

  • Tokyo University of the Arts Archive Centre, Educational Affairs Annual Report, for the years 1887 (Meiji 20) to 1904 (Meiji 37), 2016,

  • Ryuichi Higuchi, My Bach Pilgrimage and the “St. Matthew Passion”, N&F Co., Ltd: Tokyo, 2016, CD Booklet, pp. 54–57.

  • Tokyo University of the Arts Archive Centre, Yoshimoto Kōzō’s Photographs of the Russo–Japanese War, 2016,

  • Tokyo University of the Arts Archive Centre, “Songs” Composed by the Tokyo Academy of Music School, 2016,

As author:

  • Thomas Cressy, ‘Bach Reception in Japan’, in Yo Tomita (ed.), The Cambridge Bach Encyclopedia, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (publication forthcoming).

  • Thomas Cressy, ‘Axial Age Japan’, in Daniel Mullins and Daniel Hoyer (ed.) Seshat History of the Axial Age, Beresta Books, 2018 (publication forthcoming)

  • Thomas Cressy ‘Bach in early Shōwa period Japan (1926-1945): the first performances of large scale works, and the perceptions of Bach as a German national icon’, Transcultural Traditions in Music, Oxford University Press (Publication predicted for 2018, submitted in November 2017)

  • Thomas Cressy, ‘Eighth Johann Sebastian Bach Dialogue Meeting’, National Early Music Association Newsletter, March 2018

  • Thomas Cressy, ‘The Case of Bach and Japan: Some Concepts and Their Possible Significance’, Understanding Bach 11, Bach Network UK, 2016 (this essay was also discussed on Iowa Public Radio on 3 October 2016: 

  • Thomas Cressy,  ‘The Tokyo Music School and the Beginnings of Bach in Japan’, The 11th International Symposium on the Comparative Study of Chinese and Japanese Music Essay Collection, China: Xinjiang Institute of the Arts, 2015, pp. 163–173.