John Baily came into ethnomusicology from experimental psychology, with a doctorate on human spatial coordination and motor control from the University of Sussex. In 1973 he became a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology, Queen's University of Belfast, and in collaboration with John Blacking conducted two years of ethnomusicological fieldwork in Afghanistan. In 1978 he was appointed Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at Queen's. From 1984-86 he trained in anthropological film making at the National Film and Television School, and directed the award-winning film Amir: An Afghan refugee musician's life in Peshawar, Pakistan. From 1988-1990 he was Associate Professor in the Centre for Ethnomusicology, Columbia University, New York. He joined Goldsmiths in 1990, and is now Professor of Ethnomusicology and Head of the Afghanistan Music Unit.
Baily's principal research interests are: cognitive ethnomusicology, performance, ethnomusicological film, and music & migration. Now approaching retirement from teaching and administrative duties, he plans to devote the next few years to his Afghan work, for the first two years with a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship.
Three of his research students graduated recently, with theses on tombak drumming in Tehran, Iranian contemporary art music, and the Pontic lyra. Two students still to complete are John Dodson (Theories of Dance: The work of Blacking, Quirey and cognate theories and their potential applications) and Argyro Pavlopoulou (Cretan music: Deviations from the "tradition").