Music and the Utopian Impulse

As a member of the Ralahaine Centre of Utopian Studies in UL, I’ve become more and more interested in the utopian dimension of music as an art form, but more especially as as a technology of change and hopeful and necessary process.  Drawing on the writings of Ernst Bloch, Tom Moylan, Ruth Levitas, and others, I’m currently examining Sun Ra’s ‘Space is the Place’. I’m also interested in utopian thought as it intersects with my work on protest music and social change (see Songs of Social Protest2018 and other articles relating to protest song).


Urban Soundscapes and Critical Citizenship

I’m part of an interdisciplinary research cluster (founding member) called LimerickSoundscapes. We’re currently made up of ethnomusicologists, urban sociologists, and sound interaction design specialists.   Some of our project work can be found here.  We ran a conference in March 2014 called ‘Urban Soundscapes and Critical Citizenship’.  Publications on this work include the 2015  Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, 2 (1 & 2) special section/edition.  A few more related works are coming out this year (see my publications section). My colleague in MIC, Tony Langlois, and I have been working with students in the National Learning Network and with Men’s Shed on King’s Island on a new tranche of recordings which we hope to upload soon.  We’re also working on developing university modules to help build a support team around this applied project, including this seminar to MA in Sociology students in UL which outlines aspects of the project.


Critical Irish Music Studies

 Irish Music Studies has a long and venerable tradition in Ireland.  What I term ‘Critical Irish Music Studies’ is a way of approaching the study of  Irish (traditional) music (its production/reception, historiography, political economy, aesthetics, identity politics, etc) using critical and cultural theory to prise apart the discourse (and its relationship to practice) and to explore different ways of conceiving and thinking about/performing Irish Music. For more on the MA in Irish Music Studies, click here.

Recent publications include an article in the 2017  Australasian Journal of Irish Studies on the little-known 20th century vocal pedagogue and ethnic entrepreneur, Cecilia Curtin, who frequently performed at events patronized by Archbishop Daniel Mannix (originally from Charleville and famous for his long episcopacy in Melbourne). The research was supported by the 2016 O’Donnell Research Fellowship in Irish Studies at the O’Donnell Library,  Newman College, University of Melbourne.

Currently I’m writing about the staging and performance of Irish music in Chicago from diasporic, ethnic, civic and contemporary global perspectives.



Music, Culture, Society

I’m part of the Popular Music and Popular Culture Research Cluster @ UL,  an interdisciplinary research group working on a variety of popular music and culture projects. Along with with my two PMPC colleagues Eoin Devereux and Martin Power, we are currently developing a new project  ’Musically Mapping Limerick’ or L-Pop for short. As well as documenting and curating memorabilia and interviewing musicians, fans, venue owners, promoters, etc, about the local music scene past and present in the city, we are also going to track national and international solo/band visits to Limerick and find ways to mark all of these sites across the cityscape, physically and virtually.  We intend to create a map that could be used by tourists and locals alike, and eventually, find a dedicated, interactive space where the rich music heritage of Limerick now and into the future may be celebrated on a permanent basis.

We’ve staged events and published Morrissey, Riot Grrl, and Bowie (dealing with fandom, counter-hegemonic stances on class and gender issues, and performance, embodiment and critical, creative processes), as well as Joy Division and various other artists. Past publications include David Bowie: Critical Perspectives with Routledge (2015 and 2016) and Morrissey: Fandom, Representations, Identities with Intellect (2011).  More recent publications include Songs of Social Protest and Heart and Soul: Critical Essay on Joy Division, both with Rowman & Littlefield in 2018.

2019 research includes…

with Martin J.Power, ‘Transcending the Moment: Ideology and Billy Bragg’Journal of Language and Politics, 1-18.

with Martin.J.Power, ‘Hard Hats and Hoodies: The Songs of Two Working-Class, British Protest Singers’ In: The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music and Social Class. London: Bloomsbury Press.

Previous conferences/events held related to the cluster

  • 2015 Atrocity Exhibition: A Symposium on Joy Division, Popular Music, Popular Culture Research Cluster @ UL. University of Limerick, 25th- 26th Nov.
  • 2015 Songs of Social Protest, Popular Music, Popular Culture Research Cluster @ UL and Power Discourse and Society Research Cluster @ UL, University of Limerick, 28th Apr- 1st May
  • 2013 – Riot Grrrl. A One-Day Symposium on Women and Rock, with the Dept. of Sociology, University of Limerick. Apr 16th.
  • 2012 – David Bowie: A Three-Day Symposium on David Bowie, with the Dept. of Sociology, University of Limerick, Oct 26th-28th.
  • 2011 – Morrissey: Fandom, Representations, Identities. Special Event and Book Launch, UL. 20th Sept. With UK Launch. Manchester, Oct 7th.
  • 2009 – The Songs that Saved your Life Again: A Two-Day Symposium on Morrissey, with the Dept. of Sociology, University of Limerick, Apr 24th-25th.

I’m also part of a research cluster in University of Limerick called Power, Discourse and Society @ UL.  We’ve an associated book series  and a 2016 publication, following on from our 2014 conference ‘In the Frame: Public and Political Discourses of Migration’  

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