Popular Music

I teach popular music studies to predominantly undergraduate students from the Irish World Academy (along with some other UL  and visiting students).  I particularly love working with first year as it provides a great opportunity to engage with concepts  and ideas dealing with identity, performativity, cultural capital, the music industry, and, of course, the politics of taste.  We cover everything from Adorno to Nic Hornby, The Monkees and Spice Girls to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, drawing upon critical and cultural theory, performance studies and fandom studies.  Here I am ruminating on why music matters in the world and why you might like to come study with us at UL.

Currently, along with my two colleagues in the Popular Music Popular Culture research cluster in UL (Eoin Devereux and Martin Power), we are 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.


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.

Sample publications includes 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.

I’ve also recently published ’Crossroads of Art and Design: Musically Curating and Mediating Irish Cultural Artifacts in Chicago’ in Eire/Ireland Journal Of The Irish American Cultural Institute, (54) 1&2 :82-109, and “Ireland: History, Culture, and Geography of Music” and “Ireland: Modern and Contemporary Performance Practice” in The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Music and Culture, ed. J. Sturman.Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, pp.1194-1200 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781483317731.n383http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781483317731.n384

Currently I’m writing about the staging and performance of Irish music in Chicago from diasporic, ethnic/racial, civic and historical perspective from a contemporary, ethnographic standpoint.



I teach ethnomusicology  at the Irish World Academy.  At the undergrad level, students learn the basics and how to do fieldwork ethically.  At MA level, we study the history of the discipline, key concepts, fieldwork methods and ethnography, contemporary theoretical issues, and world, popular, and vernacular musics.  There are plenty of practical components too, from weekly music ensemble to solo instrumental/vocal tuition in Irish/celtic musics.  Final projects are either full dissertations or half dissertation half performance or ethnographic film, etc. You can read more about the programme here.

If you want to hear  a little more about my work in ethnomusicology, I did a short podcast for the Irish Humanities Alliance which can be found here.

In Sept 2015 my colleague Colin Quigley and I  hosted the first ever joint forum between two of the largest ethnomusicological societies – SEM (Society for Ethnomusicology) and ICTM (International Council for Traditional Music), as well as the 31st Annual ESEM (European Seminar in Ethnomusicology) conference. In July 2015, the Irish World Academy hosted the Bi-Annual ICTM World Conference.