Dr Simon Keegan-Phipps
Department of Music
The University of Sheffield
34 Leavygreave Road
Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 0465
As a passionate advocate for teaching and research that explores music from a range of scholarly perspectives, I'm especially proud to be Head of a Department that boasts such a uniquely diverse variety of approaches to the challenges of understanding, facilitating and creating music. My own work is within the subdiscipline of Ethnomusicology, via which I specialize in the field of contemporary English folk and traditional music. I've published on the ways in which the English folk arts relate to English national identity, with a particular interest in how they are taught, institutionalized and performed in non-traditional contexts. The ways I teach and research therefore involve frequent sojourns in media and communication studies, education theory, critical and cultural theory, politics and sociology.
I graduated in 2002 with a BA in Music from Durham University, where I was subsequently awarded an MA by Research in Ethnomusicology in 2004. After receiving a Doctoral Award from the AHRC in 2003, I completed a PhD in Ethnomusicology at Newcastle University in 2008, with a thesis entitled Teaching Folk; the Educational Institutionalization of Folk Music in Contemporary England. From 2007-9 I worked as the Project Researcher on the AHRC funded project Performing Englishness in New English Folk Music and Dance at the University of Sunderland. I then came to the University of Sheffield as a Teaching Fellow in Ethnomusicology from 2009, before becoming a Lecturer in 2012, and Senior Lecturer in 2017. I’ve previously held roles as Director of Undergraduate Studies in Music, and the Department’s Director of Learning and Teaching, and took up the role of Head of Department in 2018.
My research mainly considers the broad subject of ostensibly "traditional" or "folk" arts in contemporary, modern societies. Within this context, I've focused on the relationships between the post-2000 resurgence of the English folk arts, mainstreaming processes within England's folk music industry and constructions of Englishness. I've also studied the impact of digital media on folk arts participation, and on constructions of tradition in the contemporary, digital world. Other research has included on Balkan identities in Romanian pop music, and on regional identity, educational institutions, Celtic repertories and session culture in the folk music of the North East of England. I've written encyclopaedia entries on Irish music in England, music in the British Isles, folk music and musical transmission; I'm also a founding co-editor of the Open Access International Journal of Traditional Arts. My research in each of the above areas informs my teaching across various modules within the undergraduate ethnomusicology pathway, including 'Traditional Music in the Modern World', and my teaching on our postgraduate programmes in Ethnomusicology, World Music Studies, and Traditional Music of the British Isles.
As a secondary research interest, I study the relationship between music and comedy in contemporary popular culture, and teach on the topic of music and humour within 'Topics in Popular Music'.
I'm interested in the organology of free-reed instruments, and am an experienced performer on the English concertina and piano accordion. I have performed and recorded as a jazz pianist, as well as on trumpet, guitar, ukulele, banjos, mandolins, double bass and percussion.
I was Principal Investigator on the project Digital Folk: Digital Media in Folk Arts Participation, 2014-18. The project – funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council – was a collaboration with Professor David Gauntlett (University of Westminster) and the English Folk Dance and Song Society, and examined the ways in which folk arts participants make use of digital resources, tools and networks in order to learn, collaborate, reinterpret traditional material and create new work. It explores their use of on-line platforms, home-made recordings, and archival resources.
Other plans on the horizon include:
• a collaborative project on the history and meaning of accompaniment in traditional musics of the British Isles
• a book on music, comedy and theories of humour
• a project that considers the contemporary performance of English folk arts beyond England's shores
• a large-scale survey study of “the session” in Anglophone vernacular musics
- (In preparation) [with David Gauntlett and Lucy Wright] Digital Folk: Digital Media in Folk Arts Participation.
- (forthcoming) [with Lucy Wright] ‘Digital Folk’. For the Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning, edited by Stephanie Horsley, Kari Veblen and Janice Waldron.
- (2017) [with Dr. Trish Winter] ‘Albion Voice - the Englishness of Bishi’. for the collection Mad Dogs and Englishness - Popular Music and English Identity, edited by Lee Brooks, Mark Donnelly and Richard Mills. London, Bloomsbury: 193-210.
- (2017) 'Identifying the English: essentialism and multiculturalism in contemporary English folk music'. Ethnomusicology Forum. Vol 26, No. 1: 3-25. https://doi.org/10.1080/17411912.2017.1302809
- (2014) [with Dr. Trish Winter] ‘Contemporary English Folk Music and “the Folk Industry”.’ In The Oxford Handbook of Music Revival, edited by Juniper Hill and Caroline Bithell. New York: Oxford University Press: 489-509.
- (2013) [With Dr. Trish Winter] Performing Englishness: Identity and Politics in a Contemporary Folk Resurgence. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
- (2013) `An Aural Tradition With a Pause Button: recording technology and folk session culture in the North East of England'. Ethnomusicology, Vol 57, No. 1: 34-56.
- (2009)`Folk for Art's Sake: English folk music in the mainstream milieu'. Radical Musicology, http://www.radical-musicology.org.uk/, Newcastle upon Tyne.
- (2007) ‘The educational institutionalization of folk music; déjà vu in a contemporary English movement’. Yearbook for Traditional Music. Vol. 39: 84-107.