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Understanding Scotland Musically

As Principal Investigator of Understanding Scotland Musically, Dr Simon McKerrell aims to develop new understandings of how contemporary traditional music is used in the construction of Scottish identity both in performance and through the media. The project was funded by the AHRC’s Early Career Fellowship Scheme.

Devolution in the UK and the rapid expansion of New Europe has led to the increased importance of regional and national identities within the context of globalisation of musical communities. What was once considered kitsch tartanry has been re-mythologised, and now hybrid sounds from Scottish musicians portray a newer, emergent sense of national identity.

Increasingly, musicians are performing deterritorialized and commodified music that shifts attention away from musical provenance and authentic ideology towards more transient sonic identities, and blurs established musical genres. Such changes have powerfully altered Scottish music and identity. This research will investigate how Scottishness is performed in – and as – traditional music at this crucial moment in the public life of an increasingly (dis)United Kingdom.

Understanding Scotland Musically therefore aims to provide a nuanced understanding of the musical politics of identity, and to influence policymakers and stakeholders in challenging older mythologies and representing newly defined regions and minorities in the UK as a whole. It is now available on Amazon

Key research questions

  • how is contemporary traditional music used in the construction of identities in contemporary Scotland?
  • how are these identities constructed as discourse around music, and music-as-discourse?
  • what are the implications of changing Scottish musical identities for national and regional music policies within a changing political context?

If you would like to contribute your point of view on Scottish traditional music or Scottishness, and the discourses that construct those ideas, please email