Rebellious Musicology in Ireland’s Rebel City


So you say you want a revolution?


Ireland has a reputation for rebelliousness, and Cork is its Rebel City. It is no surprise, then, that UCC Department of Music is something of a rebel department, encamped on high ground, towering above UCC’s beautiful central campus on the River Lee.  UCC Music is a bit of a rogue due to its long-held commitment to the equal valuation of all music cultures and traditions, from the classical canon to Irish trad and global traditional musics, popular musics, jazz, and emergent musics. University College Cork’s musicologists set aside the standard music history sequence common to many undergraduate programs at the beginning of the twenty-first century, over a decade before the topic became a scheduled debate at the American Musicological Society annual meeting. We share a radical understanding of music as a human practice that reflects a culture and has the potential to shape it. Our MA in Music and Cultural History is effectively a manifesto for musicologies of the future. It is a revolutionary postgraduate program in musicology.


“My undergraduate education in the USA had focused mostly on giving me a firm grounding in Western music history and theory, without much of an in-depth look into contemporary musicological theories and approaches—for example, critical theory, queer and gender theory, semiotics, etc,” says Caitlin Cashin, a 2010 Music and Cultural History graduate who is pursuing music theatre, directing and stage management. “The MA in Music and Cultural History at UCC delivers a remarkably well-rounded education in musicology, including some interdisciplinary work, and it does so in only one year.”


As a graduate student of Music and Cultural History you will study a diverse range of musics, past and present, from the Western Canon to early music, jazz, film music, and popular musics.  An introduction to performance studies and critical cultural theories, combined with the opportunity to develop fluency with the methodological tools to study manuscripts, use archives, and perform close readings of multimedia texts provides a bouncing off point for your own investigations in music and cultural history. You could explore the meaning and significance of music in the time and place in which it was composed; examine the way music takes on new meanings in new contexts; and interrogate the ways in which music rooted in the past has cultural resonance in the present. Our graduate students write dissertations on the art of the remix; gender representations in Mozart’s Don Giovanni; the mediated experience of the iTunes Music Store; the songs of Jehan de Lescurel in the Roman de Fauvel; intertextuality in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds ; the disciplining of incarcerated bodies through dance.


2009 graduate Áine Mangaoang, PhD, emphasizes the warmth of the research community and the rigor of the training: “Led by a team of musicologists covering a wide range of specialist areas, the MA in Music and Cultural History introduced me to key theoretical frameworks such as gender studies, critical musicology, and performance theory. The welcoming postgrad community at UCC, centered on the weekly Research Seminars, where invited international academics presented some of the most contemporary music research, was instrumental in my musicological progress. I was attracted to this MA programme because of the wide range of musical genres on offer. The imaginative required readings combined with small class size allowed for lively discussion (and often heated debates) among students and staff.  Being part of the academic community at UCC enriched my personal development in a variety of ways. It instilled in me the value of an interdisciplinary approach to research that has stood to me years later as I finish my PhD at the Institute of Popular Music, University of Liverpool.”


You will have frequent opportunities to meet visiting musicologists, ethnomusicologists, composers and performers at the weekly FUAIM music research seminar series. You may be able to attend international conferences without even leaving Cork, for the department regularly hosts such events. These range from special topics like Sexualities, Textualities, Art & Music in Early Modern Italy (2007), Bodies/Music (2010), and 1913-The Art of Noises-2013 (2013), to disciplinary meetings such as those of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, and the radically interdisciplinary, even undisciplined, 2014 meeting of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (UK and Ireland), Worlds of Popular Music.


All of this takes place against a thriving music culture. The Rebel City’s own music history ranges from renowned Irish trad revivalist, Seán Ó Riada, to famed blues-rock guitarist, Rory Gallagher, and our students embody this rich history, performing (and often fusing) pop, edm, rock, jazz, and trad in the city’s unrivalled pub and session scene.  The 2005 European Capital of Culture hosts large-scale international festivals like the Cork Jazz Festival, Cork Folk Festival, East Cork Early Music, West Cork Chamber Music Festival, IndieCork Film and Music Festival, and smaller festivals of avant-garde music and culture, like the Quiet Music Festival, and the Avant.  The city is also home to major performing arts organizations including the Triskel Arts Centre and Cork Opera House (which, radically, rarely stages opera) and UCC Music organizes an unusually varied concert series, including local artist- and musician-led groups that put on sound art, noise music, improvised music, and avant-garde music.


Come talk about a revolution with us.



Melanie L. Marshall, J. Griffith Rollefson


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