Research interests

Dr Simon McKerrell has interdisciplinary research interests focused upon the social semiotics and communication of music, belonging, sectarianism and cultural heritage and how these relate to policy. He is the author of Focus: Scottish Traditional Music (Routledge), and the Co-Editor of both Music as Multimodal Discourse: Media, Power and Protest (Bloomsbury) and Understanding Scotland Musically: Folk, Tradition, Policy (Rutledge). He is currently Head of Music at the International Centre for Music Studies at Newcastle University and has previously held positions at the Universities of Sheffield, Glasgow and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and prior to this worked at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. He is an expert performer of Highland-, Border- and Uilleann-pipes and has toured, taught and performed throughout the world and recorded twelve commercial albums.


Current Projects

I am working on three intersecting areas at present with some basic questions to demonstrate my focus

  • Music and the Public Good
    • How does musical sound construct and support social wellbeing?
    • How best should we measure the efficacy of socially engaged music/arts projects?
    • How does music’s symbolic and cultural capital transfer to social capital gains?
  • Music as Multimodal Communication
    • How does music interact with other modes of communication such as images and text to produce meaning?
    • How best can we understand the multimodal (across different modes of communication) construction of metaphor, synecdoche, metonym, authenticity etc?
    • What are the best theoretical positions to adopt when we stop thinking about music as a sonic object and start considering it as just one mode of human communication?
  • Traditional music as Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)
    • What are the best policies for local, regional and national governments to support local traditional music in a capitalist framework?
    • How does the aesthetic exchange and authenticity in traditional music manifest itself in the creation of economic, cultural and social capital?

These three areas relate to each other primarily through my focus on the communicative and semiotic power of music and its constitutive place in contemporary society.

PLEASE DO GET IN TOUCH if you want to exchange ideas or talk about any of these issues!



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