Understanding Scotland musically

Simon McKerrell, Gary West

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this introductory chapter, we set out our practical and theoretical approach to the task of attempting to understand Scotland musically. The changing political and constitutional context in Scotland is discussed, and recognition is given to the importance of social media in the politicisation of musical production and its reception. Taking the stance that culture is a process engaged in by people individually and collectively, we contend that there are certain shared values that underpin the notion of Scotland and Scottishness, and that these are expressed particularly acutely in and through the nation’s musical culture. While recognising that there is increasing porosity between musical genres in Scotland as elsewhere, we argue that musically, the process of re-imagining and constructing a sense of identity and belonging has been overwhelmingly been located in the domain of traditional music. ‘Traditions’ of course exist in art music and popular music, but we assert that Scotland cannot claim a distinctive voice in these genres in the way that many other nations can: for that reason, our focus in this book is mainly on traditional music, past and present.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding Scotland Musically: Folk, Tradition and Policy
EditorsSimon McKerrell, Gary West
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781315467573
ISBN (Print)9781138205222
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


  • Scotland
  • musical production
  • musical culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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