Senior Lecturer in Irish Traditional Music, Queen's University Belfast

My intellectural interests range across a number of disciplines: economics and quantitative methods, history and sociology, psychoanalysis and critical theory. My early academic training was in economics and history, with a focus on the history of capitalism and Irish agrarian history. I then spent five years as the Traditional Arts Officer of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and my academic interests evolved to the cultural and historical contexts of the performance of Irish traditonal music.

My other main passion is fiddle playing. In 1998 I produced and performed on the CD "A Thousand Farewells" with Christine Dowling and Daithi Sproule. More recently, I have collaborated with Úna Monaghan and Ciaran Carson to create "Owenvarragh: A Belfast Circus on the Star Factory" which uses a score by John Cage to create an Irish traditional musical realization of Carson’s literary work. I formed the "Trad Noise Trio" with Úna Monaghan and Ryan Molloy to explore chance determined strategies for performing traditional music devised by composer and programmer Eric Lyon. The group released a CD in 2013 titled "TwentyTwelve."

I am presently working on a general narrative history of Irish traditional music from the death of Turlough Carolan (1738) to the first performance of Riverdance (1994), a work which will serve as the textbook for the classes I teach on the history of Irish traditional music. Over the next few years I will also be researching, reflecting, and writing on the aesthetics of Irish traditional music, and continuing to explore innovative ways of performing.


  • –present
    Senior Lecturer in Irish Traditional Music, Queen's University Belfast


  • 1994 
    University of WIsconsin-Madison, PhD


  • 2014
    Traditional Music and Irish Society: Historical Perspectives, Ashgate
  • 1999
    Tenant Right and Agrarian Society in Ulster, 1600-1870, Irish Academic Press

Grants and Contracts

  • 2012
    Stones in the Field: Traditional Music and Irish Society
    Funding Source: