Skip to main content
Dr Stephen Millar

Dr Stephen Millar

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

School of Music

Email
millars3@cardiff.ac.uk
Campuses
Room 0.17, 33-37 Corbett Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF10 3EB

Overview

I am currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow based in the School of Music. My academic work concentrates on the interconnection between music and politics, the aesthetics of ideology, and how this is transmitted through popular culture. I am interested in community music-making and commemoration; music, health, and wellbeing; debates around cultural appropriation; state censorship; and the use of music in conflict, particularly in Northern Ireland.

My first book Sounding Dissent: Rebel Songs, Resistance, and Irish Republicanism was recently published by University of Michigan Press (May 2020) and features in their new series on Music and Social Justice. Sounding Dissent explores how Irish republicans have used rebel songs to resist against the hegemonic power of the British state, using music as a means to understand the history of political violence in Ireland and how this continues to inform and influence the present. My current book project builds upon this earlier work, examining the interconnection between loyalist songs and political violence in Northern Ireland from the Troubles to the present.
­

I am co-editor of Football and Popular Culture: Singing Out from the Stands (Routledge 2021) and have written articles on topics ranging from the censorship of football chants to the role of music in engaging hard to reach young people, and from music as (post)colonial struggle to the cultural politics of indie rock. My articles have been published in a broad range of academic journals, including the British Journal of Music Education, Ethnomusicology Forum, Health and Social Care in the CommunityJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Music & PoliticsPopular MusicPopular Music and Society, and Scottish Affairs

Prior to joining Cardiff University, I taught at Queen’s University Belfast and University College Dublin. I have also held research positions at Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Limerick, and the University of Stirling.

Biography

Education

2017: Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology, Queen’s University Belfast.
2013: M.Phil. in Music, University of Cambridge.
2011: B.Mus. in Music, University of Glasgow.⠀⠀

Honours and awards

2018-21: Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, Cardiff University.  

2016-17: Leverhulme Study Abroad Studentship, University of Limerick.

2013-16: AHRC Doctoral Studentship, Queen’s University Belfast.

2012-13: AHRC Masters Studentship, University of Cambridge. ⠀⠀⠀

Professional memberships

British Association for Irish Studies
British Forum for Ethnomusicology
International Association for the Study of Popular Music 
International Council for Traditional Music 
Society for Ethnomusicology

Academic positions

2018-Present: Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Cardiff University.

2017-18: Postdoctoral Fellow and Lead Researcher on COOL Music, Glasgow Caledonian University.    

2017: Associate Lecturer, University College Dublin.    

2016-17: Visiting Research Fellow, University of Limerick.    

2015-17: Associate Lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast.    

2014-15: Research Assistant, University of Stirling.

Speaking engagements

KEYNOTES AND INVITED TALKS

2020: ‘Loyalist Paramilitaries, Political Song, and Reverberations of Violence’. John Bird Seminar Series, School of Music, Cardiff University, UK.

2020: ‘Sounding Dissent: Rebel Songs, Resistance, and Irish Republicanism’. Online Book Launch, British Forum for Ethnomusicology, UK.

2019: ‘From Belfast to the Somme (and back again): Legitimising Loyalist Paramilitaries through Political Song’. Music Faculty Research Colloquium. University of Oxford, UK.

2019: ‘Rebel Music: Peace, Conflict and (Counter-) Culture Beyond the Troubles’. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security, and Justice Speaker Series. Queen’s University Belfast, UK.

2019: ‘The Role of Music Scholarship in a Post-Truth World’. International Council of Traditional Music. University College Dublin, Ireland.

2018: ‘“COOL Music”: A Bottom-Up Music Intervention for Hard-to-Reach Young People in Scotland’. Developing Health Lives, Glasgow Science Festival. Glasgow Caledonian University, UK.

2017: ‘Music, Sport, and Freedom of Expression’. Sectarianism and its Relation to Hate Crime. Northern Ireland Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition. Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast, UK.

2015: ‘Let the People Sing? Irish Rebel Songs, Sectarianism, and Scotland’s Offensive Behaviour Act’. Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. University of Melbourne, Australia.

2013: ‘Catholic Alterity? Nationalism and Sectarianism in Scotland’. Workshop on Scottish Identity, BBC Broadcasting House, London, UK.

 

SELECTED PRESENTATIONS AND CONFERENCE PAPERS 

2020: ‘From Belfast to the Somme (and back again): Legitimising Loyalist Paramilitaries through Political Song’. ICTM Ireland. University College Cork, Ireland. 

2019: ‘Defending the Red, White, and Blue: Music, Conflict, and the (Re)production of Cultural Memory in Northern Ireland’. Soundscapes of Trauma: Music, Violence, Therapy. Panteon University Athens, Greece.

2018: ‘“Are You Headin’ to The Rock?” Music, Authentication, and Commemoration in Post-Conflict Belfast’. British Forum for Ethnomusicology One-Day Conference. Keele University, UK.

2017: ‘“Music Is My AK-47”: Music, Metaphors, and Paramilitarism in West Belfast’. 62nd Annual Conference of the Society for Ethnomusicology. Marriott Hotel. Denver, USA.

2017: ‘Irish Rebel Songs and the Legacy of Militant Republicanism in Belfast’. 44th Annual World Conference of the International Council of Traditional Music. Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Ireland.

2016: 'Who Fears to Speak of Easter Week? Music, Irish Republicanism, and Marginality'. Music 1916 and After. DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, Dublin, Ireland.

2016: 'Continuity and Commemoration: Irish Rebel Songs and the Repetition of Republican History'. International Council for Traditional Music Annual Conference. St. Patrick’s College, Dublin, Ireland.

2015: 'Performing Boundaries: Ritual, Space, and Song in the Irish Rebel Scene'. Joint British Forum for Ethnomusicology and Société Française d’Ethnomusicologie Annual Conference. Musée du quai Branly. Paris, France.

2015: 'Performing Resistance Within and Against the British State: Irish Rebel Songs and the Embodiment of a Social Identity'. 7th International Doctoral Workshop in Ethnomusicology, University of Hildesheim, Germany.

2015: 'But Do You Really Mean It? Performance, Protest, and the Politics of Rebel Songs in Republican West Belfast'. Songs of Social Protest, University of Limerick, Ireland.

2015: 'But Do You Really Mean It? Performance, Protest, and the Politics of Rebel Songs in Republican West Belfast'. Music Research Seminar. Monash University, Australia.

2015: ‘Performing Boundaries: Ritual, Space, and Song in the Irish Rebel Scene’. Joint British Forum for Ethnomusicology and Société Française d’Ethnomusicologie Annual Conference. Musée du quai Branly. Paris, France.

2014: ‘Lying Your Way to The Truth? Music, Ethnography, and the Limits of Honesty’. 59th Annual Conference of the Society for Ethnomusicology. Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown Hotel. Pittsburgh, USA.

2014: ‘Music and Memory: A Comparative Study of Irish Rebel Bands in Belfast and Glasgow’. IASPM UK and Ireland Biennial Conference, University College Cork, Ireland.

2013: ‘Catholic Alterity? Music, Nationalism and Sectarianism in Scotland’. AHRC/BBC Collaborative Workshop on Scottish Identity, BBC Broadcasting House, London, UK.

2013: ‘Consonance and Dissidents: A Study of the Use and Misuse of “Rebel Songs” in Scottish Society’. Researching Music Censorship. University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Committees and reviewing

2018-Present: Reviewer for the journals Ethnomusicology, Ethnomusicology Forum, MUSICultures, Popular MusicGeoforum, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Managing Sport and Leisure, and Social Enterprise Journal.

2017: Conference co-organiser, Football and Popular Culture, University of Limerick.

2015: Conference co-organiser, Music and Mobilities, University of Oxford.

2014-16: Student committee member, Royal Musical Association.

Publications

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

My current research project focuses on the role Ulster loyalist songs played during the Northern Ireland Troubles (1968-1998). The project unravels the role songs play in inciting violence during war and legitimising structural violence during peace, examining their embeddedness in paramilitarism and inter-communal conflict. It explores why musicians and audiences continue to consume loyalist songs, and how, in the wake of Brexit, such songs form part of a cultural nostalgia for multiple and intersecting imagined pasts, which resonate with the rise of populism in other parts of the world.
 
­

Before joining Cardiff University, I was Lead Researcher on the COOL Music project at Glasgow Caledonian University. The project engaged groups of hard-to-reach young people through participatory music-making, offering alternative approaches to education and literacy, so as to improve their health and wellbeing. Working with community music practitioners in multiply-deprived areas of Scotland, the project helped participants dealing with trauma, while developing transferable skills for further study and future employment.
 
­

I was awarded my Ph.D. from Queen’s University Belfast, where I conducted research on the cultural politics of Irish republicanism in contemporary Northern Ireland. This formed the basis of my first monograph, entitled Sounding Dissent: Rebel Songs, Resistance, and Irish Republicanism (University of Michigan Press, 2020). Combining historical, musical, and ethnographic methods, the book explores how Irish republicans have used rebel songs to resist against the hegemonic power of the British state, using music as a means to understand the history of political violence in Ireland and how this continues to inform and influence the present.