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Dr Joseph O'Connell

Dr Joseph O'Connell



I am a specialist in popular music studies, with particular interest in punk rock, politics, and performer presentation and experience. I have conducted historical research on political rock during the Thatcher era and fieldwork on contemporary underground music-making and performance. I am also a conservatoire-trained clarinettist and self-taught guitarist, and have wide experience of performance in classical and popular contexts.

My teaching reflects my research and performance interests, taking in popular music history and analysis, jazz, and the intersection of music and politics. 



  • 2014: PhD (Music), Cardiff University
  • 2010: MA (Music, Culture and Politics), Cardiff University
  • 2007: BMus, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Academic positions

  • 2018 - present: Lecturer, Cardiff University School of Music
  • 2015 - 2018: Associate Lecturer, Cardiff University School of Music

Speaking engagements

  • '"Suffer Louder": the cultural politics of the American mathcore canon', Metal Punk Conference, De Montfort University, Leicester, December 2018
  • 'Rethinking Live Aid: a Social Mo(ve)ment?' (Key note), Music and Social Movements Symposium, Northumbria University, November 2018
  • '"The undiluted squash of UK math rock": the Performer's View of ArcTanGent', Crosstown Traffic Conference, University of Huddersfield, September 2018
  • '"Are You With Me Now?": The Sŵn Perfomer's Journey', Past and Present: Local Music Making and the Politics of Popular Music, REDHOUSE Cymru, Merthyr Tydfil, January 2018
  • 'Sŵn: The Performer's Journey', part of panel session, ‘One Weekend in October: The Sŵn Festival, Cardiff’, delivered by members of the Cardiff University Festivals Research Group, CHIME Conference, Siena, May 2017
  • '"Practical Dreamers": Red Wedge and the British State', Music, Political Activism and the State Conference, University of Southampton, April 2016











Year 1: The Full Works (a module which teaches essay writing practice and develops knoweldge of a single work in the Western art or popular music canon: my teaching is based specifically upon the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band); Practical Musicianship I (the core practical module for all BMus students).

Year 2: Music Sounded Out (a double semester module which develops aural analysis skills via the study of four styles of popular music: the blues; Tin Pan Alley; Yorùbá popular music; ambient).

Year 3: Jazz, Culture and Politics (a historical survey of post-WWII jazz styles and performers, which highlights and explores key political and cultural concepts present in jazz discourse); Dissertation supervision (I have supervised a wide range of projects on popular music, jazz and the clarinet).


I have contributed seminars to the MA modules Research Skills, Disciplining Music and Music and Politics. I have also supervised MA dissertations on punk rock and popular music and politics. I co-ordinate the PG Research Forum, at which MA and PhD students discuss issues relevant to their research and those raised by the School's John Bird lecture series.

My research interests lie primarily in punk rock, politics and notions of authenticity. My doctoral research examined the ways in which these intersected in Britain during the Thatcher years, taking in performers such as Tom Robinson, Billy Bragg and Crass, as well as the Rock Against Racism movement, Live Aid and the Labour-party supporting group of musicians, Red Wedge. I have written a chapter on Rock Against Racism and the British-Pakistani punk group Alien Kulture for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Punk Rock (OUP, 2020).

My current research concerns math rock, a style of music which draws influence from punk, progressive rock, metal and jazz in terms of sonic and visual aesthetics, and takes a largely DIY approach to performance, recording and distribution. As part of this research I am taking a keen interest in the experience of performers and the current climate of professionalism in underground music-making.


Past projects