Location:Reid School of Music, University of Edinburgh, Alison House, 12 Nicolson Square
Matt Brennan specialises in the interdisciplinary field of popular music studies, and as a musician has written, recorded, and performed in varied popular music contexts. His creative practice informs his work in theorising what ‘making music’ means from historical, sociological, and business perspectives. He is the Chair of the UK/Ireland branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM).
Born and raised in Canada, he studied jazz drums at McGill University before transferring to Mount Allison University, where he completed a BA in English and Philosophy with Distinction. He went on to study with Professor Simon Frith at the University of Stirling, and completed his MSc in Media Research and PhD in Film and Media Studies. His PhD thesis, 'Down Beats and Rolling Stones: An Historical Comparison of American Jazz and Rock Journalism', is available to download here.
Matt’s current research activities focus on live music, the history of the drum kit, and the Musicians’ Union. There is a dramatic shift occurring in the music industries away from the record sales-based paradigm that dominated the last half of the twentieth century, and towards a paradigm that places increased emphasis on live performance (even when it is a 'live' playing of a recorded work). His work responds to this shift through an ongoing collaborative project investigating the social, aesthetic, and business dynamics of live music. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the outcome of the historical component of this work is a three-volume history of live music in Britain since 1950. He is also involved in the Live Music Exchange, which concentrates on knowledge exchange and social engagement via outputs such as a research database, workshops, and mediation services for non-academic stake-holders in live music (e.g. policy makers, concert promoters, local authorities, and artists).
His research on the social history of the drum kit, an ongoing project originally funded by the Leverhulme Trust, uses the drum kit and drummers - and their marginal status in spheres ranging from copyright law to music education - as a lens to rethink the social construction of what it means to ‘make music’. This research aims to show how the meanings of everyday concepts such as ‘musician’, ‘technique’, ‘talent’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘authorship’ have changed over history and up to the present, and what questions this raises for institutions including the music industries and higher education.
His other current work includes an AHRC Culutral Engagement project in collaboration with the Scottish Music Industry Association, and sitting on the steering committee for a four-year (2012-2016) AHRC project on ‘The Musicians’ Union: A Social History’.
This article was published on Oct 30, 2012