1st Edition

England’s Folk Revival and the Problem of Identity in Traditional Music

By Joseph Williams Copyright 2023
    230 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    230 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Establishing an intersection between the fields of traditional music studies, English folk music history and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, this book responds to the problematic emphasis on cultural identity in the way traditional music is understood and valued.

    Williams locates the roots of contemporary definitions of traditional music, including UNESCO-designated intangible cultural heritage, in the theory of English folk music developed in 1907 by Cecil Sharp. Through a combination of Deleuzian philosophical analysis and historical revision of England’s folk revival of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, Williams makes a compelling argument that identity is a restrictive ideology that runs counter to the material processes of traditional music’s production. Williams reimagines Sharp’s appropriation of Darwinian evolutionary concepts, asking what it would mean today to say that traditional music ‘evolves’, in light of recent advances in evolutionary theory. The book ultimately advances a concept of traditional music that eschews the term’s long-standing ontological and axiological foundations in the principle of identity.

    For scholars and graduate students in musicology, cultural studies, and ethnomusicology, the book is an ambitious and provocative challenge to entrenched habits of thought in the study of traditional music and the historiography of England’s folk revival.

    Part 1: The Problem of Identity in Traditional Music

    • Chapter 1: Epistemologies of Identity in Traditional Music
    • Chapter 2: Epistemologies of Identity in England’s Folk Revival
    • Chapter 3: The Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari and its Value for Rethinking Traditional Music
    • Chapter 4: The Conceptual Territory of Nationalism and the Territorialization of Traditional Music

    Part 2: Majoritarian Identities and Minor Musics in England’s Folk Revival

    • Chapter 5: Nationalism, Regionalism, Globalism and the Infinite Regress of Identity in Minor Musics
    • Chapter 6: Songs of the West: English Folk Music and the Celtic Imaginary
    • Chapter 7: Songs of the Open Road: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Music and the Interculturality of English Traditions
    • Chapter 8: Music of the Waters: English Sea Chanties and the Black Atlantic

    Part 3: Traditional Music, Affect and the Folding of Dividual Subjectivities

    • Chapter 9: Frank Kidson: Vital Melodies and the Intensity of History
    • Chapter 10: Lucy Broadwood: Collecting Beautiful Mysteries

    Part 4: Evolutionary Thought and the Rhizomatic Production of Traditional Music

    • Chapter 11: Lines and Lineages: Arborescent Evolutionary Theories of Traditional Music
    • Chapter 12: From Chaos to Song: Towards a Rhizomatic Evolutionary Theory of Traditional Music


    Joseph Williams is a Musicologist, currently working as a sessional academic at Western Sydney University. His research interests include traditional music, music and philosophy, and street music. He is a member of the International Council for Traditional Music and the Musicological Society of Australia.