June 4, 2014 by Amy Ryall
On 30 May, a group of academics, musicians and academic musicians got together at the Library Theatre in Sheffield for an event about the use of historical research in music. Andrew Heath, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of History has been working with Pete David, lead singer of Americana band The Payroll Union for the past few months. The project, Faith and Fear in Philadelphia, will culminate in an album which follows the sometimes violent development of the city of Philadelphia in the nineteenth century. For the event, Andrew and Pete were joined by other musicians who use history in their songwriting, and in some cases are researchers themselves. Gregory S Davies fronts the Gregory S Davies Band and is also studying for a PhD in American History looking at landscape, community and the nineteenth century Far West at the University of Strathclyde. Folk musician Michael J Tinker is currently performing with his band Bright Season and is also working on an album and tour project using stories from the First World War. Billy Coleman is a PhD researcher at University College London looking at music and political culture in the USA from the early republic to the Civil War. He is also a musician.
The evening began with a panel, chaired by writer Rob Barker from Planisher bringing together the various people involved to discuss the process and execution of their work, both as musicians and academics, with musical interludes from Billy, Michael and Greg.
From l-r, Billy Coleman, Michael J Tinker, Pete David, Rob Barker, Gregory S Davies and Andrew Heath
In response to the event, Alex Woodall, a museum interpretation consultant and PhD researcher at the University of Leicester wrote this blog. which sums up the event as well as engaging with some of the deeper questions raised by public engagement between academics and those outside the academy.