Research Projects, Publications and Music

Check out a selection of the books, CDs, and other projects with which our faculty have been involved!

Sparling Reeling Roosters

Reeling Roosters & Dancing Ducks: Celtic Mouth Music

by Heather Sparling

Puirt-a-beul, the Scottish Gaelic term for mouth music, is a toe-tapping and tongue-twisting genre of song that parallels the Celtic instrumental dance tune tradition.

Though puirt-a-beul are popular with both Gaelic-speaking and non-Gaelic speaking audiences, this book offers the first comprehensive study of the genre. Heather Sparling considers how puirt-a-beul compare to other forms of global mouth music and examines its origins, its musical and lyrical characteristics, and its functions.

Sparling brings together years of research, including an array of historical references to puirt-a-beul, interviews with Gaelic singers in both Scotland and Nova Scotia, observations of puirt-a-beul performances on both sides of the Atlantic as well as on recordings, and analysis of melodies and lyrics. Her Nova Scotia viewpoint allows her to consider puirt-a-beul in both its Scottish and diaspora contexts, a perspective that is too often absent in studies of Gaelic song.

Listen to Sparling talk about her book in a series of short interviews.

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Guthan Prìseil: Guthan agus Òrain Gàidheil Cheap Breatainn/Precious Voices: Voices and Songs of the Cape Breton Gael

by Anne Landin

This book features 21 Gaelic songs from Cape Breton.  Each can be heard on the CD packaged with the book while the Gaelic lyrics and English translations can be read on facing pages.  Many have never been published before.  Others were chosen because they tell an interesting story, or because of a singer’s particular style, or because of rare verses not often heard.


folklore-book-cover-chris-macdonald-rushRush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class

Dreaming in Middletown
Chris McDonald

The soundtrack of late 20th-century suburbia “A well-researched, provocative glimpse into one of the most popular, yet oft-overlooked bands in the history of rock.” —Theo Cateforis, editor of The Rock History Reader

“McDonald makes an important contribution to our understanding of the middle class as a force in North American rock culture, and at the same time offers a pioneering look at one of the most idiosyncratic and influential bands of the past four decades. This book should be welcomed not only by those with an interest in hard and progressive rock, but also by anyone who wishes to understand the role of social class in recent popular culture.” —William Echard, Carleton University, author of Neil Young and the Poetics of Energy

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Folklore of Nova Scotia

Folklore of NS Cover.inddBy Mary L. Fraser

Introduction by Ian Brodie

Mary Fraser was a pioneer in researching and recording the folklore of Cape Breton and eastern Nova Scotia, and this book is an invaluable source for the legends of rural Nova Scotians. Scottish, Acadian and Mi’qmaq traditions are all included.

Writes Ian Brodie in the introduction: “Folklore of Nova Scotia is a flawed, wonderful book — or a wonderfully flawed book. As I read, I alternate between exasperation and delight: exasperation from its romanticism, delight from its embrace of the contemporary; exasperation from its prejudices, delight from its efforts at multiculturalism … It is a documentary snapshot of a part of Nova Scotia’s cultural history that was changing before the author’s eyes.”

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Discovering Cape Breton Folklore

folklore-folkloreBy Richard MacKinnon
For more than two decades, Richard MacKinnon — Canada Research Chair in Intangible Cultural Heritage, Cape Breton University — has researched Cape Breton’s rich cultural heritage: from protest songs to company houses, from co-operative housing to nicknames, from log buildings to cockfighting.

In Discovering Cape Breton Folklore, professor MacKinnon revists some of his research and exposes us to some new.



Welta’q “It Sounds Good”: Historic Recordings of the Mi’kmaq

folklore-cd-cover-weltaqProduced by ethnomusicologist Janice Esther Tulk, Welta’q: “It Sounds Good”: Historic Recordings of the Mi’kmaq will feature important archival recordings from institutions across Canada, as well as field recordings from private research collections. The vibrant musical life of the Mi’kmaw people will be showcased through 27 tracks, including traditional Mi’kmaw songs, songs by the first Mi’kmaw powwow drum group, fiddle tunes and folksongs, hymns and anthems, a lullaby, and the story of Mi’kmwesu – the flute-playing trickster.

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Around the web…

ccbs-cd-cover-lauchie-gillisLauchie Gillis – Butcher and Bard

On Maritime Magazine, the story of one man’s musical legacy, and what it continues to mean to his family, and to a new generation of musicians. More

Celebration of a culture, a voice and a language: Lauchie Gillis CD Release. More



One God, One Aim, One Destiny

ccbs-pub-one-god-one-aim-one-destinyThe story of African settlement in Cape Breton was largely undocumented and on the verge of disappearing. In 2006, the African Nova Scotian community in Glace Bay decided to restore its Universal Negro Improvement Association hall, a vital part of the social life of their community in the early part of the 20th century. They created a museum to recognize and celebrate the history of blacks in Cape Breton.




Failte: Airs and Waltzes

ccbs-pub-failte-airs-waltzesThis second CD in the Failte series, Airs and Waltzes, again produced by the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre and its musical director, Kinnon Beaton, is an impressive selection of airs and waltzes previously recorded by many of Cape Breton’s signature Celtic musicians. The CD promises its audience a variety of enjoyable Cape Breton styles: remarkable newer compositions alongside memorable older tunes from the Scottish heritage.



Material Culture Review

Material Culture Review/Revue de la culture matérielle is a scholarly journal that provides a venue for refereed articles and research reports encompassing a range of approaches to interpreting culture through an analysis of people’s relationships to their material world. Critical reviews of books, exhibitions, historic sites, artifact studies and reports on collections encourage the use of material evidence in understanding historical change and continuity.

Publishing in both English and French, MCR/RCM documents cultural artifacts, describing their historical context and role in society. Produced by Cape Breton University’s Canada Research Chair in Intangible Cultural Heritage, in partnership with CBU Press, the journal is published twice annually. MCR/RCM welcomes unsolicited as well as commissioned works.

MCR/RCM is distributed to more than 250 universities, research institutes, museums and libraries in approximately 20 countries. It is indexed in America: History and Life, Journal of American History, Technology and Culture’s “Current Bibliography in the History of Technology” and Annual Bibliography of Ontario History. MCR is also indexed on the CHIP database, available through the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN).

folklore-ukrainian-danceA Cape Breton Story of Ukrainian Dance: From Village to Stage

Exhibit at CBU Art Gallery; curated by visiting scholar Dr. Marcia Ostashewski



Chris McDonald
Assistant Professor, Ethnomusicology

Office: CE251

Phone: 563-1415

Heather Sparling
Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology / Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (Musical Traditions)

Office: CE263B

Phone: 902.563.1242

Marcia Ostashewski
Associate Professor, Ethnomusicology / Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (Communities and Cultures)

Office: CE248

Phone: 563-1810

Kate Dunlay
Lecturer of Celtic Music within the Ethnomusicology Program

Office: Off Campus

Phone: 902.445.9797

Stan Chapman

Kyle MacNeil