Skip to content

Atlantic Sounds: Ships and Sailortowns > International Conference and Study Day

International Conference and Study Day

University of Liverpool The International Conference and Study Day are the culmination of the of the AHRC-funded phase of the network, building on the three specialised colloquia in 2013. The International Conference will take place on 14-15 March 2014 at the Foresight Centre, University of Liverpool, UK.

Registration for the conference is now open; priced at £50 for two days and free for registered students, unwaged and retired. Please email us at for more details and a registration form.The deadline for registration is 14 February 2014. Registrations after this date will incur an additional charge of £20.

Keynote speakers

The conference will be addressed by:

Professor J. Revell Carr, Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His research focuses on the importance of travel and commerce in the development of hybrid music and dance cultures around the world. His major interests include sea chanteys, Anglo-American balladry, musical responses to natural disasters, the American folk music revival, and improvisational rock. His first book, Hawaiian Music in Motion: Mariners, Missionaries, and Minstrels, about the development of Hawaiian popular music in the nineteenth century, will be published by the University of Illinois Press in 2014.

Paula J. Johnson, Curator in the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. She was Project Director and Curator for the museum’s permanent exhibition, On the Water: Stories from Maritime America which opened May 2009. Her research specialisms include American maritime history and traditions, maritime occupations and communities and maritime material culture. She has published books and articles on the fisheries of the Chesapeake Bay, traditional work boats and maritime communities. Johnson has served on boards of various organizations including the Council of American Maritime Museums, the Maryland Humanities Council and the National Historic Landmarks Committee of the National Park Service. She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the International Congress of Maritime Museums.

Provisional Programme (14/01/2014)

Friday 14th March

9:00                  Registration

9:45                  Welcome

10:00-11:30     Shanties

Graeme Milne (University of Liverpool) Authenticity, identity and the sea shanty in the early twentieth century

Stephen Powell Rees (Bangor University) J. Glyn Davies (1870-1953) and the Creation of a Welsh Shanty Tradition

Gerry Smyth (Liverpool John Moores University) Ireland and Irishness in the Maritime Musical Imagination of Stan Hugill

11:30               Tea/coffee

12:00-1:00       Panel 1: Film and Journalism

1:00-2:00         Lunch

2:00-3:00         Panel 2: Archives

3:00-4:30         Popular Music 1

Kieran Curran (University of Edinburgh) “Trad”, “Rock” and Planxty's 'The Good Ship Kangaroo'

Marcus O'Dair (Middlesex University) "English upbringing, background Caribbean": the Afro-Caribbean contribution to the Bristol popular music scene

David Laing (University of Liverpool) Singing the Fishing: sea songs in the second English folk revival

4:30                 Tea/coffee

5:00                 Keynote 1 Paula Johnson (Smithsonian National Museum of American History)

6:00                 Evening entertainment

Saturday 15th March

9:00-10:30       Parallel sessions:


Kate Bolgar-Smith (SOAS) Atlantic Soundtracks in London town: tracing musical migrations from the Caribbean to London

John Cowley and Ingrid Kummels (University of London) Caribbean Musical Migrations in the 'Jazz Age': cultural dissemination in a transatlantic political environment

Katherine Reed (University of Florida) Rhythm, Performance, and “Tap-Natch Poet” Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Hybrid Notational Style


Liners and Cruise Ships

David Cashman (Southern Cross University, Australia) Water Music: Music Festivals on Cruise Ships

George Burrows (University of Portsmouth) Fats Waller and the “Carnivalesque”: Ocean Liner Culture and Performance

Laura Tunbridge (University of Manchester) The Politics of Ships Concerts Between the World Wars

10:30               Tea/coffee

11:00-12:30     Parallel sessions:

Song and Dance

Anita Gonzalez (University of Michigan at Ann Arbor) Jigs, Buck Dances, and Sounding the Deck in African American Dance

Heather Sparling (Cape Breton University) Moving Memories: Disaster Songs as Vernacular Commemorations of Death


Maritime Music Cultures

Evangelos Chrysagis (University of Edinburgh) Towards a local ethos: Glasgow and the ethics of music-making

Frances Wilkins (University of Aberdeen) Da Merry Boys O Greenland: Musical Reflections of Shetland’s Maritime Culture

William McCarthy (UNC Wilmington) Different Drummers: Reactions to Indigenous Pacific Music in the Chronicles of Western Voyagers, 1768-1845

12:30-1:30       Lunch

1:30-3:30         Africa and the Americas

Martha Abreu (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil) The Legacies of the Slave Songs: Music and Black Identity in the Post-Abolition Period - Brazil and the United States

Sara McGuinness (University of West London) Musical encounters in London: Congo and Cuba two musics, one groove

Amanda Villepastour (Cardiff University) Performing memory: reconstructing a transatlantic sea goddess through song

Cynthia Schmidt Coastal Networks and Local Hubs: Situating Early African Popular Music of the Kru Seamen from Freetown to Cape Town

3:30                 Tea/coffee

4:00-5:00         Popular Music 2

Lyndsey Hoh (University of Oxford) Aesthetics of Brass: The Transatlantic Sound of a Musical Tradition

Emanuel Nnamani (Cambridge University) From Freetown to Lagos – The Atlantic Tides, Trade and Times of Highlife Music on the West African Coast


5:00                        Keynote 2 Revell Carr (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)


6:00                        CLOSE 

Call for papers

Topics that speakers might address include:

• musical aspects of seafaring labour, from sea-shanties to cruise ship performance
• music in maritime heritage and tourism, including museums
• aspects of both the production and consumption of music on ships
• distinctions between amateur and professional performance
• musical elements in migration, cross-cultural encounters and diaspora
• national identities and nationalism: what are the implications for these of intercontinental musical transmission?
• the adaptation of sea songs for use in wider popular culture (and vice versa)
• musical depictions of seafaring
• attempts to censor, sanitise and silence music and lyrics, and resistance to those efforts
• music and enslavement, the slave trade, slavery and resistance
• musical instruments: what was the relationship between the dissemination of music and the manufacture, trade and distribution of instruments?
• has musical globalisation diversified or homogenised?
• methodological questions about reconstructing and recapturing music from the era before recordings or notation
• the place of sea-songs in the folk music revival of the 1960s-70s
• the impact of racial restrictions on ship and on shore, and the implications of these patterns for the development of ‘underground’ musical pathways
• the influence of maritime musical tradition on the World Music phenomenon
• interpretation of the written evidence of song lyrics over extended periods of re-writing and adaptation
• music in sailortowns, particularly but not exclusively in Liverpool


We intend to publish selected papers from the International Conference in an edited volume.