Dr Thomas McKean
Dr Thomas McKean

Dr Thomas McKean

PhD, University of Edinburgh (1993); AB, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH (1983)

Lecturer

About

The Elphinstone Institute MacRobert Building King's College Aberdeen AB24 5UA

Biography

I am a folklorist specializing in Scots and Gaelic song, along with custom and belief, community craft traditions and their relevance in today's world, and fieldwork methodology. Of particular interest is the relationship of traditional practices to the individual, the role of creativity in tradition, and how traditional skills can help build individual and community resilience in challenging times.

As part of the James Madison Carpenter Project team, I have been working with cylinder and disc recordings of North-East singers made between 1929 and 1935, leading towards publication of a critical edition of the collection. The project has been funded by the British Academy and the National Endowment for the Humanities under the auspices of the American Folklore Society, and in association with the Library of Congress, Washington, DC (www.abdn.ac.uk/elphinstone/carpenter).

Ongoing research with boatbuilding traditions looks at the idea of 'knowing by doing': how people young and old learn embodied craft skills by imitation, proximity, and osmosis, and how these skills enhance people's cultural confidence and self esteem.

My postgraduate teaching includes Custom and Belief, Scots and Gaelic Song, along with Fieldwork and Archiving methodology. I have organized a number of conferences, including the 1999 and 2007 Kommission für Volksdichtung ballad conference.

In 1993, I established the North East Folklore Archive at Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire as part of my work as Traditional Music Resident for Banff and Buchan District Council (now Aberdeeenshire), 1993-1996. The archive has continued to develop under the direction of Gavin Sutherland and much of my fieldwork material is now available on the web at the Banff and Buchan Collection.

Research

Current Research

Current research includes:

  • Scotland's fire festivals, particularly the burning of the Clavie in Burghead, Moray;
  • Creativity within traditional forms
  • Craft traditions and knowing by doing
  • New England vernacular architecture;
  • The effects of field collection in the North-East;
  • Macaronic song traditions;
  • The relationship of memory and song in west coast Gaelic communities.
Publications

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  • Whose Meaning Is It Anyway?

    McKean, T.
    Contributions to Conferences: Papers
  • MULTI-LAYERED COMMUNICATION AND FUNCTION IN SCOTTISH TRAVELLER CANT

    Mckean, T. A.
    Traditiones, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 95-121
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The Sound of Silence—Dementia, Language Loss, and Being Heard

    McKean, T.
    Cultural Analysis, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 97-110
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Nawken Culture at the Elphinstone Institute: Our Work with the Traveller Community

    McKean, T.
    Contributions to Conferences: Papers
  • When old sea shanties go viral we know that tradition matters

    McKean, T.
    The Conversation
    Contributions to Specialist Publications: Articles
  • Hip-Hop Ballads Made Anew on the Streets of Aberdeen

    McKean, T.
    Street Music and Narrative Traditions. Sergio, B., Luisa, D. G., Thomas A., M. (eds.). Museo Pasqualino, pp. 227-244, 18 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Street Music and Narrative Traditions

    McKean, T., Del Giudice, L. (ed.)
    Museo Internazionale delle Marionette, Palermo, Italy. 200 pages
    Books and Reports: Books
  • That Night in Caperquin: The Agency of Memory in 'The Lass of Roch Royal'

    McKean, T.
    Contributions to Conferences: Papers
  • Willie Mathieson and the Primary Audience for Traditional Song

    McKean, T.
    SAKYTINĖS IR RAŠTO KULTŪROS SAMPYNOS, vol. 55, no. 1, pp. 36-59
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Building Boats, Building Social Resilience

    McKean, T.
    Contributions to Conferences: Papers
  • Oil Wives

    McKean, T.
    Contributions to Conferences: Papers
  • Old Hands + New Hands + Healthy Minds = Happy Men

    McKean, T.
    Contributions to Conferences: Papers
  • Singing Families of Aberdeenshire: Context, Structure and Meaning

    McKean, T. A.
    Ritsumeikan Studies in Language and Culture, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 59-78
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Born in a Bow Tent: An Ambiguous Symbol of Scottish Traveller Identity

    McKean, T.
    Contributions to Conferences: Papers
  • Stories beyond the Text: Contextualizing Narratives and 'The Jolly Beggar'

    McKean, T. A.
    Narrative Cultures, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 208-226)
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Integrating Textures of Life and Song: Constructing Tradition through Narrated Association

    McKean, T.
    Любовь деревенская vs. любовь городская: версия русских народных песен. Huttu-Hiltunen, P., Lukin, K., Stepanova, E. (eds.). Nord Print
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Stories beyond the Text

    McKean, T.
    Contributions to Conferences: Papers
  • Studimi i Folklorit në Kontekst: Baladat, Barkat dhe Festivalet e Zjarrit në Veri të Skocisë

    McKean, T.
    Gjurmime Albanologjike, no. 44, pp. 273-292
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Songs of People on the Move

    Rieuwerts, S., McKean, T. (ed.)
    WVT, Trier. 232 pages
    Books and Reports: Books
  • Stewardship and Evolving Fidelity in a Scottish Fire Festival

    McKean, T.
    Traditiones, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 23-36
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Review of Tales from Highland Perthshire Collected by Lady Evelyn Stewart Murray.

    McKean, T.
    .
    Other Contributions: Other Contributions
  • The Dialect Conundrum in Transcribing Early Sound Recordings

    McKean, T.
    Vom Wunderhorn zum Internet. John, E., Widmaier, T. (eds.). WVT, pp. 209-224, 16 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • Le souvenir des cultures disparues dans l’Écosse gaélique: tradition orale, James Macpherson et la nature de la mémoire

    McKean, T.
    Mémoire, oralité, culture dans les pays celtiques. Rio, J., Chappe, F., Postic, F. (eds.). Presses universitaires de Rennes, pp. 147-165, 19 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • David Atkinson, The English Traditional Ballad: Theory, Method, and Practice

    McKean, T.
    Estudos de Literatura Oral, vol. 13-14, pp. 349-351
    Contributions to Journals: Reviews of Books, Films and Articles
  • Gettin the Wey o a Sang: Creativity in Ballad Singing

    McKean, T.
    Emily Lyle. Fischer, F., Rieuwerts, S. (eds.). WVT, pp. 154-168, 15 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Tradition and Modernity: Gaelic Bards in the Twentieth Century

    McKean, T.
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Entries for Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
  • The Stewarts of Fetterangus and Literate Oral Tradition

    McKean, T.
    The Singer and the Scribe: European Ballad Traditions and European Ballad Cultures, pp. 181-207, 26 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Introduction: The Flowering Thorn, International Ballad Studies

    McKean, T. A.
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Forewords and Postscripts
  • The Flowering Thorn: International Ballad Studies

    McKean, T.
    Utah State University Press, Logan. 394 pages
    Books and Reports: Books
  • Equating Traditional Singers' Terms with Melodic Adaptation

    McKean, T.
    Acta Ethnographica Hungarica, vol. 47, no. 1-2, pp. 91-97
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • 'In a Savage State' or 'Original Purity': The Fieldwork Legacy of James Macpherson

    McKean, T.
    Journal of American Folklore, vol. 114, no. 454, pp. 447-463
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • A Melodic Vocabulary for Ballad Singing in North East Scotland

    McKean, T.
    Balada şi Studiile despra Baladă la Cumpăna dintre Secole / Ballad and Ballad Studies at the Turn of the Century. Constantinescu, N. (ed.). Editura Deliana, pp. 150-155
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • Satire and the Exchange of Song in an Isle of Skye Community

    McKean, T.
    Northeast Folklore. MacDougall, P., Taylor, D. (eds.). University of Maine Press and Maine Folklife Center, pp. 113-136
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • The Making of Child 306

    McKean, T.
    in Bridging the Cultural Divide: Our Common Ballad Heritage. Georg Olms Verlag, pp. 273-290
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • 'You Make Me Dizzy Miss Lizzie': Elizabeth Stewart’s Up-tempo Ballads

    McKean, T.
    Northern Scotland, pp. 103-15
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Celtic music and the growth of the Feis movement in the Scottish Highlands

    McKean, T.
    Western Folklore, vol. 57, pp. 245-259
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Gordon Easton and “The Beggarman” (Child 279/280)

    McKean, T.
    Ballads into Books: The Legacies of Francis James Child. Cheesman, T., Rieuwerts, S. (eds.). Peter Lang, pp. 237-248
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • Gordon Easton’s “The Friendly Ploughing Match at Tyrie”: A Song of Regional, Local and National Identity

    McKean, T.
    Visions and Identities. Tungulist, pp. 101-113, 13 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • A Gaelic Songmaker's Response to an English-Speaking Nation

    McKean, T.
    Oral Tradition, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 3
    Contributions to Journals: Articles

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