New Book: Music, Emotion and Identity in Ulster Marching Bands

Gordon Ramsey

Flutes, Drums and Loyal Sons

Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2011. XIV, 334 pp.

Peter Lang Publishing Group




Ulster’s marching bands form perhaps the most vibrant participatory folk music tradition in contemporary Europe, and are one of the most significant and visible elements of working-class loyalist culture in the divided society of Northern Ireland. Their significance springs largely from the central place they have assumed in the lives of their members.
This book presents an ethnography of three County Antrim flute bands from the very different genres of ‘part-music’, ‘melody’ and ‘blood and thunder’. The author explores the emotional rewards of communal music-making and the way that identities are formed through the acquisition of tastes, competences and skills within specific communal contexts, paying particular attention to the impact of class position. These issues are examined in the context of the competitions, concerts and street parades that are central to the social lives of thousands of band members and supporters in Northern Ireland.


Contexts, purposes and methodologies – Music and embodied identities – Parading traditions in Ulster – Part-music flute bands and the contest world – Melody flute bands and the parading world – ‘Flow’, boundary creation and boundary transcendence – Class and aesthetics in Melody and Blood and Thunder flute bands – Music, meaning and politics: identities formed and transformed in practice.

Gordon Ramsey holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology from Queen’s University Belfast for his research into Ulster marching bands. He currently teaches at Queen’s and remains an active musician, performing with two flute bands.

You can order this book here