My first book, The British Barbershopper came out in 2005, and the second, Choral Conducting and the Construction of Meaning was published in 2009. Both relied sigificantly on participant-observation for their research - that is, going and hanging out with the people who are making the music in order to understand what they're doing. And just as this fundamentally musical experience was essential for writing the books, the research and analysis that writing them involved continues to feed my practical music-making as director, clinician and arranger.

Anyway, here are details of both, followed by links to my publisher's website, which is the best value place to purchase them.

Choral Conducting and the Construction of Meaning

Choral Conducting book coverIt is a truism in teaching choral conducting that the director should look like s/he wishes the choir to sound. The conductor's physical demeanour has a direct effect on how the choir sings, at a level that is largely unconscious and involuntary.

It is also a matter of simple observation that different choral traditions exhibit not only different styles of vocal production and delivery, but also different gestural vocabularies which are shared not only between conductors within that tradition, but also with the singers. It is as possible to distinguish a gospel choir from a barbershop chorus or a cathedral choir by visual cues alone as it is simply by listening.

But how can these forms of physical communication be explained?

The British Barbershopper: A Study in Socio-Musical Values

bshop book coverBarbershop singing is a distinctive and under-documented facet of Britain's musical landscape. Imported from the USA in the 1960s, it has developed into an active and highly organized musical community characterized by strong social support structures and a proselytizing passion for its particular style.

This style is defined, within the community, in largely music-theoretical terms and is both highly prescriptive and continually contested, but there is also a host of performance traditions that articulate barbershop's identity as a distinct and specific genre.

This book documents and analyses the social and musical practices of this specialized community of music-makers, and extends this analysis to theorize the relationship between music and self-identity.