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Image of Lonán Ó Briain

Lonán Ó Briain

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arts

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Biography

I joined the Department of Music at Nottingham in September 2013 following periods of teaching at the University of Birmingham and the University of Sheffield. I completed my postgraduate studies in ethnomusicology at the University of Sheffield. Prior to developing an interest in this field, I studied music performance at the Royal Northern College of Music, the University of Huddersfield and the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

I am on research leave during the 2016-17 academic year.

Expertise Summary

I've spent four years in Vietnam researching a wide range of musical styles throughout the northern provinces and in the capital, Hanoi. Over the past decade I've been invited to give public talks and lectures on this research in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, China, Japan, France, Germany, Ireland, the UK and the US. My essays have been published in Asian Music, Ethnomusicology Forum, Hmong Studies Journal, Journal of American Folklore, Journal of World Popular Music, Journal of Vietnamese Studies, South East Asia Research and Yearbook for Traditional Music. I'm an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Authority (UK), and I currently serve as chair of the ICTM Ireland and reviews editor for Ethnomusicology Forum.

Teaching Summary

At undergraduate level, I convene the modules 'Music in Asia', 'Global Music Studies' and 'Approaches to Popular Music'. I also supervise undergraduate dissertations in ethnomusicology, world music,… read more

Research Summary

On 2 September 1945, Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence on one of the first Vietnamese language radio broadcasts. One week later a new station under the direction of the Communist Party… read more

Recent Publications

  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2017. Musical Minorities: The Sounds of Hmong Ethnicity in Northern Vietnam. Oxford University Press. (In Press.)
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2016. Domesticated Noise: The Musical Reformation of Identity in Urban Vietnam. Journal of Sonic Studies. 12,
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., J. STOCK AND A. WOOD, 2016. Editorial. Ethnomusicology Forum. 25(1), 1-3
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2016. Review of Frontier Livelihoods: Hmong in the Sino-Vietnamese Borderlands. South East Asia Research. 24(3), 439-40

At undergraduate level, I convene the modules 'Music in Asia', 'Global Music Studies' and 'Approaches to Popular Music'. I also supervise undergraduate dissertations in ethnomusicology, world music, popular music studies and related areas.

At postgraduate level, I am the course director for the MA in Music. I contribute to convening and teaching various modules on this course, and contribute to the supervision and examination of MA and PhD dissertations.

I warmly welcome enquiries from potential research students on topics including East and Southeast Asian performing arts, music in Ireland, ethnomusicological theory and method, popular musics of the world, and music and minority identities.

Current Research

On 2 September 1945, Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence on one of the first Vietnamese language radio broadcasts. One week later a new station under the direction of the Communist Party was established: "This is the Voice of Vietnam, broadcasting from Hanoi, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam." The station rapidly became the central media tool for communication with the public. Political narratives were interspersed between triumphant music with propagandistic messages during times of war. Programming was diversified after the unification of Vietnam in 1976 and again following economic liberalisation policies from the 1980s onwards. Now accessible to over 90% of the population, the station broadcasts on multiple radio, television and Internet based channels to listeners throughout Vietnam. Debates on key regional issues, such as tensions in the South China Sea and the merits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, are framed with the latest popular hits and oldies from the mid-twentieth century. The last remaining early employees of the station are in the latter stages of their lives, and broadcast recordings, diaries, notes and photographs are in danger of being lost forever. Using extensive interview data, participant-observation fieldwork and archival research, my current research is on the history of Vietnamese radio music ensembles. Funding for this research has been provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Past Research

My first book, Musical Minorities: The Sounds of Hmong Ethnicity in Northern Vietnam, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press. The Hmong reside among a culturally diverse range of ethnic minorities who populate the rugged mountains of northern Vietnam. Numbering one million in Vietnam and five million throughout the world, this book comprises the first English-language monograph on their music and the first on the musical culture of one of Vietnam's officially designated minorities. The research traces the circulation of live and recorded musics that northern Vietnamese people recognize as iconic of the Hmong, the minorities, and the mountainous provinces to investigate the politicized manifestations of ethnicity through sound.

Case studies on sounds that reference Hmong ethnicity are the focal point of this study. During the war of independence, the Voice of Vietnam radio used musical stereotypes of the Hmong to engage with the minorities. Later in the twentieth century, indie pop artists appropriated these sonic artifacts to accentuate their own countercultural identities, and nationalist composers assimilated features of Hmong traditional music into their compositions for aesthetic effect. When these propaganda recordings were circulated in the minority regions, many Hmong began to look elsewhere for their cultural needs. From the 1980s, new networking opportunities to connect with minorities in Asia and the diaspora were afforded via shared musical media. Minority language recordings and online materials from this transnational community filtered into Vietnam, causing many there to reconsider their identity from a more global perspective. Christian missionization divided the minorities along religious lines, and new compositions influenced by European missionaries replaced traditional singing styles in converted communities. Minority-themed shows for tourists also became commonplace. These diverse examples shape the fluid social definitions of Hmong and minority identities in Vietnam.

In Musical Minorities, I draw on over three years of ethnographic fieldwork to present a study on the musical constructions of ethnicity in northern Vietnam. The writing moves beyond abstract binaries (e.g. minority versus majority) to look at how and why people take part in musical activities associated with Hmong identity on a daily basis. This approach challenges polarized conceptions of the musical Other through a more nuanced interrogation of key perspectives on the boundaries of ethnicity in Vietnam. Analyses of recordings and interviews throughout the region are used to show how music shapes and is shaped by social identity. This book outlines the full multiplicity of Hmong musics in Vietnam to provide a fascinating account of music, minorities, and the State in a postsocialist context.

  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2017. Musical Minorities: The Sounds of Hmong Ethnicity in Northern Vietnam. Oxford University Press. (In Press.)
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2016. Domesticated Noise: The Musical Reformation of Identity in Urban Vietnam. Journal of Sonic Studies. 12,
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., J. STOCK AND A. WOOD, 2016. Editorial. Ethnomusicology Forum. 25(1), 1-3
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2016. Review of Frontier Livelihoods: Hmong in the Sino-Vietnamese Borderlands. South East Asia Research. 24(3), 439-40
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., J. STOCK AND A. WOOD, 2016. Editorial. Ethnomusicology Forum. 25(2), 143-45
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2016. Reports from ICTM National and Regional Representatives: Ireland. Bulletin of the International Council for Traditional Music. 132, 20-21
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., J. STOCK AND A. WOOD, 2016. Editorial Ethnomusicology Forum. 25(3), 253-254
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2015. Review of Korean Musical Drama: P’ansori and the Making of Tradition in Modernity. Ethnomusicology Ireland.
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., J. STOCK AND T. WIGGINS, 2015. Editorial. Ethnomusicology Forum. 24(1), 1-3
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2015. Vietnam. In: WILLIAMS, S., ed., The Ethnomusicologists' Cookbook, Volume II: Complete Meals from Around the World. Routledge. 44-46
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., J. STOCK AND T. WIGGINS, 2015. Editorial. Ethnomusicology Forum. 24(2), 141-142
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2015. Beyond the Digital Diaspora: YouTube Methodologies, Online Networking, and the Hmong Music Festival. Journal of World Popular Music. 2(2), 289-306
  • Ó BRIAIN, L. AND J. STOCK, 2015. Editorial. Ethnomusicology Forum. 24(3), 301-303
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2013. Qeej Tu Siav (Song of Expiring Life).” Field recording and accompanying liner notes in the compilation, ITCM-Ireland: Fieldwork.
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2012. Review of website, EVIA Digital Archives Project (www.eviada.org). Journal of American Folklore. 125(496), 257-258
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2012. Singing as Social Life: Three Perspectives on Kwv Txhiaj from Vietnam. Hmong Studies Journal. 13(1), 1-26
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2011. Review of Popular Music of Vietnam: the Politics of Remembering, the Economics of Forgetting. Asian Music. 42(1), 134-137
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2011. Getting To Know Each Other. SEM Student News. 2, 9-10
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2010. Review of Songs for the Spirits: Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam. Ethnomusicology Forum. 19(1), 117-119
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2010. Review of The Musical Traditions of Northern Ireland and its Diaspora: Community and Conflict. Yearbook for Traditional Music. 42, 212-214
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2009. Review of CD recording, Vietnam: Vocal Music from the Northern Plains (VDE-Gallo CD 1207). Ethnomusicology Forum. 18(2), 285-287
  • Ó BRIAIN, L., 2008. Finding My Feet. Sheffield Ethnomusicology. 5, 1-2

Department of Music

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