This project continues under the direction of me, Dr. Heather Sparling, but was initiated by Prof. Scanlon, who had studied the media representations of disasters and was curious to know how the representations of disasters in songs compared. As an ethnomusicologist, my interests have focused on the social role and value of disaster songs. So, for example, I have been considering how they may be used to assuage personal grief, how they help to change a disaster from being a local event to a national one, how they compare to other types of vernacular responses to death and disaster (such as spontaneous memorials), and how the popular music industry has changed vernacular (or “folk”) songwriting practices. Our third initial partner, Dr. Del Muise, was instrumental in providing the Nova Scotia industrial and cultural context historically, particularly in terms of the mining industry. Please see “Contact” if you wish to get in touch with us.

Heather Sparling is an associate professor of ethnomusicology at Cape Breton University whose early and ongoing research has focused on Gaelic song and Gaelic song culture in Nova Scotia (Sparling 2007a, b, 2008a, b; McDonald and Sparling 2010; Sparling 2011). She is currently working on a book manuscript for Cape Breton University Press about one particular Gaelic song genre.  She is also undertaking a new research project on Cape Breton step dance. She has been conducting fieldwork and interviews in Cape Breton since 1998 and has lived in Sydney since 2005.  She is actively involved in the traditional music community and has taught the Gaelic language locally.

Joe Scanlon is Professor Emeritus at Carleton University who has extensive experience with, and knowledge of, disaster management and behaviour resulting from his 39 years with the Carleton Emergency Communications Research Unit (e.g., Scanlon and Taylor 1977; Scanlon, Brisebois, and Lachance 1980). He has lectured in journalism and political science, and was granted theCharles Fritz award from the International Research Committee on Disasters for his lifetime contribution to Sociology of Disaster. He has written dozens of articles and book chapters in his field (e.g., Scanlon and Jefferson 1975; Scanlon and Handmer 2001; Scanlon 1985, 1997a, b, 2001, 2004).  His interest in songs of death and disaster arose from his earlier research into the 1917 Halifax explosion and the handling of the dead in that incident, as well as from his detailed study of the overseas response to the handling of the dead after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (funded by the US National Science Foundations), and his collaborative study of Canadian mass death incidents (funded by SSHRC and recently completed).  His current work on a SSHRC-funded collaborative project about pandemic death in three Ontario communities relates directly to the proposed project since it includes an examination of how death is portrayed in the media.

Del Muise, a Professor Emeritus from Carleton University, has been involved with Atlantic Canadian history for the past forty years.  He has numerous publications in the area (e.g., Muise 2003), including a co-editorship of one of the major texts in the field (Forbes and Muise 1993).  His publications have ranged over the field of political and economic history, the coal mining industry in the region (Muise and McIntosh 1996), as well as a number of articles dealing with cultural expression in the region (Muise 1998, 2000; Beaton and Muise 2008).  From 2002 to 2009, he directed a graduate program in Public History at Carleton, where he has had a special interest in issues related to collective memory and regional identity.  Within that program, he initiated courses in History and New Media which have resulted in the production of several student-directed websites in collaboration with the Canada Museum of Science and Technology (Dear Ellie: Letters from the WestGuest Children).  He is also a co-investigator in a Community-University Research Alliance project (“Canadians and their Pasts”) which is investigating the ways in which Canadians view and use the past in their everyday lives (Friesen, Muise, and Northrup 2009).

Beaton, Meaghan and Del Muise. 2008. The Canso Causeway: Tartan Tourism, Industrial Development, and the Promise of Progress for Cape Breton. Acadiensis37/2: 39-69.
Forbes, E. R. and D. A. Muise. 1993. The Atlantic Provinces in Confederation. Toronto, ON and Fredericton, NB: University of Toronto Press and Acadiensis.
Friesen, Gerald, Del Muise, and David Northrup. 2009. Variations on the Theme of Remembering: A National Survey of How Canadians Use the Past. Journal of the Canadian Historical Association / Revue de la Société historique du Canada 20/1: 221-48.
McDonald, Chris and Heather Sparling. 2010. Interpretations of Tradition: From Gaelic Song to Celtic Pop. Journal of Popular Music Studies 22/3: 309-328.
Delphin, Muise. 1998. Review Essay: Who Owns our History Anyway: Reinventing Atlantic Canada for Pleasure and Profit. Acadiensis 27/2.
________. 2000. Organizing Historical Memory in the Maritimes: A Reconnaissance.Acadiensis 30/1: 50-60.
________. 2003. Canada: A People’s History: Whose History, What People? Public History Review (Australia) 10: 73-84.
Muise, Delphin and Robert McIntosh. 1996. Coal Mining in Canada: A Historical and Comparative Overview. Transformation series/Collection transformation. Ottawa, ON: National Museum of Science and Technology.
Scanlon, Joseph. 1985. The Gander Air Crash. Ottawa: Emergency Communications Research Unit, Carleton University.
________. 1997a. The Magnificent Railways Rail Response to the 1917 Halifax Explosion. Canadian Rail, Nov-Dec, 143-53.
________. 1997b. Planning for Disaster — But Not the Way You’ve Heard. British Columbia Medical Journal 39/11: 583-5.
________. 2001. Lessons Learned or Lessons Forgotten The Canadian Disaster Experience: Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction Research Paper Series.
________. 2004. A Perspective in North American Natural Disasters. In International Perspectives on Natural Disasters, ed. Joseph P. Stoltman, John Lidstone and Lisa M. DeChano, 323-40. London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Scanlon, Joseph, Natalie Brisebois, and Denise Lachance. 1980. The Woodstock Tornado: An Unplanned Disaster. Ottawa: Emergency Communications Research Unit, Carleton University.
Scanlon, Joseph and John Handmer. 2001. The Halifax Explosion and the Port Arthur Massacre: Testing Samuel Henry Prince’s Ideas. Mass Emergencies and Disasters 19/2: 181-208.
Scanlon, Joseph and Jim Jefferson. 1975. The Sydney Simulation. Emergency Planning Digest, Nov-Dec, 2-7.
Scanlon, Joseph and Brian Taylor. 1977. Two Tales of a Snowstorm. Ottawa: Emergency Communications Research Unit, Carleton University.
Sparling, Heather. 2007a. One Foot on Either Side of the Chasm: Mary Jane Lamond’s Gaelic Language ChoiceShima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 1/1: 28-42.
________. 2007b. Transmission Processes in Cape Breton Gaelic Song Culture. InFolk Music, Traditional Music, Ethnomusicology: Canadian Perspectives, Past and Present, ed. Anna Hoefnagels and Gordon E. Smith, 13-26. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
________. 2008a. Categorically Speaking: Towards a Theory of (Musical) Genre in Cape Breton Gaelic Culture. Ethnomusicology 52/3: 401-25.
________. 2008b. Grist for the Tourist Mill: Tourists in Gaelic Milling Frolics in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. In Refereed Papers from the Third International Small Islands Culture Conference, ed. Irené Novaczek, 94-100: Small Island Cultures Research Initiative.
________. 2011. Cape Breton Island: Living in the Past? Gaelic Language, Song, and Competition. In Island Songs: A Global Repertoire, ed. Godfrey Baldacchino, 49-63. Lanham & Toronto: Scarecrow Press.