When Expectation transforms Experience: Celtification in Cornwall

Hagmann, Lea Salome (6 September 2018). When Expectation transforms Experience: Celtification in Cornwall (Unpublished). In: Experience and Expectation. Riga. 03 - 07/09/2018.

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Music revivals are social movements which aim at representing music of the past. However, what happens instead is that revivals tend to stage music of an imagined past, which is being transformed by expectations for the future. As Owe Ronström accurately describes: “The past is activated for something that is yet to be”. (Ronström, 44). In Cornwall, the most South Western part of the British Isles, the music revival, which started in the late 1970s, was designed to be a ‘Celtic’ rather than an ‘English’ Revival. Informed by the political Cornish Movement and the poor economic status of the County, the ‘Celtic’ model was much more attractive for the revivalists than the ‘English folk music’ model.

This paper investigates how in a first stage of the Cornish music revival, expectation transformed experience, i.e. how local music traditions were transformed in order to constitute a Celto-Cornish repertoire. The aim of the early revivalists was to prove Cornwall’s ‘cultural distinctiveness’, which would grant them more political rights and self-determination for the future.

Furthermore, the paper analyses how in a second stage of the Revival, in a new movement called Nos Lowen ‘Happy Night’, this Celtification became the inspiration for artistic production that was aimed at defining a new Cornish trad sound. By doing so, Nos Lowen aimed at mirroring globalisation and transcultural processes, which stand in harsh contrast to the nationalism and protectionism employed by the former revivalists. Nos Lowen’s ambition was to create a new experience for Cornwall’s youth, which would raise their self-esteem and would unfold their creativity. In that sense Nos Lowen mirrors Stuart Hall’s description of creating identities that rather than returning “to the roots” constitute in “a coming-to-terms-with” new ‘routes’.” (Hall, 4)

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Musicology

UniBE Contributor:

Hagmann, Lea Salome


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
700 Arts > 780 Music




Lea Salome Hagmann

Date Deposited:

03 Jun 2019 09:42

Last Modified:

05 Sep 2019 16:01

Uncontrolled Keywords:

invention of tradition, Celtic, music, Cornwall, expectation, experience, Celtification





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