The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

EthNoise! Presents: Heather Sparling


Dear all,
We are excited to invite you to the first EthNoise! workshop for the spring quarter today, Thursday, March 23rd from 5:00–6:30pm CT on Zoom. It is an honor to have Heather Sparling (Cape Breton University) discuss with us her work on Gaelic language revitalization through lyrics and digital media / databases. We hope to see you there! 
Dr. Heather Sparling
Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions and Professor of Ethnomusicology
Cape Breton University
Respondent: Natalie Farrell, PhD Candidate, Music, University of Chicago
“Language in Lyrics: A Language Revitalization, Applied Ethnomusicology, Digital Humanities, and Community Development Project”
Thursday, March 23rd | 5:00–6:30 pm CT
Held on Zoom
Abstract: In this presentation, I will share a collaborative, community-based language revitalization project that exemplifies both applied ethnomusicology and digital scholarship. By focusing on the project’s development, challenges, and opportunities, and by providing insights “from behind the curtain,” the presentation offers lessons for those engaged in public scholarship, digital humanities, and community development. The Language in Lyrics project is a Nova Scotia Gaelic song and language documentation project ( that has documented more than 6,000 records of Gaelic songs known in Nova Scotia along with 1,000 song transcriptions, all freely available online (see Scottish Gaelic is an endangered language. Despite a relatively small number of Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Gaelic community is the only recognized Gàidhealtachd (living Gaelic community) outside of Scotland. The Language in Lyrics project works with community to develop language and cultural resources while providing jobs and training opportunities for Gaelic learners. Some of the song transcriptions were generated through a crowd-sourcing activity, “transcription frolics,” developed for the project with community assistance.
Biography: Heather’s research interests include Gaelic song in Nova Scotia, vernacular dance traditions of Cape Breton, and Atlantic Canadian disaster songs. Her research addresses memory and memorialization as well as language revitalization through music. She is the author of Reeling Roosters and Dancing Ducks: Celtic Mouth Music (2014) and the editor of the journal MUSICultures. She also has a background in educational development and has been involved with the creation and revision of several academic programs at CBU. She is the principal flutist with the Cape Breton Orchestra and is learning the fiddle. She is also functionally bilingual in French and Gaelic.

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