The New Traditional School in Scotland: pilot study 2021-22


Since the 1990s there has been a significant increase in the creation of larger-scale and innovative composition by traditional musicians in Scotland. The composers of these musical works experiment with forms beyond the common 32 bar dance tune, draw on a wide range of influences and engage in opportunity-based professional development in this unique community of practice: the New Traditional School (Watson, 2013). This research will provide the first scholarly documentation and analysis of this unique community and its activities. 

I am both a researcher (ethnomusicologist and artistic researcher) and a composing traditional musician in Scotland. I seek to advance the practice of beyond-tune composition, make explicit the creative and performance strengths of contemporary traditional musicians, and contribute to our understanding of the nature of tradition and its relationship with creativity. 

In this pilot study, I will document, collect and analyse in-depth fieldwork interviews, survey data, musical scores and recordings, and literature, archival and publicly available data relating to the New Traditional School in Scotland and its activities, from earliest work in 1984 to the present day. I will map the New Traditional School in a database, begin the first collection/archive of beyond-tune compositions and complete detailed case studies with selected composers.  

I openly invite submissions of composed works, responses to the composer survey and project-related communications via this site.

Doctoral research: Beyond-tune composition in Scotland (thesis and folio of new music)

The New Traditional School in Scotland: Innovation, Beyond-tune Composition and a Traditional Musician’s Creative Practice

WATSON, Lori (2013) The New Traditional School in Scotland: Innovation, Beyond-tune Composition and a Traditional Musician’s Creative Practice (RCS and St Andrews University: PhD thesis and folio)

RCS library link


The author has identified a new ‘school’ of composing Traditional musicians in Scotland.  This group and its activity, as documented by the author, spans from 1984 to 2012 and encompasses over 150 new works ranging from orchestral pieces through works for chamber ensemble and studio and electronic works to solos and various forms of improvisation.

The author presents a folio of original compositions, and substantial critical analysis in order to gain, from an artistic research perspective, a better understanding of innovative music practice by ‘elite’ Traditional musicians in Scotland, and the context for that.

Through extensive fieldwork and literature review the author contextualises this movement and the original compositions in terms of how they relate both to the contemporary music world and to the Traditional music community and its activity.