New Traditional School in Scotland Phase 1

Funding secured following 2021-22 pilot study

Jennifer Austin, still from film by Ruth Barrie

Following the successful pilot study in 2021-2022 supported by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Creative Informatics at the University of Edinburgh, funding for a phase 1 study was secured in the form of an 18-month fellowship with the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The fellowship runs from July 2023 to December 2024 and will combine artistic and ethnomusicological research exploring creativity, tradition and improvisation. I aim to produce a specialist music collection with project partner Scottish Music Centre (Glasgow), the basis of a new archive at the School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh, several new compositions, and research texts.

I will be advertising for a part-time Research Assistant to join me on this project for 6 months in 2023-24 and an Archivist to join the project in 2024. Information on these posts will be circulated soon. If you are a composer whose work relates to this project, please register your compositions here. If you would like to contact me or join the project mailing list, please use the contact page.

Composers survey 2021 closed

Our NTS composers survey for 2021 is now closed. Many thanks to all those who contributed.

The mapping phase of the the research is gathering pace as we collect data associated with beyond tune, large-scale, innovative composition from traditional musicians in Scotland since 1976.

If you are a traditional musician who composes and you would like to contribute to this research, please get in touch either by registering your compositions and indicating you would like to take part in the research or via the contact form on this site.

Composers survey launches today

All ‘beyond-tune’ traditional music composers living in Scotland* are invited to contribute to the survey at

The survey takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete and will be live for one week, closing 31st August 2021 at 23:59.

Our current working definition of ‘beyond tune’ is a musical composition:

  • Created by a traditional musician living in Scotland* [for the purposes of this research]
  • Composed for music performance or listening (e.g. not scores for radio, tv, film or theatre)
  • Composed for any instrumentation (or voice) but often with a traditional/folk element
  • Approximately 8 minutes or longer OR, if shorter in length, innovates significantly from the conventions of traditional music (this could include free improvisation or technology-enhanced music).
  • NOT a conventional set of tunes or traditional/folk song

E.g. A large portion of Celtic Connections New Voices or Distil Showcase commissions are considered ‘beyond tune’.

Composers can also register their beyond-tune compositions to the New Traditional School database for potential inclusion in what is intended to become a national collection/archive. Register your compositions here: (or using the tab above).

*Who lived in Scotland when they composed the composition or who contributed to one of the commissioning strands in Scotland e.g. Celtic Connections New Voices, Distil Showcase or a festival commission performed in Scotland.

Pilot study team: Alexandra Huang

Research Assistant: Alexandra Huang

Alexandra Huang

Alexandra Huang is a third-year PhD student in comparative literature at LLC, the University of Edinburgh. She previously read an MSc in English literature (Edinburgh) and holds an MA in Piano Performance (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). Her PhD investigates literary evocations of piano performance in early 20th-century novels. She is dedicated to solo piano performance and creative collaborations with instrumentalists and opera singers. During the pandemic, she launched a creative film project about the great composer Frédéric Chopin in Scotland and was awarded first place at Edinburgh Festival Competition in the Chopin category. Enamoured of Scotland’s culture, she is delighted to join Dr. Lori Watson’s pilot study project as her research assistant to broaden the creative impact of Scottish traditional music.

Alexandra is contributing to the scholarly context for this research as well as analysis of survey data.

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