I have been active as a researcher for some years, my initial research interests being focussed upon music recording technologies and their history and development and in 2007 I was awarded the title of Visiting Research Fellow at the London College of Music (University of West London).
More recently my research interests have turned to learning and teaching in popular music and in 2015-16 I completed a doctorate in the Department of Education and Social Work at the University of Sussex. My supervisors were Dr. Linda Morris and Professor Valerie Hey, and my thesis was examined by Professor Lucy Green from the Institute of Education and Dr. Tamsin Hinton-Smith of the University of Sussex. The empirical work undertaken for my thesis consists of a series of case studies that examine the learning narratives of popular musicians that have become teachers and I ask how the way that these individuals acquired their skills and beliefs might impact the way that they teach their students, and if this impact might be more effective if teachers were encouraged to reflect on their own learning, using that reflection to research, inform, and modify their own teaching practice.
Furthermore, my work takes a structural-constructivist approach using the ideas of Bourdieu (1977, 1990, 1993) as a theoretical lens, and drawing on the constructivist learning theory developed from the principles established by Vygotsky in the 1920’s and 1930’s. I argue that a hybrid approach to Bourdieu’s notion of habitus (1990, p.53) or the dispositions we adopt to the social world is crucial to understanding the way that we become musicians. Moreover, that the situatedness of musical and educational practice and the identity practices of learners and teachers are fundamental to the process of learning as a process of becoming (Lave and Wenger, 1991). Ergo, by recognising this process of learning as situated in social, cultural, historical, and technological contexts we may also facilitate metacognition (Flavell, 1979). By metacognition, I mean the ability to be reflexive as a learner or teacher; understanding the way that learning works, our beliefs about learning, and how those beliefs affect one’s own learning and thus agency. Additionally, that notions of authenticity and creativity are vital to the effectiveness of musical learning practices, and the accumulation of social and cultural capital for popular musicians. I intend to publish further on this topic and have just submitted an abstract to the forthcoming International Association for the Study of Popular Music (UK and Ireland) Conference: Popular Music: Creativity, practice and praxis (8-10 September 2016), which will be co-hosted by BIMM and the University of Sussex. My University of Sussex Doctoral Thesis is published here: Teaching the Way we Learnt: a study in popular music education
You can also find recently published papers here https://sussex.academia.edu/MarkIrwin
My current research interests focus on the process of assessment in the creative arts and I plan to publish a case study on this topic in 2022-23.
Music technology research
- University of Westminster: The Saturator– stand-alone music software programming designed using object-orientated programming to explore the digital emulation of the non‐linearity produced by analogue tape saturation (2003)
- University of Westminster: Titanium– experimental laptop, ‘in the box’ music album (September 2004)
- Journal of the Art of Record Production (JARP): Take the Last Train from Meeksville- Joe Meeks Holloway Road Recording Studio 1963-67 (October 2007) Take the Last Train from Meeksville: Joe Meeks Holloway Road Recording Studio 1963-67
Academic conferences and papers
- Royal Holloway, University of London: Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM) Study Day, Music Producers Guild Round Table (2004)
- Member of the team that organized the first Art of Record Production conference and refereed academic on-line journal (2005-6) Journal on the Art of Record Production
- University of Westminster: Art of Record Production Conference, Distortion and Subjective Audio Quality (2005)
- Edinburgh University: Art of Record Production Conference, Brown Shoes Don’t Make It- was Frank Zappa truly the mother of invention? (2006)
- Kings College London: CHARM Symposium, The House of Shattering Glass- the work of maverick record producer Joe Meek (2006)
- Institute of Engineering & Technology London: Technology and Creativity in Popular Music (2006)
- University of Sussex: Partner Network Day: co-presented with Mel Thornton a paper on Work-Based-Learning in Popular Music (2008)
- Sussex Learning Network Symposium on Foundation Degrees: co-presented with Mel Thornton a paper on Work-Based-Learning & Music Foundation Degrees (2008)
- Reading University: Society for Education, Music, and Psychology Research (SEMPRE) Spring conference Do We Teach the Way We Learnt? (2011)
- British Library: AHRC funded Research Skills Training for Music Post Graduates, The History and Analysis of Analogue Recording (2011)
- University of Sussex: Doctoral Conference, Teaching the Way We Learnt (2011)
- Institute for Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP): Rock and Roles Conference, Teaching the Way We Learnt- a case study in popular music education (2012)
- Brighton University: Brighton Fuse Project, The BIMM Institute Pedagogical Model (2012)
- Middlesex Universities Partner Network Conference: keynote speaker, Experiences of Quality Review from an Alternative Provider (2013)
- QAA Review for Educational Oversight Conference London: Approaches to Preparing for Quality Review (2013)
- University of Brighton/Sussex: Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research, Researching Uniqueness, Narratives of Informal Musical Learning (2014)
- University of Sussex Partner Network Day: Developing a Research Culture at BIMM Institute (2014)
- University of Sussex Partner Network Day: co-presented a paper with Tom Hinks, Aligning Complaints and Appeals Procedures with the OIA Good Practice Framework (2016)
- Member of the organising committee for the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (UK and Ireland) Conference: Popular Music: Creativity, Practice and Praxis (8-10 September 2016) IASPM UK and Ireland Conference 2016 Brighton
- BIMM Institute/University of Sussex: biennial conference for the International Society for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM UK & Ireland), Identity Practices in Popular Music Education (2016)
- BIMM Institute Learning and Teaching Conference (Manchester), BIMM Institute as a Locus for Communities of Practice (2017).
- University of Sussex Pedagogic Revolution Conference Brighton, Dancing in the Dark: the challenges and rewards of pivoting BIMM Institute to online and blended delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic (2019).