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What's in a song? How songs contribute to the communication of social science research

David Carless
Publication Date
  • Communication
  • Education
  • Musicology
  • Social Sciences


In our research and educational practice we sometimes use songwriting as an alternative way to acquire and communicate insights about the social world. While this approach differs markedly from scientific ways of knowing, it offers valuable and perhaps unique opportunities, in keeping with turns towards narrative/performative methodologies in social science. Here, we focus on the processes by which songs stimulate insights and understanding by analysing audience responses to our performative work. We consider five themes that recurred across 154 written responses: engagement and impact; stimulating emotional responses; supporting embodied knowing; triggering personal reflection and local knowledge; and issues of genre and style. We reflect on these responses in the light of recent research and scholarship concerning performance, music, stories and narrative.

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