Towards a regional understanding of Irish traditional music

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Kearney, David
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University College Cork
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The geography of Irish traditional music is a complex, popular and largely unexplored element of the narrative of the tradition. Geographical concepts such as the region are recurrent in the discourse of Irish traditional music but regions and their processes are, for the most part, blurred or misunderstood. This thesis explores the geographical approach to the study of Irish traditional music focusing on the concept of the region and, in particular, the role of memory in the construction and diffusion of regional identities. This is a tripartite study considering people, place and music. Each of these elements impacts on our experience of the other. All societies have created music. Music is often associated with or derived from places. Some places construct or reinforce their identity through the music and musicians through which they are associated. The thesis challenges conventional discourse on regional styles that construct an imagined pattern of regions based on subtle musical differences that may, though are not always, shared by people in that region and focuses on the social networks through which the music is disseminated. The thesis also challenges the abandonment of regional styles and the concept of regions in understanding the complex geographies of Irish traditional music (Morton, 2001). It seeks to find a middle ground between discourse analysis, musical analysis, the experience of music and place, and the representation of music and place. The dissertation is divided into three parts. Part one considers the development of music geography, noting and critiquing the abandonment of useful paradigms in both geography and ethnomusicology in search of new ways of understanding. Of particular interest is the concept of the region but it also considers the study of landscape and the humanist approach in cultural geography. The second part focuses on the discourse and study of regions in Irish traditional music and the various agents and processes that shape the concept of the region in Irish traditional music. The final part presents a case study of the Sliabh Luachra region combining and applying the various perspectives and paradigms drawn from geographical, ethnomusicological and anthropological sources. It attempts to generate an understanding of Sliabh Luachra as a region in the Irish traditional music narrative that is based on a combination of musical, socio-cultural and locational/environmental factors.
Traditional music , Music geography , Regional identity , Sliabh Luachra , Social networks , Music and place , Ireland
Kearney, D. 2009. Towards a regional understanding of Irish traditional music. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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