‘A Sense of Place’, Literary Evening at Rathmines Library, Lr. Rathmines Rd., Dublin 6
Forum with other local authors discussing the locality and how it may have influenced their writing, chaired by Niall MacMonagle. With: – Evelyn Conlon, Macdara Woods, Siobhán Parkinson and Fintan Vallely on Wednesday 23rd October, 6.30pm
“A Changing Traditional Landscape : The Folklore, Song and Music of Ireland” – symposium in the Princess Grace Library, Monaco, September 2012.
Session title: Connecting the Dots: Identifying Key Changes and Developments in Irish Music, Song and Folklore in Recent Times
From amateur professional to professional amateur … reflections on the Traditional singing genre.
Traditional song forms in Ireland have ceased to have popular functional relevance and (as with dance) have been supplanted, via media, by global-style Rock and Pop (much of which in Ireland is of Irish composition). Traditional song as such has by now been set aside by the onetime subalterns, and has itself become subaltern to that which is merely ‘popular’. It is now typically best articulated by aesthetically committed specialists, for many of whom it is a ‘genre’, an artistic life’s pursuit, and for some a profession. The latter, as paid artistes often draw on the ‘the fireside’ to authenticate their studied art, the inverse of the unpaid specialism of céilí-house singers prior to the revival period. This paper explores such crisis questions as thrown up by revival: what is ‘the community’? Are we merely extending the shelf-life of redundant cultural fashions by preserving them in a syrup of 18th century, Enlightenment philosophy? How can we be certain that it is all – artistically – ‘worth it’?
Making Connections: The Celtic Roots of Southern Culture. A Conference at Emory University, Atlanta.
Speaking on the transfer of music from recreational to political repertoires, and from Scotland, via Ireland to the USA. Performance with flute and song in the course of the three day conference.
“Hand-me-downs, Fence Jumpers and Prisoners of War: the Double Life of Irish Songs and Tunes”
A good tune is a good tune, and none know that better than those involved in politics and religion. Many forms of Irish music are borrowed, not least the Popular, Church and Classical genres, and much Irish music has itself been absorbed elsewhere. The older ‘traditional’ music, song and dance can be seen to have absorbed features or forms too from neighbouring Scotland and England – as have done the music and song bodies of those regions with Ireland. Airs are shared with Scotland and ‘big’ ballads with there and England, and political song inter-borrowings mark Nationalist and Loyalist agitational repertoires. The paper explores how these can simultaneously mark the repertoires of recreational dance music and agitational marching music in Northern Ireland, and how the same tune can be found carrying, serving and performing opposing political beliefs with equivalent vehemence.
Hunting for Borrane
Flute, speech, song and bodhrán presentation with Trevor Beury and Tim Lyons at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, Cavan – “Hunting for Borrane… myth and majesty in the rise of the Irish drum.”
Audio-Visual Commission for the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres.
Annual conference, Trinity College, Dublin, 24-29 July 2011. Conference Programme
Paper by Dr. Fintan Vallely, Music Dept., Dundalk Institute of Technology.
Digital Tír na nÓg in 2011: Issues of passion, canon and change revealed through the compilation of The Companion to Irish Traditional Music, 2011
The Companion to Irish Traditional Music was the first attempt at categorisation in Irish Traditional music. An 478 page encyclopedia, published in 1999, it sold some 5000 copies over five years, and the second edition (which has just been completed) has been in demand ever since. The new edition has expanded by 70%, and the scale of this development is interpreted as a response to both a broadening of the field of reference, and a loosening of genre boundaries in music in Ireland. Facilitation of this increase has been greatly aided by database and IT technologies. These, by their nature, have prompted a more precise categorisation methodology which in turn feeds back into aesthetic considerations concerning the nature and performance of this music. Greatly productive, the process’s logic is that the work is definitely not a memorial-style ‘Digital Tír na Óg’ (land of eternal youth) for Irish Traditional music data. But objectively, by drawing together all existing publication, personae and analysis in the field, The Companion process documents and affirms an active canon.
ICTM World Conference, 13-19 July, 2011, St. John’s, Newfoundland
Paper in Irish Music Panel – Indigenous Modernities: Fintan Vallely with Mats Melin and Martin Dowling.
Fintan Vallely. The invigorating enablement of a perfect past: Past and future in modern-day revision and rationalisation of Irish Traditional music practices, instrumentation and motivational impetus.
Mats Melin. Cape Breton step-dance on the small screen: The influence of visual technologies on aesthetics and over-arching stylistic ‘correctness’; capturing ephemeral moments in time for posterity.
Martin Dowling. Modernity and Irish Traditional Music, a Historical View: the indigenous music of Ireland never lacked the influence of modernity, but negotiates tradition and change with resilience.
ICTM Conference Programme
The invigorating enablement of a perfect past
Irish Traditional music is at its most dramatic a body of melismatic song practice which is demonstrably medieval, but with roots in an even greater antiquity. It also has consequent and distinctive varied instrumental forms which have been documented over some 1200 years. Though there has been much change and dilution over the centuries, because the process of this has been interwoven with the repression of Gaelic Ireland, old Irish music, song and dance have accreted great ideological tenacity. This extraordinary alliance of the music with a thoroughly rebel-led nationalism marks Irish music revival as quite different to contemporary ‘Folk’ scenes in neighbouring England and Scotland: it has come to be defined by what it excludes as much as by what it includes. This feature has been remarkably enabling and productive over the phases of revival, the energy and popularity it generated having contributed much to the music’s internationalisation among non-Irish players. However, the perceived core, motivational certainties are now radically challenged and by the great volume of scholarship which has been triggered by the very success and consequent professionalism of the genre in alliance with new technologies. But far from being destructive, this has served to lay open exciting new strata which illuminate not only an island-Irish past, but international associations, borrowings and influences, a body of knowledge which indeed mirrors that which the avant garde of Irish Traditional performers have been doing in performance ever since Ó Riada’s experimental Ceoltóirí Chualann in the 1950s. The paper analyses the coincidence of ‘pastness’ and futurism in the modern-day climate of revision and rationalization: music practices, instrumentation and motivational myths as a synergy which is underlain by a passionate belief in the genre as a true soul music. (Fintan Vallely)
Cold Case Bodh-rán – shaking a stick at the origin myths of the Irish drum
In the nineteen sixties the bodhrán was loftily looked down noses at in the early Irish music scene and became the butt of the very first Traditional music jokes. But by now it has well passed out the pipes and has taken over from the harp as a popular visual representation of Irish music, if not Irishness itself internationally.
How has such a preposterous thing happened? The ingenuity of Ó Riada was undoubtedly the trigger, and the spirit of the sixties did the rest once the percussion genie was let out of the bottle. But what is the history of the bodhrán? What we know so far is driven by myth and wishful thinking.
Now, for the first time, in this lecture Fintan Vallely puts the Irish drum itself in the witness box and lays out the real and imagined evidence for the drum’s antecedents. The interim conclusions of this work in progress are that the famous Irish drum has no ancient artistic past: at the best it was only ever just a tambourine. The Irish device, from which the word ‘bodhrán’ comes, most likely originally meant an agricultural and domestic tray or container – even a sieve. Indeed, the history of the bodhrán that we have so far is riddled with holes.
Yet the bodhrán IS around, and being brilliantly played, as solid an art and presence as the harp or the pipes. We borrowed the device from black and white minstrels or the Salvation Army, the rhythms from dancers’ feet, and we synthesised the modern playing style from the sounds of Ulster Lambeggers, Indian tabla tippers and Scottish pipe-band snare drummers.
If the speaker can locate a bodhrán player brave enough to enter the Community Hall there will be music. Appropriate songs may be sung …
Hunting for borr- án – shaking a stick at the origin myths concerning the Irish drum.
Evening lecture for Na Píobairí Uilleann at Henrietta Street, off Bolton Street, Dublin on work in progress on the history of the tambourine and bodhrán in Ireland.
The paper challenges myth, imagination and wishful thinking in the currently accepted history of that unique Irish percussion, the ‘bodhrán’. It explores the perceptions of Irish drum culture, looks scientifically at the evidence of the drum’s antecedents, and the meaning of the word ‘bodhrán’ itself. The interim conclusions of this work in progress are that the famous Irish drum has no ancient artistic past: it was never any more than a tambourine. The Irish device, from which the word ‘bodhrán’ comes, most likely originally meant an agricultural and domestic tray or container – even a sieve. Indeed, the history of the bodhrán that we have is riddled with holes. Yet the bodhrán IS around, and being brilliantly played, as solid an art and presence as the harp or the pipes. But we borrowed the rhythms from dancers’ feet, the device itself from either black and white minstrels or the Salvation Army, and synthesized the modern playing style from the sounds of Ulster Lambeggers, Indian tabla tippers and Scottish pipe-band snare drummers. If the speaker can locate a bodhrán player brave enough to enter the NPU there will be music; if not, appropriate tongue-in cheek-derisory songs will be sung…
Head space, community and nation in traditional music
Illustrating by performed music and select images, Dr. Fintan Vallely explores the nature and significance of ‘free spaces’ generated by Irish traditional music in the 21st century.