Ón gCos go Cluas – From Dancing to Listening

Voices from the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention conference held in Derry City, 2012

Edited by Liz Doherty and Fintan Vallely

303 pages, ISBN 978-0-9511569-9-5

Traditional music has moved from a primary purpose of servicing dance, to expressing artistic preference. Further, the outer fringes of traditional melody-making now shade into other forms – jazz, contemporary classical, rock and pop – and indeed towards the antithesis of genre, so-called ‘world’ music. The chapters in this volume reflect on this visible re-orientation, exploring North Atlantic musics in terms of the shift of folk cultures’ interest from social process to aesthetic product.
Ón gCos go Cluas heard the voices of more than a hundred speakers from all regions of the North Atlantic, each of them a musician or music teacher; they covered many aspects of Traditional music in addition to the fiddle. Thirty two of their voices are published here.

Liz Doherty, editor of The Cape Breton Fiddle Companion, was NAFCo’s festival organiser for 2012; Fintan Vallely, editor of Companion to Irish Traditional Music (1999, 2011, 2021) was the academic co-ordinator of that year’s conference. Both had already played key roles in two significant earlier conferences on Irish Traditional music – Crosbhealach an Cheoil – in 1996 and 2003, the first of which dealt with ‘Tradition and Change’, the second with ‘Education and Traditional Music’. Both books of papers from these events are available online.

The NAFCo event and the papers in this volume complete the ambitions of the Crosbhealach series by now dealing with the changing role of Traditional musics.

CONTENTS

Introduction
 Liz Doherty and Fintan Vallely. ix

  • 1  Fiddlers, dancing, art and utility: what isn’t traditional?
Neil V. Rosenberg. 1
  • 2  ‘The concert era’ – innovation in Hardanger fiddling around 1900
Håkon Asheim. 14
  • 3  Square sets as ‘folk’ dance in Cape Breton community life
Jørn Borggreen. 25
  • 4  Néillidh Boyle: replacing traditional concepts of storytelling in exploration of the acoustic art 
Katie Boyle. 30
  • 5  Participatory music in the Irish Gaeltacht 
Éamonn Costello. 38
  • 6  Revival of ‘crooked’ fiddle tunes in the performance of contemporary Quebec traditional 
music
Jean Duval. 48
  • 7  The great divide: recent trends in the technical approach to the fiddle in Norway
Anon Egeland. 58
  • 8  On first hearing: the John Junner Collection of Scottish and Irish music recordings Stuart Eydmann. 66
  • 9  Galician fiddle versus tambourine
Alfonso Franco. 76
  • 10  The status of the master-fiddler in eighteenth-century Scotland
Ronnie Gibson. 86
  • 11  Foot-oriented fiddling among the Mississippi Choctaw: R. J. Willis and the house dance Chris Goertzen. 92
  • 12  Joe Holmes: the singing North Antrim fiddler
Len Graham. 104
  • 13  Truth, beauty and authenticity in folk music
Ingrid Hamberg. 108
  • 14  Follow the band: playing old-time tunes in new performance contexts
Gregory Hansen. 117
  • 15  More than buzzing bluebottles: new contexts for Irish céilí bands
Daithí Kearney. 126
  • 16  Traditional style: the student singer and the folk industry
Sandra Kerr. 136
  • 17  ‘Listen how the fiddle cries and laughs’: traditional Lithuanian fiddling in Soviet-era Siberia 
Gaila Kirdienė. 141
  • 18  Arranging traditional Norwegian Hardanger fiddle tunes 
Ragnhild Knudsen. 154
  • 19  New directions in contemporary fiddle playing in Norway 
Gjermund Kolltveit. 160
  • 20  The Donegal ‘Highland’ tunes: origins and movement of a dance-driven genre 
Caoimhín MacAoidh. 168
  • 21  A favourite Scotch measure: the relationship between a group of Scottish solo dances 
and the tune ‘The Flowers of Edinburgh’
Mats Melin. 177
  • 22  ‘Fiddle icons confidential’: the making of a portrait
Nicole Murray. 188
  • 23  ‘Bhíodh muid ag damhsa go maidin’: dance, music, and community in Árainn
Deirdre Ní Chonghaile. 195
  • 24  Scottish fiddle music in Australia in the twentieth century
Emma Nixon. 207
  • 25  The fiddle as a symbolic creative therapeutic tool in music therapy
Josie Nugent. 213
  • 26  Off the record: Irish traditional musicians and the music industry
Leah O’Brien Bernini. 218
  • 27  Change and stability in Irish-American-Newfoundland fiddle tunes
Evelyn Osborne. 222
  • 28  Cape Breton ‘crossroads’: cultural tourism, and the nature of ‘traditional’
Janine Randall. 236
  • 29  The FiddleLights project: an artist’s recording of bow-hand movements in fiddle tunes Elisa Sereno-Janz. 247
  • 30  Constraint and innovation in the traditional fiddle repertoire of Cape Breton
Sally Sommers Smith. 258
  • 31  ‘Jack is yet alive’: fiddle lessons in Shetland Isles schools, 1973–1985
Pam Swing. 266
  • 32  Examining the Irish connection in the southern American fiddle repertoire
Paul Wells. 275

    Copies by region and quantity



    The original conference

    Traditional music has moved from a primary purpose of servicing dance, to expressing artistic preference. This is particularly so for the fiddle, one of the most versatile, accessible and universal of acoustic instruments. The conference will explore its current popularity in North Atlantic musics in terms of the shift of folk cultures’ interest from social process to aesthetic product. Recording played a large part in this redirection, offering musicians opportunity and stimulus for deeper appreciation and analysis. It led to expanded access, to scale and diversity in repertoires, to striving for excellence and a virtually boundless potential for expansion. Recording liberated music from the occasion-specific time-slots formerly defined by social dance. Dance responded differently, more deeply directed by social and economic factors and era-specific fashion shifts, yet vibrant dance practices are still part of most North Atlantic traditional musics. But at its outer fringes, traditional melody-making now shades into other forms – jazz, contemporary classical, rock and pop – and indeed the antithesis of genre, so-called ‘world’ music.

    Is Alan Lomax’s ‘cultural grey-out’ to become reality?

    Will traditional fiddling decompose into a cloud of intermeshed idioms and clichés expounded with fabulous but empty virtuosity?

    Ón gCos go Cluas set out to address the process, product and the potential of this progression. Papers were requested on all aspects of the dancing-listening continuum with the emphasis being on transformation rather than the static, and on both the consequences and potential of music’s independence from dance, for participants and audiences alike. Topics engaged with:

    • composition and performance – themes, direction and personality; cliché, quotation, standard riff, originality; superficiality, dumbing down, cheap tricks; sophistication, challenge, complexity; arrangement and orchestration; the Scottish mixed-tempo set
    • the avant garde – ‘world’ music: ‘a sinister globalisation? Eurovision values; the Pop fiddle; tone and tempo; gender and sexism in PR.
    • revived fiddle cultures – social practice, cultural relevance; revision and rethinking; imagined and borrowed repertoires; stylistic analysis; philosophising ‘the folk’; collection and collections; the fiddle as icon.
    • pushing to the limits – the fiddle family in Traditional musics; old and new forms: three, four – or five strings? The bow, the bridge, the fingerboard, the peg box, chin rest; traditions, innovations: Stroh and electric fiddles.
    • the historic fiddle –images in stone, in print, in painting and text; O’Curry’s Irish bow; from plucking to bowing; fiddle bands, town fiddlers; the hurdy gurdy and fretted viols.
    • recording – setting standards or undermining traditions? The birth of analysis; single-tunes versus the ‘78’ selection; the ‘standard’ tunes set.
    • fashion – the Pop aesthetic; from chest to chin; resonating strings; rapid versus relaxed, decorated versus plain; studio aesthetics; acoustic versus mediated; superstar fiddlers
    • accompaniment – in lieu of the dancer? Transformational? Killing or kindling? Dumbing down or enhancing? Plucked or struck? Guitar versus bouzouki; the piano: vamp or vampire? Fiddle and flute, fiddle and pipes, fiddle and accordion, fiddle ensembles
    • fiddle and dance – no dance – no rhythm? The rise of beat; dance detail and music decoration; the music phrase and dance movement; the integral melody-dance (set dance). The dancing fiddler.
    • fiddle and song – the singing fiddler; the fiddle accompanist; harmony, parts and counter melody with song.

Companion to Irish Traditional Music 3rd edition

Work has already begun on the third edition of the encyclopedia Companion to Irish Traditional Music, due to come out end of 2020. Any suggestions, ideas welcome; all previous contributors will be contacted where possible. Further information in due course.

Compánach  – Music from all the counties of Ireland

Irish-traditional tunes, song and dance performed on acoustic instruments, with Gaelic songs, ballads in English, and old-style percussive step-dance.

Two hours of music, song and dance named for each of the counties of nineteenth-century Ireland, music of the island from the pre-electric age. Fifteen different tune-types are played in thirty sets of solos, duets and trios, built out to tremendous richness by uilleann pipes drones, with rhythm marked in dance steps and historic tambourine. Older song-airs and laments are set alongside local jigs, reels and hornpipes, popular dance-forms like quickstep and barndance, continental rhythms polka and mazurka, and Scottish ‘highlands’. The performers are Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn on uilleann pipes; Gerry O’Connor, fiddle; Fintan Vallely, concert flute; Sibéal Davitt, old-style, hard-shoe step dance; and singers Karan Casey, Máire Ní Choilm, Róisín Chambers, Maurice Leyden, Stephanie Makem, and Roisín White … (more…)

Companach CD Cover

Double CD of Compánach Concert Released

Compánach  – Music from all the counties of Ireland

Irish-traditional tunes, song and dance performed on acoustic instruments, with Gaelic songs, ballads in English, and old-style percussive step-dance.

Two hours of music, song and dance named for each of the counties of nineteenth-century Ireland, music of the island from the pre-electric age. Fifteen different tune-types are played in thirty sets of solos, duets and trios, built out to tremendous richness by uilleann pipes drones, with rhythm marked in dance steps and historic tambourine. Older song-airs and laments are set alongside local jigs, reels and hornpipes, popular dance-forms like quickstep and barndance, continental rhythms polka and mazurka, and Scottish ‘highlands’. The performers are Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn on uilleann pipes; Gerry O’Connor, fiddle; Fintan Vallely, concert flute; Sibéal Davitt, old-style, hard-shoe step dance; and singers Karan Casey, Máire Ní Choilm, Róisín Chambers, Maurice Leyden, Stephanie Makem, and Roisín White … (more…)

The Compánach Concert

A fast-moving, audio-visual recital of Traditional Irish music, song and dance by Gerry O’Connor, Roisín Chambers, Fintan Vallely, Sibéal Davitt and Tiarnán Ó Duinnchín who perform in front of a changing, narrative backdrop of large-screen photographs by Jacques Nutan. The 120-minute show expresses the artistic depth, finesse and variety of the music as described in the new encyclopedia Companion to Irish Traditional Music. Based on the format of the book, the concert covers all Irish counties and regions, demonstrating hallmark styles and repertoire. For students of the music and of Irish culture this is a wonderful melodic display of information; for aficionados it is an exceptionally vibrant presentation of solo and group playing, sean-nós step-dance and singing. (more…)

EMIR

Comment on EMIR, The Encyclopedia of Music in Ireland

EMIR information

A detailed review of this book was done for the February, 2013 edition of The Living Tradition magazine. An interview was also done for RTÉ 1 radio’s Arts Show. In order to understand it better it was necessary not just to read content, but to have statistics upon which to base comment. These were extracted in the traditional (journalistic) manner with a ruler and an abacus. Data which has appeared in print in The Living Tradition, February, 2013, is not included here now, but will be posted next month. The RTÉ radio programme is worth listening to online – on the RTÉ player. Prof. Mícheál Súilleabháin also reviewed the EMIR in The Irish Times, on Nov. 30th, 2013, and the following information was posted on the paper’s online edition. John Moulden has reviewed it too for An Píobaire, journal of Na Píobairí Uilleann. (more…)

Release of Companion as an eBook

The Companion to Irish Traditional Music is now available in digital formats. On February 1st 2013 it was released as an ebook on Kindle and on iBooks. It is also available to libraries on-line through the Project Muse UPCC collection, as part of a greater collection, or, later in 2013 as an individual title; libraries can also get access from CHOICE website by subscription.

This is a landmark for a reference publication dedicated to Irish music, and opens up a huge new potential for the encyclopedia’s use in education in particular. The online formats make it possible for schools and colleges to economically manage productive access to the book’s huge volume of data: searches for places, names, music or instrument references, quoting information or gathering together linked but diffuse information on such as dance or song – as part of project and music programme research. (more…)

Prestige ranking for Companion

The Companion to Irish Traditional Music has been ranked 11th in a shortlist of 644 ‘Outstanding Academic Titles’ (OAT) chosen by a key US librarians’ resource, Choice Reviews Online. The shortlist was selected from a total of c. 7,000 academic reviews of books in all subject areas which were themselves chosen by Choice Reviews for critical comment during 2012 out of more than 25,000 submitted books. This means that the Companion is in the top 3% of these 25,000 titles. This is a great achievement for the Companion’s publisher, Cork University Press and indeed for a book dedicated to Irish Traditional music, and for its contributors. (more…)

Companion selected as 11th out of 7,000 in US books rating

Companion to Irish Traditional Music 2 cover

The Companion to Irish Traditional Music has been awarded a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title (OAT) for 2012.

Coinciding with this award is the Companion’s release on Friday, 1st February as an ebook:

Full information on the Companion’s contents is on the page comitm.com (more…)