Fintan Vallely, editor
There are many notable publications on Irish traditional music, among them works of monumental initiative and deservedly enduring status. Only a handful however attempt to present an overall picture, a difficult task in what is now a vast field.
The traditional music scene has changed radically since the 1960s, and now by the second decade of the 21st century it is seen to have become an established part of Irish culture. The commercial life of traditional music has evolved and consolidated as well, bringing with it significant music tourism.
The complementary energetic debate on traditionalism in Irish music and its expanding profile within the academic system has created too a wealth of new approaches to playing and study. In particular there is a growth of academic research interests, with many major studies now underway.
The Companion draws together the oldness and newness, the aesthetics and analysis, and the practice and study of the diverse interests and ideas of this music field in relevant and accessible ways. Fintan Vallely, himself an accomplished musician and music writer, has harnessed the expertise of more than 200 specialists from various aspects of traditional music, who in more than half a million words of comment present a remarkably comprehensive image of the field. The Companion presents A-Z descriptions of instruments and their playing styles, repertoires, the history of traditions, and analysis of the impact of the media and the modern history of traditional music making.
Among the specialists who have contributed to the Companion are many major performers such as Martin Hayes, Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Gerry O’Connor, Liz Doherty, Niall Keegan, June Ní Chormaic, Mick Moloney, Niall Vallely and Jesse Smith. Predominant too are the most eminent researchers and writers including Terry Moylan, Martin Dowling, Caoimhín Mac Aoidh, Colette Moloney, Harry Bradshaw, Nicholas Carolan, Anne Buckley, Ríonach Uí Ógain and Pat Mitchell.
Biographical entries cover significant musicians, commentators and composers. Central themes within traditional music are given extended entries such as the coverage of song and dance, oral tradition, innovation and the social politics of Irish music. The structure of the book is tightened, with close positioning of the disparate areas of large subjects like ‘ornamentation’, ‘dance’ and ‘song’. A significant addition to the original edition is the inclusion of many more biographies, and commentary on music, teaching and performance in all 32 counties of Ireland, as well as in Britain, Scotland, the USA and all major European countries where Irish Traditional music is played.
The Companion to Irish Traditional Music, 2nd Edition, is available to purchase on line from Cork University Press
A website dedicated to the Companion’s content is now running – see www.companion.ie