Irish Music - Michael Bakan

Chapter 9
Irish Traditional Music
 Encompasses traditional, neo-traditional, and post-
traditional styles
 “Europe’s most commercially successful music”
 Backdrop: formation of Irish nation and nationalism,
history of oppression (Irish potato famine) and strife (“The
Troubles”), Irish diaspora, transnational flows
 Five main categories:
Sean nós, or “old way” songs (Irish Gaelic) (CD 3-4)
Instrumental airs (often in free rhythm)
Songs sung in English
Irish harp music (harp = national symbol)
Instrumental dance tunes and medleys (our focus)
MGT: Irish Traditional Dance Tunes
 Lynnsey Weissenberger
 Prize-winning fiddler
 Student of James Kelly (Planxty, etc.)
James son of John Kelly
 Director, FSU Irish Music Ensemble
 Follow MGT transcript on p. 165
Dance types: jig, hornpipe, reel
Ornaments: roll, cran, treble, cut, and triplet
AABB song form
Medley form
Traditional Styles I
 Seamus Ennis
 Great uilleann piper (also tinwhistle)
 Son of renowned piper James Ennis
 (Seamus pipes a
tune taught to him by his father)
 Important Irish folklorist
 Radio Éireann, later BBC
 GLE: “Cuckoo’s Hornpipe” (tinwhistle) (CD 3-6, 167-69)
 AABB form
 Hornpipe rhythm
 (dah – dah | dah – dah | etc.)
 Varied repetitions
 Ornamentation
Traditional Styles II
 GLE “First House in Connaught/The Copper Plate Reel”
 CD 3-7, pp. 170-73
 Uilleann pipes
Uilleann = elbow
three drone pipes , three regulators
bellows, bag
 Medley of two AA’BB’ reels
 Note regulator “chords” (sounds like car horn at one point)
 Note musical “irregularities” (in “Cuckoo’s” too)
Neo-Traditional Styles, Irish Music
 Traditional music decline through 1950s
 1960s brought musical revival (along with economic
upturn), as well as musical transformations
 More formal, structured
 Guitar and other chordal instruments added to
traditional insts. (fiddle, flute, tinwhistle, uillean pipes)
 Competitions (fleadhs)
 Professionalism, move away from dancing to dance
 Increasing commodification overall – from domestic
gatherings to pubs, concert halls, festivals, etc.
Seán Ó Riada and Ceoltóirí
Chualann (Cualann)
 More progressive counterpart to Ennis
 Ceoltóirí Chualann
 band formed by SR, included piano, bodhrán, and even
harpsichord, plus traditional instruments – all-star band of
musicians from all over Ireland. Band helped revive popularity of
the uilleann pipes.
 Fiddler: John Kelly
 Uilleann piper: Paddy Moloney, who went on (1963) to form and
lead the Chieftains, which included other members of Ceoltóirí as
The Chieftains
 Best-known Irish traditional music group of all time
 International ambassadors of Irish music
 Have collaborated with everyone from Mick Jagger to Ziggy
 “Redemption Song”:
 “The Dingle Set” (CD 3-8), pp. 177-78
 Medley of three reels: “Far From Home” (AABB), “Gladstone”
(AB) “The Scartaglen” (AB)
 Instruments: tinwhistle and uilleann pipes (Moloney), fiddles
(incl. guest Ashley MacIsaac), Irish wooden flute, Irish harp,
accordion, concertina, banjo, bodhrán
Matt Molloy, Irish
wooden flute
Derek Bell, Irish harp
Paddy Moloney,
Kevin Conneff,
Martin Fay, fiddle
The 1970s: Revival, Second Generation
 Second generation of Irish music revival
 New generation of Irish musicians who:
 Had grown up with other kinds of music: rock, jazz, classical
 Fused Irish traditional with rock, jazz, and other
international and popular styles
 Simultaneously carried on songs, dance tunes, and
performance traditions of Irish forebears
 Often had close relationships with the older musicians (e.g.,
Seamus Ennis and Planxty piper Liam O’Flynn)
 Bands: Planxty, Clannad, Bothy Band, De Danaan, Horslips
 Planxty: “Bean Pháidín” CD 3-9 (p. 179)
Modern Ensemble Sound of Irish
Traditional Music
 Instrumentation combines trad insts. w. chordal accomp
Chording insts. include guitar, Irish bouzouki (p. 181),
and others—stylistic elements from jazz, rock, flamenco,
Drums, other percussion instruments (e.g., conga)
Traditional dance rhythms (e.g., reel) enhanced by jazz,
rock, Latin, African, Balkan rhythms
Highly varied musical textures, arrangements
More separation of dance tunes from dancing (though also
dance revivals in theatrical productions like Riverdance)
Altan and Horslips
 Altan medley of CD 3-10 (pp. 182-83) exemplifies some of these
elements, but adhering to a fairly traditional aesthetic.
 Horslips “King of the Fairies” (1973) shows more of the rock side of the
Eileen Ivers: Irish Post-Traditional
 Ivers not from Ireland, but NYC (Irish diaspora)
 Won multiple major Irish fiddling competitions
 Original fiddler in Riverdance
 Highly innovative approach as electric violinist, composer, and
bandleader, yet fully anchored in Irish tradition as well.
 Played with everyone from Chieftains to London Symphony
 “Gravelwalk” (CD 3-11), 184-87
Steve Gadd (drums)
Bakithi Kumalo (bass)
Jerry O’Sullivan (uilleann pipes)
Medley of reels, but very much transformed