Books about Irish Music

Books about Irish Music

Books have been mentioned in different threads in the past. The last one was “Between the Jigs and Reels” in the “Nine Points of Roguery” thread. So, what books did you really enjoy? Do you think there are any “must reads”? I enjoyed Ciaran Carson’s “Last Night’s Fun” although I expected something else when I bought it. It isn’t a guide to irish music, the music is just there all the time. Whereas “the field guide to Irish Music” tells you everything about the music you need and needn’t know. That book really reminded me of people I met who know everything about irish music because they read it in a book. It could have been this book. I’m not sure if that is a good description but maybe you met this kind of people. They are always following some rules (which isn’t bad as such) and never seem to have fun.
Anyway, back to the books: My all time favourite is “the Bodhran Makers” by John B. Keane. It is not a book about irish music but the way he describes the music is just brilliant. What else is there that I don’t know about?

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Re: Books about Irish Music

Irina, Last Night’s Fun is certainly a great read and actually does a great job of conveying the feel of sessions. Other books (some of which have been mentioned on other threads) that I’ve enjoyed reading include The Heartbeat of Irish Music by McNamara and Woods (traces love for the music from father to son), The Northern Fiddler by Feldman and O’Doherty (heavy on the sociology dissertation style of writing, but great tales from Donegal and Tyrone fiddlers, good tunes, and moody photos and drawings), Traditional Music in Ireland by O’Canainn (a scholarly look at sean nos singing, pipes, and fiddle), and The Companion to Irish Traditional Music by Fintan Vallely (an encyclopedia of sorts, with articles written by dozens of contributors on nearly everything and anyone involved in Irish music), and The Blooming Meadows by Piggot and Vallely (vignettes of various Irish musicians, a few choice tunes, nice photos).

Enough to get you started?
Will

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Re: Books about Irish Music

To me, it’s important to know that, while there are many Irish people who can’t stand Irish trad just like there’s many American musicians who can’t stand Country Western music, there’s no taking Irish trad out of the culture. Irish traditional music is all about the culture it sprang and springs out of. So any good book that’s about Ireland is probably going to tell you something about the music and where it came from.

Will, at some point I’m going to have to trek up to Montana JUST to look at your library. *grin*

Zina

Re: Books about Irish Music

Along with all the books Will mentioned I’ve also got “Ireland, A Bicycle and a Tin Whistle” by David A Wilson (I really loved this one, very funny), “Notes From the Heart” by PJ Curtis (an overview of various Irish musicians) , “A Pocket History of Irish Tradtional Music” by Gearoid O hAllmhurain (what it says!) and “Folk Music and Dances of Ireland” by Breandan Breathnach ( very scholarly study). Also there are two by Paddy Tunney, one called “The Stone Fiddle” and the other called “Where Songs Do Thunder”. These are stories and anecdotes about Irish life and music, singers and songs. I get the impression there may be a 3rd one, but I don’t know for sure.

I also really enjoyed “The Bodhran Makers”, Irina. I read it several years ago and need to read it again.

Good point Zina. I remember being shocked(*Shocked* I tell you!!) that American Country Western was apparently very popular in parts of Ireland. And Bluegrass, too. The grass is always greener, I suppose!

Re: Books about Irish Music

Zina and Christine,

The reason why Country is popular in Ireland is probably because
Country and Irish Trad. are closely related.
I have this theory that Country is an evolution of Irish Trad.

I’ve even played some trad stuff for some country line dancers !!!
And believe me. It worked.

Toni.

Re: Books about Irish Music

That’s not a theory, Toni, it’s fact…there’s other influences in there, but yes, American Country Western (in Texas, they call it Country AND Western) is indeed heavily influenced by both its Irish and Scottish musical genes.

There’s little weirder than going to Ireland and hearing some band in a pub twanging away with this Texan drawl…but when they talk, they’re Irish!

Zina

Re: Books about Irish Music

Playing trad Irish for linedancers! That’s great! To my ear, the relationship between American “Old Time” music and Irish music is obvious. I guess because I think of them both as being “traditional” and it’s my brain as much as my hearing making the connection. For some reason I’ve always put Country AND Western (she drawled) in another catagory. Probably cuz of the oft-parodied lyrical content. And much of it now just sounds like pop/rock music with a Southern accent, to me. But it really all is intertwined and related.

Re: Books about Irish Music

a fairly succinct, though dated title is ‘Four centuries of music in Ireland’ (1979), edited by Brian Boydell, published : BBC, London ( _‘Essays based on a series of programmes broadcast to mark the 50th anniversary of the BBC in Northern Ireland’)

_but how they managed to fit it into a 70-page booklet is beyond me

for a more weighted (though obscure) publication on a sngle instrument try Joan Rimmer’s ‘The Irish Harp’ ( 2nd ed.1977 ; 1st published 1969), Mercier Press, Cork (in the ‘Irish life & culture series’); this 85-page booklet really does deliver, no doubt revised since … part of the blurb on the back says :

‘The Harp has not only been the national symbol of ireland for many centuries, but also the principal musicial instrument in the Irish aristocratic tradition since early Christian times _ it already figures on 9th -10th Century high crosses.’

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Which pubs in Ireland have country bands? So I can avoid them if I ever get over there.

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I was there in ‘97 and was APPALLED at the Country music on the radio. I didn’t spend thousands of dollars to hear what I avoid right here at home. The other thing was the radio stations devoted to dance trance music. I wasn’t appalled, but couldn’t quite grasp a radio station devoted to it.

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Stop gangin’ up on Irish Country.

If you’ve never jived to Big Tom and the Mainliners in The RanchHouse ( Cummer ) or in the Amadillo ( Tuam ) or any dancehall or Carnival you haven’t lived……….

Margo, Philomena, Ray Lynam, The Plattermen…….

Surfing across the floor in a cloud of alcohol charged males, trying to reach the females….. I miss those days……

Re: Books about Irish Music

Aye, I remember Philomena Begley from County Tyrone being the Big Deal in Ulster in the mid 70’s.