Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

Hi folks.
I am (also) a PhD student.
I am conducting research on Joyce and traditional Irish culture.
My thesis is that there are MANY references in Joyce to what we call (today) traditional music, and that Joyce was weel aware of the nature of traditional music, but I guess the words we use nowadays were not in use, for they were presumably introduced during the music revival of the 50s and 60s…
I am trying to find out which words were used around 1900 to refer to set dancing, traditional music, sean nós singing.

Do you know how traditional music was called?
Was there a concept as sean nós? I mean, was traditional singing perceived as a art of its own? Was some term in use (in the gaeltacht/galltactht) ?
What about set dancing?
More importantly, can you point me to some reference?

Sorry for the heap of questions…
Any help will be appreciated.
Cheers,
Davide

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

I assume James Joyce, not Joyce the collector?

It’s very unlikely James Joyce had anything to do with, or knowledge of traditional music, given the circles he moved in.

Tom Munnelly passed some comments on the IrTrad list some months ago. Joyce was one of his pet projects ‘that slipped on the long finger’.

Posted .

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

Bon Giorno, Davide:

Why do you bring up such topics, making me resurrect my past life, condemning me to hours of thinking about this?! I was just about to start re-reading Ulysses last night, but opted for something lighter instead.

Joyce was quite aware of Traditional music, although he, like most folks in his period, were simultaneously repulsed and drawn to all things "Irish Traditional," as well it was with Ireland itself. He was a Dubliner for the most part from birth, and his father was equally as urban and looking to establish the family as an upper-class family, therefore, severely limiting any exposure to Traditional culture. James was more interested in the popular music of the day and opera (he was and excellent singer, banjo and guitar player), and all of his works contain a far greater use of popular music and opera than Traditional. It was a symptom of wanting to be seen as more Continental and Modern, although he was charmed by the manners and rhythms of speech of Traditional people. What he used of Traditional culture was formed into more of a caricature of a backward history than anything else. I seem to remember that somewhere in Ulysses there is a reference to Traditional culture calling it, "the Old Ways," possibly in the first chapter when they’re eating breakfast in the tower and the old woman comes in—not sure. If you comb through McHugh’s notes to Finnegans Wake you’ll find bits of lyrics to Traditional songs and much reference to Irish myths. I would say that Joyce was far more well-versed in Irish myths and history than the music. One of the finest scholars of Joyce told me that, based on his use of Gaeilge in Finnegans Wake, Joyce had a grasp of the language equivalent to that of two years of secondary study; what’s remarkable about that is he never formally studied the Irish language as is done today. Yet another fine scholar of Joyce found that he was immensely influenced by Wagner, and there are several references to his music and life in FW and U. Perhaps you may be able to make use of the lack—rather than the presence—of Traditional elements in Joyce.

If anything else springs to mind, I’ll contact you.

In bocca al lupo!

—Rob

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

Thanks for your feedback folks.
I should have specified that this research is at a somehow advanced stage; the research topic is broader, it is the influence of traditional oral culture on James Joyce (yes, and not Patrick Weston).
I respectfully disagree to the received portrait of a ‘urban’, cosmopolitan Joyce which associated traditional culture univocally to backwardness; one thing for sure, JJ was anything but univocal. Of course Joyce moved in the circles of literate, but he was also a fond frequenter of bars and pubs; Ellmann’s biography proves that Joyce was even acquainted with Italian traditional drinking songs, which he learned in Trieste.
I should have been a bit more explicit; I have been focusing on this topic for two years, I have been scanning all of Joyce’s fiction, and I have found plenty of evidence of Joyce’s aquaintance with traditional culture and, often, with traditional music. The fact is that most scholars have no clue about traditional music and dance and cannot recognise them when described.
What I am trying to understand now is "how much" he was acquainted with trad music.
For this reason I am turning to the history of nomenclature of trad music, to see if some words JJ used denote ignorance of the traditional background or are just the common terms used at the time.
Let me give you an example.
Someone listening to Bill Haley on stage could have said "hey, nice R&B". We cannot blame this guy for ignoring that Bill Haley played rock&roll, for the term rock&roll was not in use.
So, do you think that a term as "traditional music" was used by towndwellers around 1900? Was the term set dancing in use?
Sorry, I realise the question is kind of complicated, but I was just wondering if some of you have been stumbling on old literature abot trad music…

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

I’d recommend you get in touch with someone like Nioclás Ó Cearbhalláin of the Irish Traditional Music Archive (www.itma.ie). If they can’t answer you directly they’ll probably be able to put you intouch with someone who can.

Beir bua,

Muiris.

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

I bet they called it “music”.

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

i was given a collection of music dating from the late 1800’s recently and found that reels and jigs, in this collection of some 380 handwritten pieces, were not the two main forms as is today. instead, quadrilles and lancers held the sway with many waltzs and things called scottiches(not the correct spellin) which are the same as highlands/ strathspeys.

the quadrilles and lancers were collections of between 3 to 5 tunes which were danced to. the collection of tunes that made up a set were not in the same time signature, maybe the first was in 6/8 and the second in 2/4 and so on.

although the terms jigs and reels are valid, just be aware that when you hear about quadrilles, lancers, and scottiches, they/he was talking about traditional music also.

good luck with your research.

martin tourish.

Posted by .

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

This piece of information is gold to me.
I didn’t mention the word quadrilles not to influence your feedback, but quadrilles are what I was looking for.
In "The Dead" people dance quadrilles, and when I read that I thought, "This must be what we call Set Dance". Most notes associates quadrilles with bourgeois urban fashion coming from France… but I smelt traditional dance there, and I might be right; and the fact that quadrille originally come from France doesn’t make it less tradional.
Thanks to everyobody for your feedback.
If any of you happens to be around Galway, I’ll be reading a paper on this topic at NUIG in June… I can’t remember the exact date, but if you’re interested, just contact me.
Cheers,
Davide

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

As far as the term "traditional music" goes… I would think it becomes a given after it has been around long enough to be handed down through a few generations regardless of where it’s from, i.e. Swedish, American, Balkan, etc. Every country has it’s own folk or traditional music and unless one needed to distinguish it from other ethnic music forms it would just be traditional or folk music. I would also think that the terms Joyce and other authors from the time or before uses in their books might shed some light on it.

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

"Folk" or "Trad" music were terms that appeared this century,
even up to the late sixties if you asked a musician to play or a singer to sing (speaking as a collector) they would not differentiate between folk or any other kind of music. It was really just the popular music of the day. For instance, when you met a contact for the first time you would probably have to listen to Music Hall items and without a basic knowledge of this kind of music it was difficult to take them further back in time to arrive at the stuff you were looking for.

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

The meaning of "Sean Nos" seems to be widely misused these days. If you sing in English you could use a "Sean Nos"style but it still would not be the real thing as "Sean Nos"
can onlly apply to songs sung in Irish. Maybe that’s a bit pedantic but meanings of words seem to change from day to day now and I find it difficult sometimes to keep track.

Re: Terms used to refer to trad music before the music revival of the 50s

I used to alway hear it called "ceili music" when I was growing up - but perhaps that term just came from the radio programme