Music and the Arts Need Ideas and Debate Too

The writer Desmond Fennell, who died this week, had clear ideas about the role of new thinking and debate in society. They are relevant to Irish music today, writes Toner Quinn.

One of the lessons I learned from the Irish writer Desmond Fennell, who sadly passed away this week, was that every societal challenge is all down to the way we think about it, and therefore applying yourself to thinking in new ways about a particular issue is valuable. He took the role of thinking and articulating new ideas seriously and dedicated his life to it. 

Continue reading

Podcast Interview: Digital Publishing With Toner Quinn

Neasa Murphy from SYP (Society of Young Publishers) Ireland hosts a conversation with editor of The Journal of Music and university lecturer Toner Quinn. They discuss the emergence of online publishing, building a readership, and Ireland’s only publishing master’s degree course. www.nuigalway.ie/courses/taught-p…-publishing.html

Why Isn’t Irish Traditional Music ‘Curated’ Too?

Now in its seventh edition, the latest ‘Tradition Now’ festival took place at the National Concert Hall on 19–20 June, but it is still not clear what this event is trying to achieve, writes Toner Quinn.

Any reader of Irish traditional music history will tell you how complex it is. There is still so much we are learning about how this music developed. The story is complicated because it involves Ireland, Britain and the US, colonisation, the famine, the Irish language, political and cultural movements, the harp and the uilleann pipes, different forms of dancing, music collectors, recording, broadcasting, and now the internet. And of course it has never existed in a musical vacuum, so there are overlaps with classical music, popular music, marching band music and more. Presenting festivals and concerts of this music, therefore, is full of exciting avenues to explore.

Continue reading

We Need to Talk about Creativity in the Post-Pandemic Era

In his recently published autobiography, the English folk-rock singer and guitarist Richard Thompson tells the story of one of his most famous songs, which gives the book its title. ‘Beeswing’ is the story of a free-spirited woman who refuses to be tied down by any man or job. ‘You might be lord of half the world,’ she replies to her lover, ‘You’ll not own me as well.’ Thompson explains that the character is a composite of various people: the folk singer Anne Briggs, a tramp named Ted that Thompson used to take in and feed in the 1970s, plus other strong personalities he had known. Also drifting through the song is a reflection on the challenge of the creative life, and the spirit of the 1960s and 70s generation who rejected contemporary society and sought out alternative ways of living. Thompson did this too, converting to Sufism and moving to rural Suffolk to live near a religious community.

Continue reading

How RTÉ Can Restore Its Leadership Role in Music

Music and broadcasting go hand in hand, but RTÉ’s leadership role in music has been shrinking in recent years. Toner Quinn suggests four ways to turn the situation around.

Public service broadcasting in Ireland would be unimaginable without the contribution of music and the Irish music sector. Music recordings make up the majority of radio broadcasting, and music permeates every aspect of television and online broadcasts, from music performances to music themes, soundtracks and all forms of entertainment.

Continue reading

The Continuing Journey of Martin Hayes

Martin Hayes’ livestreamed concert from the National Concert Hall last week (8 December) gave an insight into the changing music of the fiddle-player, and revealed new collaborative directions. Toner Quinn reviews.

We hear a quiet strum of four strings, checking his tuning, and then, solo on the stage of the National Concert Hall in Dublin, fiddle-player Martin Hayes begins the air ‘The Lark in the Clear Air’. It’s a tune familiar to those who grew up in Ireland before this difficult millennium. It was the theme tune of a long-running Sunday morning radio programme. Then it was comforting, now it is wistful.

Continue reading

Understanding the Core Tradition

The latest release from the traditional music label Raelach Records is its very first compilation album, featuring Noel Hill, Aoife Ní Bhriain, Pádraic Keane and Nell Ní Chróinín. Toner Quinn reviews.

Rogha Raelach Volume 1, Raelach Records’ first compilation album, is not drawn from their 16 previous releases, although, with albums by Noel Hill, Ensemble Ériu, Tony MacMahon and Claire Egan, that would have made an attractive record. Rather, concertina player Jack Talty of the label has put together a collection of previously unreleased tracks from musicians he has worked with.

Continue reading

Rebuilding the Public Conversation Around Music

Why is the public conversation around music important, and how do we make it stronger? Toner Quinn reflects on twenty years of publishing the Journal of Music and the changes that have taken place.

For the past couple of months, I have been reflecting on what I have learnt from twenty years of publishing the Journal of Music. The first issue appeared on the week of 5 November 2000 and I can still remember the weight of the box of magazines in my arms as I carried it from music shop to bookshop around Dublin city, asking if they would take a few copies. Keep on reading

How the Arts Made Their Funding Breakthrough

The government’s funding announcement for the arts last week was unprecedented, and there are lessons to be learned from the way in which it came about, writes Toner Quinn.

The scale of the funding increase for the arts and music sector in last week’s Budget was so significant that it is important to understand fully what happened. 

The government gave €130m to the Arts Council, plus another €50m for the live entertainment sector. To put this into context, the Council’s funding had peaked at €83m during the Celtic Tiger, thirteen years ago. When the economic crash hit in 2008, Continue reading