A Future for Irish Music

How can we ensure that we have the infrastructure to support all Irish music into the future? Why have we not achieved this already? In an essay written to mark the twentieth anniversary of the music and arts station RTÉ Lyric FM, Toner Quinn, Editor of the Journal of Music, asks the question: what is holding us back?
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How Music Can Empower Us in the Fight for Climate Justice

Young people are not waiting for action on climate change any more – they are taking action, and history shows that music is going to play a key role in their movement, writes Toner Quinn.

Ten days ago, two hundred student protestors from the Sunrise movement entered the offices of the US Democrat Nancy Pelosi, demanding that she support what is being called the ‘Green New Deal’.

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Anchoring the Tension

Toner Quinn reviews a Music and Musings concert in Galway featuring the world premiere of Greg Caffrey’s fourth string quartet.

The Music and Musings concerts run by the Galway Music Residency are an opportunity to participate in a conversation about new music as well as listen to it. Following the performance of a work, there’s a discussion with the composer, Chaired by Linda O’Shea Farren of the Contemporary Music Centre, and then the work is played again.

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Why We Should Be Listening to Folk Music

Nobody spotted the rise of populism, say the media and the politicians, but that’s not entirely true when it comes to folk music, writes Toner Quinn. There is a case to be made for listening much more carefully to the music around us.

Ever since the new RTÉ Folk Awards were launched in May, I’ve been thinking about what ‘folk music’ means to audiences now. Up until recently, the phrase ‘traditional music’ was the prevalent one in Ireland because the word ‘folk’ had become so commercialised in the 60s and 70s that Irish musicians had moved away from it.

But now ‘folk’ is back, influenced by its popularity in the UK and the USA, and the term is used to describe an ever widening range of musics, from indie-folk to atmos-folk. It would be easy for its meaning to get entirely lost. And yet there are things happening in the world right now that should remind us of one of the most important characteristics of folk music, and compel us to listen to it much more carefully.

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Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin’s Example Will Continue to Inspire

A tribute to the renowned Irish musician, composer and educator who died on 7 November 2018.

It’s almost exactly two years since I last met Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin. On 3 November 2016, just after his retirement from the University of Limerick, we had arranged to meet at his house in Newport, Co. Tipperary. I wanted to interview him for the Journal of Music and talk to him about his life and music, how he viewed all the changes in Irish music that he had seen, and how he viewed his own place in that.

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A New Edge to the West

The Galway Jazz Festival has a new momentum and was bigger again this year – Toner Quinn attended a mix of concerts, from the Radio String Quartet to Peter Broderick, plus a debate on Brexit.

The Galway Jazz Festival jumped from 40 to over 60 events this year. It reflects the ambition of the new team (Ciarán Ryan, Ellen Cranitch and Matthew Berrill) and their determination to establish the festival not just in Ireland but on the international map. For those in the west, the volume of events meant a sense of carnival in early October, just as the winter clouds were settling in. Galway is small and medieval, a handful of thin criss-crossing streets. Add in several dozen musicians for four days and you will change its artistic climate. This is the immediate achievement of Galway Jazz 2.0 – it has created a new identity for itself, an autumnal buzz, separate to the summer festivals for which the city is known.

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Everything Strange

In the world premiere of Jennifer Walshe’s ‘The Worlding’ at the Model in Sligo, her ‘Aisteach’ project comes alive, writes Toner Quinn.

Jennifer Walshe’s Aisteach project was launched in 2015. It is an imaginary history of the Irish avant-garde, a group of sound artists, musicians and composers inserted into the cracks of history. They invented drone music, they were the improvising Guinness Dadaists, or the elusive Caoimhín Breathnach and his Golden Cassette, or a nun performing avant-garde music on Church organ.

Aisteach – meaning ‘strange’ in Irish – is not the first group that Walshe has created; Grúpat from 2007 to 2009 consisted of a 9-person collective of sound artists, all Walshe. She said in a recent talk that Irish culture is fertile ground for such re-interpretations – ‘It doesn’t seem imperialistic’ to play with Irishness. Everything has happened, and anything could happen, in our history. Continue reading

Somebody is in Control

The first All Together Now festival took place on 3–5 August on the Curraghmore Estate in Waterford. It’s where the new Irish generations come for freedom – or is it order, asks Toner Quinn.

‘And will you know it when you find it? And do you know you’re looking for it?’ –  ‘By My Demon Eye’, This is the Kit

A man in his twenties is in a purple dress, his head half-shaved. He and some female friends land with a bolt of energy at the Belonging Bandstand and start dancing to the Dublin-based Afrobeat group Yankari.

Two children are beside them and the man holds their hands and starts dancing with them too. Then he and his friends sense action elsewhere and start to rush
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Remembering Tommy Peoples

A tribute to the great Irish fiddle-player who died on 3 August.

It was 1992. I was 18 and booked into Tommy Peoples’ fiddle class at the Willie Clancy Summer School. As we arrived, he sat on the edge of a table, his fiddle case on one side and on the other a small tin case in which he placed the rolled cigarettes he was working on. Then, when the lesson was to begin, he would shut the tin case with a ‘snap’, and the fiddle case would open.

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