Time to Reignite the Fight for Music in 2016

RTÉ Lyric FM is in the news because of its schedule changes, but the strength of the response is a positive thing.

As 2016 begins, and the economy starts to recover after the crash, how will musical life in Ireland fare? Will it benefit in proportion to the improving economy? 

In Ireland, the cost of music is underestimated. Music is expensive. Musicians and composers of all genres develop their work over decades and they require a substantial infrastructure of venues, promoters and organisations to assist them in reaching their potential and creating the experiences that enrich our lives and our society. Continue reading


Why We Need a Traditional Music Infrastructure

The world of the professional traditional musician appears to be contracting, writes Toner Quinn.

First published in The Journal of Music on 7 July 2015.

In 2012, when we launched a listings service on The Journal of Music, it was in an effort to capture what was happening musically, as in concerts, festivals and other performances. There are not enough writers and editors in the world to track the range of activity in contemporary music life, but using the internet and enabling readers to contribute suddenly presented that opportunity. The key was creating a listings service that was flexible enough to accommodate a huge range of styles, but organised enough to make sense of it all.

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The End (and the Beginning) of the Experimental Music Festival

Published in The Journal of Music on 29 April 2015

Far from ‘anything goes’, programming a festival of experimental music may be the most difficult type of all. With a new artistic director, the Borealis festival in Bergen, Norway, seized the challenge, writes Toner Quinn.

A brown duffle coat and a cap pulled down. A full, warm, airless room. The audience stood close to the small stage. Shoulders up, he walked around the stage. Hands first in pockets, then wrapped fully around the microphone, then in his pockets again. Halted, at times breathless, conversation; sparks of humour; he would withdraw to the back of the stage to examine his guitar, pick a few notes, then put it down again. He circled the stage a few times more, and then Richard Dawson walked to the front left corner without his guitar, closed his eyes and sang.

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Who Will Invest in Irish Music?

(Published in The Journal of Music on 10 March 2015)

The next steps for the Irish music industry require ‘strong leadership’, says a new report, but where will it come from?

A little while ago, I had a conversation with a man in Conamara, someone who has spent forty years campaigning for the Irish language.

As he related to me some of the details of his campaigns – regular tussles with the state, attemping to elicit support for the minority language community in the west – a question occurred to me: in those forty years, I asked, had any private individual of means ever approached him, intimated that he or she appreciated his efforts, and offered financial support for his ambitious ideas. The answer, to my genuine surprise, was no.

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‘Our media have a great deal to answer for’: Benjamin Dwyer’s new book asks hard questions about Irish musical life.

Throughout 2014, BBC Radio 3’s Breakfast programme played a work by a British composer every morning, part of a year-long project called ‘Best of British’. It made for an impressive line-up: Britten, Skempton, Bax, Nyman, Elgar, MacMillan, Bryars, Delius, Tippett, Warlock, Purcell, Adés, Walton, Maxwell Davies, Dowland, Birtwistle, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Moeran, Tallis and dozens more. A few Irish composers made the list too: Stanford, Field and Trimble.

These names are actually typical of the station’s content. If a listener to BBC Radio 3 isn’t already familiar with their work, they Continue reading

Should artists call themselves start-ups?

This week, Enterprise Ireland announced a €200,000 fund for four counties in the south-east of Ireland to ‘boost start-ups’. In September, it announced a fund of €200,000 for three counties in the north-east. In March, start-ups in the county of Cork received the same fund. Enterprise Ireland also announced a €500,000 fund aimed at stimulating start-ups among graduates, and, with Hoxton Ventures, a €5.9 million venture capital fund for early-stage businesses. 

As well as this type of funding for start-ups, there are accelerator programmes, incubators, digital hubs, seed funds, venture Continue reading

Is the musical focus of the tech world too narrow?

Musical life is more complex than it appears online.

Over three day days in November, I attended the Web Summit in Dublin. I was motivated to go because I wanted to hear some creative ideas on the digital world and perhaps apply them to my publishing work. That there was a dedicated Music Summit on the third day was, for a musician, a bonus.

There were actually nine stages, the others being Enterprise, Marketing, Food, Library, Builders, Machine, Sports and Centre, Continue reading

A Gaeltacht Moment

An upcoming festival of music and song in Conamara is about the past and the future.

Nan Tom Teaimín de Búrca sat below the television screen, absorbing the black-and-white scenes from 40 years earlier. Suddenly she appeared, singing on stage. The picture seemed to struggle for existence in the present, captured as it was from a 1970s AKAI quarter-inch, black-and-white video tape recorder.

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From the Ground Up: Miltown Malbay and the cultural spaces that draw us back

When the children leap into the car, I have to listen carefully for the first few minutes, because that’s when the rush of information on the day’s events will come. In a few minutes, their enthusiasm will settle down and their minds will turn to thoughts of a swim at Spanish Point. 

My daughter and son have just completed their third year attending the lessons at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy, the annual traditional music summer school in Miltown Malbay, County Clare. Listening to a fourteen-year-old boy tell you about what his fiddle teacher James Continue reading

The Thin Green Line: On Writing About Irish Traditional Music

Musicians need to harness the printed word to affect their fortunes. – See more at: http://journalofmusic.com/focus/thin-green-line-writing-about-irish-traditional-music#sthash.EWgbkwp7.dpuf

Published in The Journal of Music on 27 June 2014.

Musicians need to harness the printed word to affect their fortunes.

The reason I have spent the last fourteen years writing and publishing about music is because of a simple principle that I happen to believe: that the writing about a music affects the fortunes of a music.

Every genre of music produces a body of literature, from the specialised to the general, and the quality and range of that writing will Continue reading