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:

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

The Splintering: Towards a future of micro music communities

Every morning during our summer holidays as children in An Cheathrú Rua, each of us had a job to do. My responsibility was tidying the sitting room. In general, it involved fixing cushions on the couch, clearing ash and the odd beer can out of the fire, emptying the ashtray, Continue reading

The Search for Recognition

His voice snapped at the air around him as he presented his idea: ‘It would be like water or electricity, a utility that you pay for.’ The radio voice was talking about streaming. ‘Music would always be available to you, accessible to you, all around you.’

I thought of the hundreds of upcoming concerts that I see listed on The Journal of Music, about the musical riches that are available to us, about how things are undervalued. Music is all around us, but until we get the bill for it, do we notice?

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What Ireland Can Teach the World About Music

In 2011, when the Queen of England made the very first state visit by a British Monarch to the Republic of Ireland, the occasion was marked with a concert of Irish music. It made sense, then, that during the first ever state visit by the President of Ireland to the United Kingdom this week, the occasion was marked by a concert of… Irish music.

Ireland’s muscle as a musical country is such that it has the power to nudge British music out of the way at Continue reading

Who Would Choose the Creative Life?

One of the particularly interesting parts of Singing from the Floor, a fascinating new history of British folk clubs by J.P. Bean, is a chapter that contains interviews with the children of the singers, musicians, audiences and organisers who generated the heyday of the clubs in the 1960s and 70s.

Their children, people such as Eliza Carthy, Nancy Kerr and Seth, Sean and Sam Lakeman, remember sitting at folk clubs when they were children, usually with a lemonade and crisps, and describe their learning process as ‘organic’ and ‘by osmosis’. As soon as they were old enough, they were involved in performance themselves.

What jumps out, however, is not just how culturally rich their childhood was, but how their parents also created a creative economy for those Continue reading

Where Noel Hill Meets Jennifer Walshe

I tend to take pictures quickly at concerts – I’m concerned that I may miss something, and I also feel a little self-conscious – so they generally don’t turn out well. Such was the case at the Session with the Pipers concert in the Cobblestone at the beginning of March. The concertina player Noel Hill’s performance was exceptional; I knew I wanted to capture it; I took a hurried snap. Such dark, grainy, blurred mobile phone pictures are becoming my personal diary of the music I hear.

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The Journey of Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

In the summer of 2007, fiddle-player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh didn’t bring his new album to the Willie Clancy Summer School:

I haven’t put Where the One-Eyed Man is King in shops. I didn’t bring it down to the Willie Clancy week. I don’t think people in traditional music here would be interested in it. It’s only for sale at certain gigs and on the internet. I wouldn’t even sell it at certain gigs because I know if you sell it to somebody from a really traditional background they are not going to be interested. They are going to say, what the hell is this?

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