Arts Week with Judy Murphy
A project that began more than 20 years ago when Dr Deirdre Ní Chonghaile began exploring the musical heritage of her native country will culminate next Thursday evening at Charlie Byrne Bookstore when her book on the subject is launched.
Deirdre’s landmark publication, Collecting Music on the Aran Islands: A Century of History and Practice, is obviously about Irish music but, she says, “it’s also about history, historiography, memory and media “.
It was a labor of love for the musician and curator, who laughs that embarking on this project all those years ago “was like leaving the dog off-leash”.
Deirdre didn’t have an agenda initially, rather she was driven by curiosity about gaps in Aran’s history and brought her academic skills to the search for them.
“There are books on all aspects of the Aran Islands, from rocks to currachs, but not so much about music and I was curious to find out why,” she explains.
Deirdre, who was studying for a BA in music at Oxford in 2000 when she embarked on the project, points out that for us to know the music of the past, we rely on archives. And compiling archives requires literacy, materials and time.
Thanks to people who have visited the islands, collecting tunes and music – and now thanks to his extensive research to put the pieces of this puzzle together – a new image has emerged. It wasn’t just the visitors who collected the songs, she points out. One of the most important collectors was the late Bairbre Quinn, Deirdre’s aunt, who in the 1950s bought a tape recorder and began collecting songs and poems, which she continued to do for decades. .
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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