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Companion to Irish Traditional Music

by Fintan Vallely

Bibliographic information

TitleCompanion to Irish Traditional Music
AuthorFintan Vallely
PublisherCork University Press
Publication Date2011


The Companion to Irish Traditional Music is a landmark, easy to use A-Z format for studying, exploring and researching one of Ireland's most universally recognisable cultural expressions.

Among the existing publications on Irish traditional music there are works of monumental initiative and deservedly enduring status. But the radical development in this music scene since the 1960s mark it now as an established part of Irish cultural life and demand new kinds of information. The commercial side of the music has evolved and consolidated, generating a new set of standards, popular music dynamics and significant music tourism. The music's expanding profile within the academic system too has created fresh approaches to playing and study, with a growth of academic research interest, and many major studies published or presently under way. In relevant and accessible ways The Companion uniquely draws together the oldness and newness in all of this: the practice and the study, the aesthetics and the analysis, the competing interests and diverse ideals.

The editor Fintan Vallely is himself an accomplished musician and music writer. He has harnessed the expertise of some 200 specialists from all aspects of traditional music, who in more than half a million words and 300 images present the most comprehensive image of Irish traditional music ever assembled. This detailed mosaic is coloured by history, ideology, scholarship, virtuosity, romance, satisfaction, pride and internationalism, all appropriately flagged by the cover's use of Maclise's fabulously energetic Snap Apple Night.

This second edition is not only revised but also greatly expanded, and has much new information, including material never before printed and unavailable elsewhere. In 1,750 individual articles and as many more sub-sections The Companion gives A-Z coverage of song, dance, instruments, bands, storytelling, technology, tunes and style, composition, organisations and promotion, education and transmission, collectors and archives, revival, broadcasting and recording, English, Scottish and Welsh music and song, and music in all Irish counties, Europe and the USA. This commentary and analysis is linked to an historical timeline which spans three millennia, and a publications listing that covers three centuries. Six hundred biographies detail the human endeavour of the field, documenting significant musicians, commentators, historians, promoters and composers, and extended entries cover major themes such as song, dance, education and the elements of style.

The Companion to Irish Traditional Music is a key reference for the interested enthusiast, session player and professional performer. It is also a profoundly comprehensive, one-stop resource for every library, school and home with an interest in the distinctive rituals, qualities and history of Irish culture. And it is a vital resource for all levels in education, particularly valuable at third level as both textbook and research resource. The book is uniquely backed by the provision of a parallel website - which guides structured exploration of the text and fully integrates it with the existing vast and magnificent range of traditional music internet resources.

About the Author 

Fintan Vallely ---

Fintan Vallely lectures and writes on Irish traditional music and is the author of Tuned Out - Traditional Music and Identity in Northern Ireland.


Companion to Irish traditional music, ed. by Fintan Vallely. 2nd ed. Cork University Press, 2011. 832p bibl index; ISBN 9781859184509. Outstanding Title! Reviewed in 2012jun CHOICE.

Vallely introduces several improvements to the second edition of his definitive reference (1st ed., CH, May'00, 37-4829). Most notably, this iteration of the Companion features over twice as many topics as the earlier edition, includes a comprehensive index, and is supported by a website that points readers to related content In his introduction, Vallely points out that much of the content from the original edition has been revised and expanded by means of reader and professional input. Indeed, the volume's content supports this idea by featuring articles from widely influential Irish musicians and music scholars including Liz Doherty, Martin Hayes, and Mick Moloney. Vallely's treatment of Irish music hews very closely to music performed in traditional Irish idioms worldwide. The volume includes essays on musical styles related to or derivative of Irish traditional forms, practices, and techniques evident in Irish music played in Australia, Europe, and North America. It does not treat other Irish and popular music hybrids such as Celtic-influenced punk or country. Indispensable for scholars, players, and listeners of Irish traditional music, this illustrated, alphabetically arranged work is also an intensive resource for Irish history and culture.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers. -- J. G. Matthews, Washington State University Libraries

Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

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