When I think Irish music, and I think that this is probably the same for most people, there are a few things that I think about. First off, I think a harp and a flute, creating some haunting, ethereal music that makes you wish you were on some misty moor or a drizzly, rocky precipice overlooking a gray sea. It also makes me think or some really lively, fiddle-infused goodness, with some incredibly talented performers doing River Dance. And third, I think of Celtic punk, which, I know, doesn’t actually all come from Ireland. In fact, the two Celtic punk bands that I heard first were Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys, which actually both originated in the States, which … I know, super disappointing.
Irish art music, however, far more excitingly, reaches all the way back to Medieval Gregorian chants. From there, it has roots in harp and flute from the Renaissance, and then, from the Baroque and Classical, in court music. We also have the traditional Irish music, which is the type of music that I mentioned earlier that we probably all think of, with the flutes and the stringed instruments and the harps, etc. This so-called traditional music is also known as Irish folk music, which is appropriate, considering it’s simply folk music that developed in Ireland.
This Irish folk music dates back to Gaelic Ireland, and still has a lively and vibrant culture and following today. Despite foreign influences – thanks so both immigration and emigration – traditional Irish music has not only kept true to its roots, but has flourished as some artists fuse it with rock and roll, punk, and all kinds of other different genres.
One of the ways in which some of the earliest Irish music – and here I’m talking anywhere from the 10th to 16th centuries – has lived on and continues to enjoy popularity is its translation into English and modern Irish by collectors, poets, and the like. There are, in case you’re interested, a number of Irish performers who have albums dedicated to modern interpretations of traditional Irish music. I’d really like to learn how to fiddle properly, because that old Irish stuff is some of my favourite music. Granted, I like a lot of different music, but considering that I play the violin, I figure since this genre at least includes an instrument I already play, I have a better chance of one day actually being able to play it. I can dream.
Anyway, this blog is all about these various types of Irish music! We’ll talk about where they came from, who made them popular, and who’s listening to it today. I am always impressed with the number of authors and artists and musicians Ireland has produced; it’s a land intensely rich in culture, and I think that one of the best ways we can measure that is in its music. So join me, won’t you, as we explore all the rich sounds this country and its people have to offer.