Monday, November 19, 2007

"The Journal of Music in Ireland"

I bought a copy of the Journal of Music in Ireland recently. This seems like an interesting magazine, being a kind of Irish Wire, albeit one more oriented towards contemporary classical music than the popular British magazine. The record reviews (including one by a former member of Frank's APA) seem to focus exclusively on Irish acts, presumably because you can hear about the others elsewhere, but the live reviews and so on cover a broader palette.

My own musical tastes are moving in this kind of direction at the moment, so I found much of what was in the magazine fascinating. Particularly engaging was an interview with some fiddle player guy called Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. His thing is that he has discovered sampling technology and is making music that he feels is rooted in Irish traditional music but moving so far beyond it that he does not bring the CDs of this music to sell at his more straight down the line gigs, for fear of being lynched by an army of geansaí wearers. He compared the way traditional music is approached here to the more innovative practices in the Nordic countries, especially Sweden; I wondered what he would make of all those Fonal bands from Finland. His big gripe with the Irish trad scene is that it is pretending that there is still an oral folkish tradition when there is not, and that there has been no development in the genre since the 1970s, with everyone being content to re-hash Planxty. The article was endearingly provocative, and it definitely made me interested in hearing Ó Raghallaigh's more innovative music. I did wonder, however, if in pushing against traditional music's envelope he has broken with genre conventions so much as to no longer be making anything we can still consider part of the world of Irish traditional music.

There was also a fascinating but problematic article by composer Raymond Deane about the relationship between classical and popular music, triggered by some remark of John Adams' that classical music starts to die when it loses touch with the vernacular. The problem I had with the article is that Deane does not really engage with "popular" music and seems to use this term to cover everything that is not classical music. As a result, he fails to register that non-classical music has its own avant-garde and "difficult" traditions that could not be described as popular in any real sense. He also implicitly creates a false dichotomy between rock musicians (who are all rolling in cash) and impoverished classical musicians, something that the vast majority of rock musicians who never make any money whatsoever would regard with wry amusement. I was going to write a letter on this subject to the JMI, but I have not got round to it yet, because I am a slackass.


Anonymous said...


Please do consider writing in to JMI! Your points are good ones!


Toner Quinn
Editor, JMI

ian said...

Cheers, I'll give it a go.

Anonymous said...

I was going to jump in and say that you make a really important point and you articulate it well, and you'd better write your letter or else, but only the editor of JMI has got in before me. *sigh*