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Thesis 1

Thesis Title: Billy's box: Material culture, musical idiom, and musicianship in Irish button accordion
Degree Type: PhD
Degree Specialism: Ethnomusicology
Thesis Status: Accepted
Date Submitted / Accepted: January 2009
Institution Submitting / Submitted To: Other
No. of Volumes (no. of pages): 1 (333 pp)
Thesis Location / Link: http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3363289
Abstract: Musical instrument studies have contributed greatly to many scholarly fields. Ethnomusicologists tend to study them from the organological perspective, which traditionally has been more concerned with classification than with ethnographic description. Folkloristic material culture methodology and analysis allows the scholar to examination specific musical instruments as tools, providing a full description and analysis of the principles by which it creates sound, its historical development and use in a given culture. This in turn provides the scholar with insider access to a particular folk musical idiom in musical terms that make sense to the musicians who perform within that idiom. This study examines the Irish button accordion using material culture methods and analysis, describing how the an instrument invented in nineteenth century Austria can become 'Irish' through the simple act of tuning. Description and analysis begin with acoustic properties of the free reeds, their use and development in nineteenth century Europe. As instruments change over time and through space, tuning changes come into play. It is variation in tuning that gives the scholar entré into and understanding of the musical idiom, the particular characteristics, of a given culture. Since music is defined as humanly organized sound one can trace the idiom through the musicianship of an individual to determine his or her role in a community.

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