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Thesis 1

Thesis Title: Institutional and Social Teaching, Learning and Performing of Irish Traditional Music in Ennis, County Clare 1961-1980
Degree Type: PhD
Degree Specialism: Ethnomusicology
Supervisor(s): Dr. Aileen Dillane
Thesis Status: Accepted
Date Submitted / Accepted: January 2014
Institution Submitting / Submitted To: University of Limerick
No. of Volumes (no. of pages): 1 (356pp.)
Thesis Location / Link: University of Limerick Library
Abstract: Ennis, County Clare in the west of Ireland, is now considered to be one of the principal strongholds of traditional Irish music practice in the world. During the 1970s, traditional music practice became a ‘living tradition’, becoming increasingly relevant to Ennis musicians and to the life of the town in general. However, prior to 1961, music practice in the town appears to have been limited to a few musicians, many of whom had roots in rural areas. A history of unbroken effective teaching since then has contributed to this transformation.

In this thesis, I address the emergence of the formalization of the transmission of traditional music through educational means i.e. the setting up of the first institutionally led class in 17/4/1961. I examine the conditions which led to it, looking at the ideological foundations which underpinned the introduction of this formal structure. I focus principally on the institutional bodies through which it occurred; namely the Clare Vocational Education Committee and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. This class was particularly significant in that it was the first such class for the teaching of traditional Irish dance music to be recognized by the Department of Education. Since then there has been a steady increase in the number and diversity of class contexts, to meet the demands of growing student numbers and changes in society. I trace the connections between it and subsequent classes in Ennis and its hinterland.

Formal classes in the 1970s were primarily concerned with teaching the fundamentals of music theory and practice. I examine the pedagogic strategies employed by the teachers. In addition, as students progressed and became more accomplished in their instruments and their interest increased, it was inevitable that opportunities to perform would follow. I examine the music teachers roles, as bridge builders between the community and the classroom; and in facilitating learning by experiencing and taking part in a living tradition within the community, looking at the ways the formal classroom based learning of a tradition became a gateway for less formal experiential learning within the community. Therefore, focussing on both the formal and informal transmission of knowledge, I examine how, why and what type of musical knowledge was formally taught, and what knowledge was taken for granted.

While opportunities to participate in established community practices could be anticipated, changing economic and social condtions, the emergence of cultural tourism, together with the growing numbers of musicians in Ennis, became a stimulus for the development of new performance contexts and practices, which in turn contributed to the reshaping of the identity of Ennis, from being a place largely devoid of traditional music to becoming a place internationally known and recognised as a major hub of the tradition.

Thesis 2

Thesis Title: Piano Practice
Degree Type: MA
Degree Specialism: Ethnomusicology
Supervisor(s): Dr. John Morgan O'Connell
Thesis Status: Accepted
Date Submitted / Accepted: July 2005
Institution Submitting / Submitted To: University of Limerick
Thesis Location / Link: University of Limerick Library
Abstract: This thesis concerns the use of the piano in the transmission of musical knowledge. In particular, it concerns the use of the piano by Dr Charlie Lennon, as an accompanist and composer. As a pianist in the same genre, I have particular interest in the ways in which he applies musical ideas in the accompaniment of dance tunes. For the past few decades, he has been recognised as one of the best-known names in the piano accompaniment of Irish traditional music.

In Chapter One, drawing upon Bourdieu's concept of habitus, I examine his encoded and inherited performance practices. I consider the manner in which music has structured his life, examining his performance practices and contexts; the meaning of the piano in his life; and the materials of this practice.

In Chapter Two, I look at elements of his style as manifested in his playing of his own composition, Kilty Town: this tune is a locus for my musical analysis of his performance style in piano accompaniment. Focussing on issues of performance practice from the perspective of texture and rhythm, I examine the following: rhythm; harmony; polyphonic movement, including contrary motion between treble and bass lines, and the relationship between these lines and the main melody line.

In Chapter Three, I am particularly interested that his concepts of texture are due to an understanding of his system of inherited practice i.e. his habitus. In this regard, I examine Kilty Town from a historical perspective, exploring the structures and practices that led to the development of his style of performing the piano within the tradition. Issues that are pertinent here include: where he learned; performed; and how these practices have engaged with his life history.

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