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Irish Song Project

p15979coll10

About this collection

An Historical Typology of Irish Song

This project has the following aims:

1. to investigate the historical development of song in Ireland from the earliest evidence to eighteenth century in its regional, insular, and international European contexts, and including especially iots common heritage with Gaelic-speaking Scotland and the isle of Man.

  

2. to establish a typology of song repertoires according to three principal criteria:

 

Varieties of Melody: broadly classified as: i) speech-song or recitative; ii) one-line, usually 'formulaic', melody based on short units or 'cells'; and iii) extended, or more complex, melody;

Varieties of Structure: prose, strophic, refrain songs; prose texts with interpolated lyric; dialogue songs;

Varieties of Text: e.g. elegies, keens and other life-cycle rituals; seasonal celebration (e.g. May songs); narrative (lays, ballads); religions devotion; praise and panegric; nature; leisure and entertainment.

 

This project offers a new account of song in Ireland. 'Irish song' here refers to songs composed or performed in Ireland, thus not only songs in Gaelic but also in English and, for teh medieval period, Latin and French in addition. The primary focus will be on the identification of melodic types. Yet in order to locate and understand song in its historical and literary contexts, it is important to examine the relatively restricted number of surviving sources with music notation in relation to the larger poetic repertory to which they are intrinsically related.

 

A census of the extant primary sources, both poetic and musical, will be drawn together for the first time, providing a comprehensive historical and literary framework for the earliest evidence for the different genres of sunf texts as found in printed collections, manuscript sources and sound archives. This census will include medieval hymns in Latin and Irish; narrative texts including saints' lives, heroic lays, ballads, bardic poetry, religious and secular elegy. For the explicitly musical sources, melodies will be classified as follows: 1) chant-like or recitative melody; 2) a single melodic line repeated throughout, with occasional minor variation; and 3) longer, more structured forms. Melodies without texts will be matched to texts located in other printed and manuscript sources, a process which will depend on evidence provided by the titles of tunes (e.g. elegy), marginal notes (e.g. references to seasonal ritual, or an historic event); song type (e.g. Ossianic Lay), metrical considerations, and tune structure (e.g. strophic form, presence of refrain, chant-like or formulaic melody). This will establish a framework for identifying song types.

 

 

 
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