- Nótaí/Notes:Music and Ireland
"Nótaí/Notes: Music and Ireland," a special issue of Éire-Ireland, capitalizes on the energy of current music-related scholarship happening globally. In 2007 Gerry Smyth urged Irish Studies scholars to "listen" to what music could offer to the field of Irish Studies, advocating an expansion of inquiry into musical sites of cultural production rich with possibilities but as yet not fully exploited. Notwithstanding its genesis on a literary-historical axis, Irish Studies has long since expanded its parameters of inclusion, and this is reflected in the breadth of topics, methodologies, and arguments made within the pages of Éire-Ireland and other journals over the past number of decades. A special-issue journal publication of the Irish Studies Review with the theme of "Music in Contemporary Ireland" in 2004, edited by Smyth, is an important marker in this regard. However, it is demonstrably the case that articles with music as the key site of inquiry remain the exception rather than the rule of Irish Studies journals. Remarkably, it has taken fifteen years for this issue, the next musically themed Irish Studies journal special issue, to appear.
In the intervening decade and a half the field of Irish Music Studies has undergone an impressive expansion, as evidenced in the range of monographs and edited collections drawing on a wide range of disciplines and across music genres that have been published (see, for example, Boydell, Campbell, Crosson, Dowling, Fitzgerald, Hall, Kaul, McLaughlin, Murphy, Ó hAllmhuráin, Ó Laoire, O'Flynn, O'Donnell, O'Shea, Smith, Smyth, Vallely, White, and Williams). The importance of the long-incubated The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (White and Boydell) in 2013 and the second, much expanded edition of Fintan Vallely's The Companion to Irish Traditional Music (2011) should not be underestimated. Both volumes act as markers [End Page 10] in the sand and, to paraphrase White, provide topographies of Irish musical experiences previously hidden or obscured (Encyclopaedia). However, both tomes also expose, by virtue of absences, the topographies and voices as yet to be mapped and heard. Since the turn of the twenty-first century Smyth's entreaties are being answered most productively—in monographs and book-length works at least—under what loosely might be described as Irish Music Studies as a subset of Irish Studies. The integrative disciplinary tools being used in this field, drawing variously on ethnomusicology, historical studies, literary studies, musicology, anthropology, and cultural studies, are conveniently aligned to a wider perspective in Irish Studies itself.
It is in this context that this issue has been assembled. It contributes to the widening critical scholarship in Irish music, and, importantly, it concretizes in a special issue the place of music in Irish Studies research. In formulating the theme for this issue, the editors consciously commited to what may be seen as the broad topic of "Music and Ireland" without narrow prescription. This decision was taken specifically to allow for contributions to reflect current questions and concerns. In developing the issue, two research symposia took place, one at Boston College, the other at NUI Galway, at one or the other of which each contributor to the volume presented a preliminary version of work in development. Both occasions proved to be intellectually invigorating, creating a sense of community endeavor for the issue to come, and, critically, they allowed for exchange in real time between contributers as they developed their respective articles.1 As the chosen visual representation for the Nótaí/Notes Music and Ireland symposia, the cover image used here, Piano Accordion Girl by artist Lorcan Vallely, captures this energy and sense of mobility. Vallely's artwork casts a fresh eye on the subject matter of music and Ireland. Its tonal quality and his insertion of unexpected color are both vital and vibrant, sustaining its use and inspiration throughout the various stages of the special issue's development and execution.
In any collected work, but particularly using the template of a journal special issue, the enriching capacity to propose fresh ideas, to [End Page 11] revisit and reimagine older ones, and to juxtapose critical commentaries, is valuable. The...