Irish Music Conrad Bladey
Note these are rough notes for class use...
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Dimensions and Variables of Irish Music
In this  work I would like to discuss a few of the variables and dimensions of the music.
These should help you to determine what sort of music you are hearing. Remember that any given individual can play in any of the dimensions.
What is Celtic-Not much from early times has survived however, in the “Celtic” arts- music and literature and fine arts there are dimensions in common. I have noted how these apply to “celtic” music below.

Tension- As in the spirals in art and the extended sentences in literature celtic music should have an inner tension. It should pull you one way or the other. You should have the feeling of curves rather than straight lines. It should be lyrical

Ambiguity :  Just as the Zoomorphs in Celtic art are really not real animals although they look real so too in music the musical line may sound very complex and interwoven whereas it is often in reality a very simple line repeated over and over with variation.
It does not sound like what it is. It also may be an air or a dance. It seems to shape shift.

Ideal:  No matter what the ambiguity of the presentation and ornamentation the tune will none the less fit into a family of tunes considered to be the domain of the tradition. The odd form does fit into a category and can be listened to as a whole with its tension and
ambiguity creating a pleasing form within a recognizable style.
Remember…..that Irish music contains many traditions. All are equally valid. Each has its own rules. If one is using the word tradition it must be qualified- What? Where? When?
Dimensions of  The Irish Tradition

1. Personal/Abstract=======?Composed       We have noted that a tune may start out as a personal statement – perhaps to the movement of work. Then it can be picked up  formalized. Words may be maintained as well as the tune. It is interesting that some formalized work songs betray their original free form as lines are insertable by the singer.

2. Composed======? improvised         We have seen how sometimes songs are maintained as data bases for future improvisation. This may be in a collection on paper or in recorded media or in the mind. In any case there is a point of departure for improvisation. A tune may be more or less improvised.

3. Songs that are personal ==========? Songs that are for some one else   The artist or creator is working for him or her self or they may be working for a patron as a performer.  A story teller as opposed to a story performer.

4. Songs that are personal=========? Songs that are for something else             There are other functions of song rather being performed for patrons. Music performed for activities, to put children to sleep and especially for dance must have essential dimensions in order to function. These parameters would be more mechanical  than those demanded by a patron.

Auras and feelings…..

Within Irish music we recognize several auras or environmental feelings. Rather than dimensions on variables these are in vs out artifacts.

1. The Celtic mist complete with mermaids.
2. The ranting fast paced dance
3. The patriotic music of solidarity
4. The contemplative air
5. The sentimental longing for the homeland city or home county