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Translatethispageto French Go TranslationbyGO!Network CaoimhínMacAoidhonRegionalIrishFiddleStyles

CaoimhínMacAoidhonRegionalIrishFiddleStylesTranslatethispageto French Go TranslationbyGO!Network REPRODUCEDBYPERMISSIONOFTHEAUTHOR: Byallmeans

CaoimhínMacAoidhonRegionalIrishFiddleStyles REPRODUCEDBYPERMISSIONOFTHEAUTHOR: Byallmeans

REPRODUCEDBYPERMISSIONOFTHEAUTHOR:Byallmeans feelfreetousethearticleatthesite.Theonlythingyouneedtopointout

isthatthearticleisnowatleast20yearsoldandwasoriginally

publishedinVol.1ofAnFhidilGhaelach(nowoutofprint).—Caoimhín

MacAoidh

AnFhidilGhaelach (nowoutofprint).— Caoimhín MacAoidh Part1 Part2 Part3 Part1

Part1

Part2

Part3

Part1

Approximately90yearsagotheIrishlanguagewasspokenwithoutbreakalongtheentire

southernwesternandnortherncoastlineandasfarinlandasCountyRoscommon(Irish

LanguageSurveyof1891).AtthistimetheIrishoftheseareas,dialecticallyspeaking,gradually

flowedintooneanother,thusmakingdistinctdialectsalongacontinuoustransversesection

almostundetectable.

Alanguagecanbesimplydefinedasahighlyorganisedseriesofsoundsanditisimportantto

notethatmusic,andinthiscasetraditionalIrishdancemusic,alsofitswellwiththisdefinition.

Ifeelthatbothlanguageandmusicarereflectiveoftheirpractitionersorcreators.Northernersto

megenerallyarestraightforwardpeopleintheirhumourandspeech.Theirmusicisusually

straightforwardaswell;theirsong,ornamentally,isalso.TheUlsterdialectofIrishisoften

referredtoasblandorflat.Themusicofthemoresoutherncounties,asregardstheirsound,and

Irishdialectsaresignificantlylighterinnature.Alinkbetweenthemusicandthelanguageis

hereinimplied.

Iwouldliketospeculatethatpriortothedrop­offintheacceptanceandplayingoftraditional

musicaswellasthespeakingoftheIrishlanguage,dancemusic,likethelanguage,existedina

continuousgradualblendingofstylesbetweenareas.Thesegradations,however,mostlikely

sufferedsomebreaksinthefaceofinsurmountablenaturalbarrierssuchastheRiverShannon

andvariousmountainrangeswhichlimitedcommunicationbetweenregions.Postdatingthe

declineinboththeacceptanceofbothtraditionaldancemusicandIrish,itwasexactlythese

barrierswhichhelpedtomaintainthenowremote,isolatedpocketswhichheldontotheir

traditions.Bytheturnofthecenturytheblendingofmusicalstyleswasdefunct,withdistinct

styles,likeIrishdialects,beingrecognisableonlywithinisolatedareas.

Tosupportthisidea,onecaneasilyseetheRiverShannonactingasanaturalbarrierbetween

CountyClare,amusicalprovincewherethereelisaheavilyemphasisedrhythm,andCounties

KerryandLimerick,whereagenerationagoslidesandpolkaspredominated.(Theauthor

acknowledgesthepresenceofturf

boatswhich,atthetimeinquestion

didsomewhatlinktheseareas.Itis

significanttopointoutthatThe

Foxhunter'sReelisclaimedtobea

nativetuneinbothareaswitheach

sideclaimingtransportationtothe

otherdistricttoturfboats).Scattery

Island,byalllocalaccountswould

havebeenenigmatic.Asthisisland

liescomfortablytuckedina

harbourbythemouthof

PoulnasherryBaynearKilrush,it

wouldbethoughtthatthemusicof

theislandwouldbemore

representativeoftheClarearea,yet

highlycrediblesourceswithout

exceptionmaintainthatthemusicofthisislandwasmorelikethatappreciatedonthesouthern

bankoftheShannon.Theseinformantsalsotellme,however,thattheislanders,althoughforced

bygeographicaldivisiontocallthemselvesClaremen,preferredtoconsiderthemselvesas

separate"islanders".Anotherexcellentexampleofgeographicbarriersseperatingmusicaland

linguisticprovincesaretheBluestackandSperrinMountainsofCountiesDonegalandwest

DerrywhichisolatethelatterfromtheflatbasaltplainofeastCountyDerryandCountyAntrim.

ThemountainsofConnemaraactsimilarlyseparatingConnemarafromtheeastCountyGalway

plain.

plain.

RapidmasstransportationforthegeneralpopulationinIrelandhasbecomearealitywithin

approximatelythelastfifteenyears.Essentially,whatthismeans,intermsoftraditionalmusic,is

thatpriortothearrivalofthemotorcar,buses,etc.thecountrypopulation(musiciansincluded)

wererestrictedtosmalllocalisedareas.Theboundariesofmostoftheseareaswerecommonly

dictatedbynaturalgeographicbarrierssuchasrivers,mountains,watersheds,etc.Thisexposed

themusicianswithinthemtoalocalsphereofinfluence,thuspromotingthecontinuenceoflocal

styles,asoutsideinfluencessuchastravellingmusiciansstillremainedminimal.(Somesuchas

JohnnyDoran,inrecentyearshowever,hadadynamiceffectonthelocalstylewithincertain

areas).

Asregardsthemassmediaandrecordings,Ifeelitcanbetruthfullystatedthatitwillbethese

whichdealthekillerblowtolocalisedfiddlestyles.Atpresentanyonecanreadilyobtaina

recordingofnearlyanytypeoffiddlestyle,thusIfeeleventuallycontributingtotheriseof

homogenousfiddlestylesbasedonheterogenousinfluences.ThelatePatrickKellyofCree,Co.

Clarebestsummeduptheevilsideofrecordingswhenhestatedthat"theworstthingthatever

happenedtotheWestClarestyleoffiddlingwastheappearanceofMichealColeman'srecords".

Ineedn'tgofurthertoillustratethegargantuanimpactwhichtherecordingsofthelateSligo

fiddlemasterhadontheentiremusicalpopulation.

Ipostedpart1ofthepromisedarticleonregionalstyles.Inrelationtothis,Iwishtopointout

thatitwaswrittenbackinthelate1970sandpublishedintheearly1980s(Isuspectabout

1980),basedonareferencetoMairéadNíMhaonaighashavingbeenalreadymarried.Atthat

timeitwastheonlyarticlepublishedwhichdirectlyaddressedregionalstyles.Fewifany,other

thanPhilippe's,havebeenpublished,indicatingthedearthofinvestigativeinitiativesdirectedat

oneofthemostinterestingandimportantsubjectsinthemusic.

IshouldpointoutalsothatwhileIstillstandoverthearticle,myviewshavechangedaweebit.

Iwouldalsowriteittodaywithamoretemperedviewsuchassubstitutingadifferentwordfor

"evil"asappearinginpartone.Again,thisisanindicatorofwherethingsstoodtheninthe

1970s,wherethe"national"stylewasboomingandtherewasavirtualintoleranceofanything

local.

Part2

Thewords"fiddlestyle"areoneswhichhavebeenseriously,andunfortunately,ambiguously

thrownabout,especiallyinlightofrecentacademicstudiesintothesubject.Ifonewereto

searchforreferencestoanykindofattemptatdefiningordelineatingtheboundariesofdifferent

andvaryingstylesonewouldbeconfrontedbyamarkedpaucityofideasanddescriptivework.

Thosewhichdoexistaremoreoftenthannotcontradictory.Thebulkofthelattertypewriting

areconfinedtoafewbroadreferencesinbookswhosemainaimistodealwithamuchwider

subject,aswellasthealltoooftenuninformedjottingsaccompanyingrecordings.Stylistic

descriptionsmostprobablyhavebeenbestdescribedtodateinBreandanBreathnach'sfinework

FolkMusicandDancesofIreland.

FolkMusicandDancesofIreland . Ifoneweretocombliteraryandoralsourcesfora

Ifoneweretocombliteraryandoralsourcesfora

definitionofthecharacteristicsofanUlsterfiddle

style,Ithinkitwouldbefoundthatopinionsseem

tovaryfrom:musiccreatedbylongsinglestrokes

ofthebow,tomusiccreatedbyshortsingle

strokesofthebow.Thecontradictioninthesetwo

opinionsisobvious,yetthereisanagreementthat

anUlsterstyledemandsastaccatotypeof

bowing.

Ifoneweretoresearchwrittenandoralsources

foradefinitionofaClarestyleoffiddling,atypeofexamplemightbe:musiccreatedwiththe

useoflong,fluidstrokesofthebowwithseveralnotesperbow.

TocompareplayersfrompartsofUlsterandClaresomeproblemsinthedefinitionsrecorded

becomeapparent.Thisdifficultybeingthattheplayersfromtheseregionswhosestyleswehave

attemptedtodefinedonotfitintothepigeonholescreatedbythem.Forexample,aplayersuch

asVinceyMcLaughlinfromBallymaquigan,CountyDerry,atypicalBannsidefiddlerwould

certainlybowinthemannerassetoutdefiningtheClarestyle,yethismusicsounds(N.B.the

mostimportantaspectofthemusic)verymuchlikeatypicalmid­Ulsterplayer.Ontheother

hand,takethelikesofPaddyKillhouryofDoolin,Co.Clare.Hisbowingwouldbemorethan

comfortablyfitwithinthestandardstaccatodefinitionoftheUlsterstyle,yetagain,hismusic

soundstypicallyClareintheend.

Otherattemptsatdefiningfiddlestyleshavebeenbasedonthetypeofornamentationemployed

withthemajorembellishmentsbeingrollsandtriplets.ItiscommonlyagreedthatinUlster

fiddlingstyletripletsareabundantandrollsarevirtuallynon­existent,whilstinClaretripletsare

usedonlywhenneededandvery"broad"or"open"rollsarecommonlyemployed.Ifonewereto

listentothemusicofsuchUlsterplayersasthelateNeillieBoyleofDonegalorforthatmatter,

anyoftheBannsidefiddlers,theydoinfactemployrollsandsometimesquiteprofusely,Again,

thisisindirectconflictwithwiththeclassicdefinitionforthistypestyle.Indeed,itisaterrible

pitythatattemptsatdefiningfiddlestyles,especiallyinthecaseofUlsterstyles,thatthe

characteristicshavebeenlargelybasedontheplayingofoneindividual(forfurthercomment,

seeBreandanBreathnach,FolkMusicandDancesofIreland).

Itshouldbeclearnowthatattemptstodefinestyleseitheronthebasisofbowingorthe

employmentofornamentationhavelargelyledtoerroneousandmisleadingresults.Ifeelthatif

styles,or"systems"astheyarereferredtoineastUlster,werereferredtobythesoundorfeeling

theplayerproduces,therewouldbeamuchclosercorrespondencebetweensuch"definitions"of

styleandtheactualmusicaswellastakingintoaccountvarianceduetotheindividual'sstyle

withinthelocalstyle.Afterall,itisverypossiblethattwoplayerscanbeverysimilarintheir

bowing,yetsoundcompletelydifferent!Converselytwoplayerscanproduceverysimilar

sounds,moods,feelings,etc.intheirmusicwhileusingradicallydifferentbowingstyles.

Tore­evaluateindepththestylesofbowingwhichhavebeenrecordedaswellasthosewhich

arestillextentwouldbeaherculeantaskandisunfortunatelybothbeyondthescopeofthis

articleandthemusicalcapabilitiesofitsauthor.Belowhowever,Inotesomeobservationson

somestylesIhaveencountered.TheseobservationsarebasedonthestylisticframeworkthatI

haveproposedabovewiththemajoremphasisbeingonthegeneralsoundormoodcreatedby

localplayers.

Part3

NorthDonegal/WestTyrone/NorthwestTyrone

Ifindthemusicofthisgeneralareacanbesummarisedinoneword—aggressive.Itisbasically

fastpacedmusicwhereeventhelightersoundingmelodiescomeoutwithaveryhardpunch

Thereisasenseofurgencyandpowergreatlyinvolvedwithinit.Playersasdiverseinpersonal

styleasNeilBoyleandtheDohertysstillexhibitthecommonlinkofbeingconsistentplayersof

averyattackingtypeofmusic.SomeplayersIassociatewiththisstyleareFelixKearneyof

Tyrone,theDeargBrothers,DannyMeehan,TommyPeoples,ProinnsiasÓMaonaighandhis

daughterMairéadBeanUíChinneaideaswellasVincentandColumbaCampbellofDonegal.

DermotMcLaughlinfromDerryisalsoamagnificentplayer.

EastDerry/Antrim/SouthwestTyrone

Comparedtotheabovementionedstyle,thistyperegionhasfiddlerswhotendtoplayaslower

(thoughnotmuch)typeofmusicwhichisnotasaggressiveasthelatterandmorehighlyornate.

WhiletheHighlandsarenotaspopularinthisregionastheyareinthewesternpartofDerryand

TyroneaswellasDonegaltheScottishinfluenceisverywellrepresentedinthenumberof

strathspeysplayed.ExcellentexamplesoftypicalplayersinthisstyleareJohnLoughranand

BobbyMartinofTyrone,VinceyMcLaughlinandPaddyKellyofDerryandWillieMcKendry

ofAntrim.

SouthDonegal/Fermanagh/NorthLeitrim

Iseethisregionasalinkbetweentheareasofaggressive,powerfulmusicalprovincesofUlster

andthemorerhythmic,bouncymusicaldistrictsofSligo.Thisareshowsachangefromthe

morenortherlystylesinthatthemoodandrhythmofthetunesbecomeslightlylighterand

bouncierincontrasttothe"fullsteamahead"typeofplayinginDonegal,yetthepowerofthe

northernmusicisstillretainedinthisarea.Inmanywaystheplayersinthisstyleexhibitthebest

andmostmagnificenttraitsoftwoworlds.SomeverygoodexamplesfromthisregionareBen,

MauriceandCharlieLennon,Leitrim,thelateJohnGallagher,Leitrim,TomMulliganof

Leitrim,nowlivinginDublin,MickHoey,SeamusQuinn,TommyandBenGunnof

Fermanagh,thelatePatrickKellyandTerryMcIntyreofSouthDonegal.

Sligo

Themusicofthisareaisprobablybetterdocumentedthanallotherregionsasaresultof

emigration.TheplayersofthiscountyfilledthedancehallsofNewYorkandpaidtributeto

theirnativecountrybysendingbacksomeofthemostmagnificentrecordingsofIrishmusicto

date.PlayerssuchasPaddyKilloran,MichaelColeman,JamesMorrison,PaddySweeney,

MichaelGorman,JohnFrankVesey,MartinWynne,SeamusandManusMcGuire,FredFinn,

PeterHoranandJoeO'Dowdareamongstseveraloftheexcellentexponentsofthelightand

bouncystyleofthiscounty.Themusicischaracteristicallyfastandtheoverallmoodfavouredis

alightonewiththerhythmbeingasstatedabove,bouncyorwithgreat"lift".

EastGalway

ThemusicofthisdistrictdiffersgreatlyfromthatofSligo.thepaceofthemusicisgreatly

reducedwhichallowstheplayertoconcentratemoreonthemoodofthemusic.Thetunesinthis

areaareoftenhighlyornatebuttheoverallimpressionalwaysseemstobeoneofwistfullness.A

greatcontributingfactortowardsthisofteneeriefeelingisthecommonoccurrenceofplaying

tunesinkeyssuchasEflatandBflatwhichlendthemselvestothistypeofsound.Excellent

exponentsofthisstylearePaddyFahey,PaddyKelly,MairtínByrnes,ConnorTullyandLiam

Lewis.

Clare

IntheearlypartofthisarticleItriedtoimpressthatalinkexistsbetweenlocalfiddlestylesand

theformeruseofdialecticalIrish.Ithinkthisproposedconnectionisbestdemonstratedtakinga

tourdownfromeastGalwaythrougheastClareandfurtherdownintowestClare.Onsucha

journeyonecanhearthepresentdayEnglishslowlyflowintoalocaldialectfromoneareainto

another.LinguisticexpertstellusthattheIrishoftheseareasdiednotsolongago.Isuspectthat

themusicofthesedistrictscanofferindirectsupportingcluestothelatter.Ifyouweretolisten

tothewistfulmusicofPaddyFaheyandthentravelashortdistancetoScariffinCountyClareI

donotthinkyouwouldfindadrasticdifferencewhenyouwouldhearMartinRochford.Asyou

movefurtherwestwardsinClarethemusicstillretainstheslowpaceoftheGalwaystyle,yet

graduallyrelinquishestheeerienessinthemusic,takingonamorelighteraspecttothemelody.

Therearenearlyinnumerablerepresentativesofallthetraditionalstylesfromthisdistrict.

AmongthemarePatrickKelly,lateofCree,BobbyCasey,JoeRyan,MickandTomEustace,

JuniorCrehan,JohnKelly,PaddyCanny,P.J.HayesandMartinHayesaswellasTonyLinnane.

SliabhLuachra

ThisdistricttakesinpartsofCountiesKerry,LimerickandnorthCork,whichlieonanelevated

plainnorthoftheMacgillycuddyReeks,DerrynasaggartandBoggeraghMountainchain.The

musicofthedistrictshowsareturntoafasterpaceofmusicwhichhasanincrediblerangeof

musicalemotion.Thereistremendouslifeandjoyinthefastmovinglightmelodiesyetatthe

sametimemanyoftheolderplayerssuchasConCurtinofBrosnaareabletoplaymagnificent

lonelytunesatthedropofahat.Probablythegreatdistinguishingtrademarkofthisareaisthe

dominanceoftheslideandpolka.Theserhythmswhichappreciatedsuchgreatpopularityup

untilagenerationagowouldseemtobesufferingasetbackintheareamostlikelyduetothe

impactofrecordingsoffiddlersfromoutsidethearea.Severalplayersfromthisdistrictare

nearlyhouseholdnames.theyincludePádraigÓCaoimh,Denis"TheWeaver"Murphyandhis

sisterJulia,PaddyO'Connell,DonalO'Connell,JerryMcCarthy,PaddyandJohnnyCronin,both

intheU.S.A.,PatFitzgeraldandBuddyFurey.

Summary

TheexistenceofdistinctstylesarecorrelatedwiththeexistenceofdialecticalIrish,andthe

premisethatthesestylesare,inpart,duetoandrelatedtonaturalgeographicbarriersis

postulated.Therecentnegativeeffectswhichmasstransportation,thevariousmassmediaand

recordingshavehadonthepreservationoffiddlestylesarenoted.Thesuggestionthatfiddle

stylesbeevaluatedbyaseriesofseveralinteractingcriteriaproducingauniqueresultantsound

ormood,asopposedtobowingandornamentationtechniques,isforwarded.

Theabovethirdpostingfinishedtheoriginalarticle.Theportionbelowdidnotappearinthe

originalarticlebutmaybeofsomehelpinunderstandingthesomeoftheuniquehistoryand

influencesintheeastGalwaystyle.

PaddyFaheyoftentoldmethatduringtheendofthelastcenturyandthefirstdecadeortwoof

thiscenturythelocalfiddlersofeastGalwaywerealwaysveryanxioustoplaywiththefamed

uileannpiperDinnyDelaney.Dinney'schanterwaspitchedinBflat.Ratherthantunethefiddles

downtothechanter,theplayersregularlyre­learnedthetunesinflatkeystoplaywithhim

withouttuningdown.Assuch,thelocalplayersbecamehighlyconversantinplayingflatkeys.

Whentheystartedtocomposethemselvesorre­arrangetunesinmorecommonkeys,theywould

oftenoptforplayingtheminflatkeysasafteronlyafewyears,the"wistfulflatkeysound"was

verymuchtheaimofplayers.

verymuchtheaimofplayers.

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