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Turning the Tune

Turning the Tune: Traditional Music, Tourism, and Social Change in an Irish Village

Adam R. Kaul
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Turning the Tune
    Book Description:

    The last century has seen radical social changes in Ireland, which have impacted all aspects of local life but none more so than traditional Irish music, an increasingly important identity marker both in Ireland and abroad. The author focuses on a small village in County Clare, which became a kind of pilgrimage site for those interested in experiencing traditional music. He begins by tracing its historical development from the days prior to the influx of visitors, through a period called "the Revival," in which traditional Irish music was revitalized and transformed, to the modern period, which is dominated by tourism. A large number of incomers, locally known as "blow-ins," have moved to the area, and the traditional Irish music is now largely performed and passed on by them. This fine-grained ethnographic study explores the commercialization of music and culture, the touristic consolidation and consumption of "place," and offers a critique of the trope of "authenticity," all in a setting of dramatic social change in which the movement of people is constant.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-961-1
    Subjects: Performing Arts, History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    There is an older way of talking about instrumental styles of traditional Irish dance music that has perhaps begun to fade in recent years. A typical traditional Irish tune is divided into two 16–bar parts which are often simply called the A part and the B part. But in that older language these parts are called “the tune” and “the turn.” Playing music is even called “turning a tune.” “In this way,” Micheál Ó Súilleabháin wrote, “‘turning’ has a wider meaning which could be taken as synonymous with the creative process itself ” (1990: 119). It is a notion...

  6. PART I: Remembered History

    • Chapter 2 The Old Days
      (pp. 23-42)

      Put simply, ethnography is the act of making a written account that contextualizes the data and experiences from anthropological fieldwork. Often this means that ethnographies like this one begin with history. Unlike reading written histories though, doing fieldwork is like “reading” a kind of backwards history. Events in the past form patterns that shape today’s social structures. When we enter the field, we observe, we participate, and we ask questions about what relationships are important and why. In order to understand those relationships, we find ourselves searching for chronological causality. We ask questions of the friends we make and we...

    • Chapter 3 The Revival
      (pp. 43-64)

      It was at Gus O’Connor’s Pub in Doolin in the 1950s and 1960s that the three bachelor Russell brothers—Micho, Packie, and Gussie—regularly played music, told stories and tall tales, and generally passed the time. Other musicians like the Killhoury brothers and Willibeg Shannon would often join them. For many miles around, people knew they could hear a little music and enjoy thecraicand a story there. Christy Barry was barely a teenager when he first started to play music with the Russell brothers. He was particularly inspired by Gussie’s flute playing. He described what O’Connor’s was like...

  7. PART II: Moving Through and Moving In

    • Chapter 4 The Celtic Tiger
      (pp. 67-83)

      If globalization simply means having deeply interactive relationships with other nations and peoples, then local places in Ireland like Doolin have been fully globalized at least since the Famine. This is an obvious point when one stops to consider, for example, the sad, rich, local history of “American Wakes,” and the resultant relationship between this small village and its Diaspora population that has been migrating to England, Australia, America, and elsewhere for well over 150 years. What’s more, “Irish culture” cannot be considered conterminous with the isle of Ireland. It is one example of how earlier perspectives, relying first and...

    • Chapter 5 Locals and Blow-ins
      (pp. 84-102)

      As the previous chapter showed, the line between who is a tourist and who lives in a place is not clear. Upon close examination, some people cannot properly be called either “tourists” or “locals.” This chapter continues the exploration of these areas of gray between social categories, extending the discussion to permanent residents. In Part Three of the book, it will become apparent how changes in the local social structure are intimately tied to changes in the performances of traditional music. In Doolin, as elsewhere in Ireland, large areas of gray exist between non-residents and locals in what Peace has...

  8. PART III: Change and Continuity

    • Chapter 6 Consolidation and Globalization
      (pp. 105-127)

      Finbar Furey, a “star” in traditional Irish music circles, used to play regularly in sessions at the Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna, just up the road from Doolin. With the hint of a smile uncurling his mustache, the Roadside’s publican, Peter Curtin, told me about it in his characteristically gravelly voice:

      He used to kick off the session in the pub, and he’d be tuning up the fiddle around the corner here, and

      he’d be tuning up and he’d say

      he might say to me, he’d say, “Open the cash register, Peter!”

      And I’d open the register. And when you opened...

    • Chapter 7 Adoption and Appropriation
      (pp. 128-151)

      In the previous chapters, I described the historical circumstances that led, first, to the revival of the music, second, the movement of people through and into Doolin, and then thirdly, to the music’s subsequent commercialization and consolidation. I described in detail some of the actors involved in those dramas—the locals, the blowins, and the tourists—and we have heard their voices. We have also seen how these actors interact, and in particular how blow-ins integrate into the local lifeworld (but within limits and not without negotiation). In the final chapters of the book, these three threads—the music, the...

    • Chapter 8 Conclusions
      (pp. 152-166)

      Kneafsey depicts the interplay between traditional Irish music and tourism as “a kind of symbiosis” which is “complicated, messy, always shifting and changing” (2002: 358). She continues:

      perhaps the best way to describe it is as an “ever-becoming” geography of music, one which is constantly changing its contours as individuals’ musical practices and performances are woven into its thick, rough texture (ibid.).

      As the ethnographic material in this book shows, this “musical geography” shifts and changes historically and seasonally, and the people who occupy that geography or move through it also change. Using a geographic metaphor, some might read this...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-176)
  10. Index
    (pp. 177-190)