Media Library


Remarks at the launch of The Encyclopaedia of Music In Ireland

4th October 2013

I am delighted to be here today to celebrate the launch of this valuable and long awaited publication, The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland. I would like to thank Professor Gerard Gillen for inviting me to launch this important publication and all of you for that generous welcome.

Tá tábhacht ag baint leis an lá inniu i saol cultúrtha na hÉireann; mar is é seo an lá a dhéanann muid an chéad stair den cheol in Éirinn á cur i dtoll a chéile le breis is céad bliain, a cheiliúradh agus a sheoladh. Is é an t-aon taifead uil-chuimsitheach é ar scéal agus ar stair cheol an náisiúin is linne é. Cruthaithe agus curtha i dtoll a chéile ag saineolaithe ceoil, ar liosta le háireamh iad, tugann an ciclipéid seo léiriú ar ár n-oidhreacht agus ar an iomad tionchar a chuaigh i bhfeidm ar an oidhreacht sin agus a rinne é a mhúnlú.

[Today is an important day in the cultural life of Ireland; the day when we celebrate and launch the first history of music in Ireland to be compiled in over a hundred years and the only all encompassing record of our nation’s musical life and history. Created and brought together by an impressive roll call of music experts, this Encyclopaedia outlines our musical heritage and the many facets which have formed and shaped that heritage. ]

The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland is both a celebration of the artistic empathy for which we, as a nation, are renowned and an affirmation of the great wealth of musical talent that has always existed in this country. It is a great coming together of knowledge and musical scholarship that will allow us to reach a true understanding of the musical journey of a nation – of its continual evaluation and progression, its constant reworking and re-shaping and its reflection of the society with which it engages.

Here in Ireland it is appropriate that we take an understandable pride in our rich cultural heritage and in our worldwide reputation for creativity and innovation. However, that pride tends to be somewhat singularly focussed on our great literary tradition with public discourse on the cultural history of Ireland often granting the role of music a somewhat tangential space. Where debate does focus on our musical journey it has tended to begin with the traditional music which is identified so strongly with our culture and tradition; and to travel straight to the success of some Irish musical landmarks of recent decades, such as U2 and Riverdance, which are rightly regarded as having etched a new found confidence in ourselves as Europeans producing musical and cultural experiences. These volumes show how much has often been missed in the contemporary discourse.

However, as with all critical journeys, the pathways which have brought us to where we stand today have been complex ones; ones with many twists and turns and digressions and unexpected discoveries. It has been a multifarious journey of many layers, a journey based on what we share and one that is continually being reworked, progressed and influenced by the society in which we live and by the many influences being brought to bear on that society, in particular its exilic and migratory character.

Harry White asserts, in his introduction to the Encyclopaedia that, for all its inclusiveness, the Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland cannot be an exhaustive directory but a map. It is a valuable map that allows us to retrace our country’s musical passage, and to fully explore the people, the places, the performances, the genres, the societies, the ensembles and the many other factors which have left their footprint on the landscape of Ireland’s musical voyage.

It is also a work that maps a changing Ireland, measured through the differing sounds that have emerged as our country grows and develops and changes; re-imagining, rethinking and adapting to an ever evolving and increasingly globalised world. It is a reminder that just as we are now a country busy rebuilding and re-imagining ourselves, it is important that our music also continues to develop and transform, reflecting a complex modern world and engaging with the present in all its light and shade.

This encyclopaedia is the result of an enormous level of dedication and commitment, a vast collaboration which has provided a valuable and profound wealth of research into the role of music in Irish life. As I looked through the encyclopaedia I so was impressed by both its generous scope and the wealth of influences that have impacted on the evolution of our nation’s music.

From the opening page where the worlds of literature and music connect through the story of our National Theatre, to the final entry where we learn that the first International Conference on Irish Music took place in Durham just three years ago, we are allowed a profound insight into the world of Irish music and all that has shaped, formed and impacted on it.

Cuireann an dá imleabhar seo ar ár gcumas dul isteach go smior sa Ghaelachas seo ‘gainne agus léargas a fháil ar an gcaoi a ndearnadh ár stair ár gceoil a fhí chomh casta sin isteach i bpatrún an Ghaelachais sin. Léiríonn an dá imleabhar freisin a mhéid a ghlacann muid leis an sruth anall ar ais ónár Diaspora, is rud a nochtann scéal de phobal imirceach a ndéanann a gcuid ealaíontóirí ní amháin ciall a bhaint de shaol domhanda ach, ina saothar féin, a thugann leo cultúir agus léargais ealaíonta eile agus a bhíonn níos saibhre dá bharr.

[These two volumes enable us to look deep into the heart of our Irishness and to interpret how our musical history has been woven so intricately into that pattern of Irishness. They also illustrate how deeply susceptible we are to the contra-flow influences of our diaspora and tell the story of a migrant people whose artists not only interpret a global world but, in their own work, are also influenced and enriched by other cultures and artistic perspectives.]

The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland is the story of a creative place, unfolding over time. As we continue to move through the twenty first century, another generation of crafters and shapers and visionaries will leave their indelible mark on Irish culture and on our musical traditions. It is important that they, too contribute to the capturing of the issues and moods which make each era and each generational experience a unique and exceptional moment; drawing on a wealth of tradition as they continue to push boundaries, to experiment, and to broaden and deepen our great reputation for artistic success.

In conclusion, may I congratulate all of those involved in this great and long awaited map of Irish musical experience. I know your work has spanned many years, drawn on an enormous well of expertise and has involved scholars of all ages from all the third level institutions on the island of Ireland – and further afield. It is a project that has had its own long and complex journey but one that has reached a successful conclusion and will contribute much to our understanding of the role and significance of music to life in Ireland. Music, like all great art forms can give empathetic access to a reality that otherwise defies comprehension, allows us to put our past into context, and to make moral deliberations based on that context. I therefore thank and pay tribute to the editors and the two hundred contributors who have devoted themselves so generously to this project; a project that will add so much to the cultural dimension of our society.

I thank you once again for welcoming me here today and I am delighted to officially launch the Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.