1st Edition

Becoming an Irish Traditional Musician Learning and Embodying Musical Culture

By Jessica Cawley Copyright 2021
    262 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    262 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Coupling the narratives of twenty-two Irish traditional musicians alongside intensive field research, Becoming an Irish Traditional Musician explores the rich and diverse ways traditional musicians hone their craft. It details the educational benefits and challenges associated with each learning practice, outlining the motivations and obstacles learners experience during musical development. By exploring learning from the point of view of the learners themselves, the author provides new insights into modern Irish traditional music culture and how people begin to embody a musical tradition. This book charts the journey of becoming an Irish traditional musician and explores how musicality is learned, developed, and embodied.

    Introduction: Exploring the Journey of Musical Enculturation

    Irish Traditional Music as a Community of Practice

    Constructing this Ethnography

    The Transmission of Irish Traditional Music: Key Features

    1 Passing it on: Connecting with a Community of Practitioners





    Entering the Community of Practice

    2 Transmission, Inspiration, and Social Tensions in Irish Traditional Music Sessions

    Acquiring Repertoire

    Developing Technique and Personal Style

    Situated Learning

    Troubleshooting: Challenges to Learning in Sessions

    The Session: Who is it for?

    3 Organized Informality: Teaching and Institutionalizing Irish Traditional Music

    The Teaching of Irish Traditional Music


    Community Music Organizations

    Gateways into the Community of Practice

    4 Musicking at Festivals, Summer Schools, and Live Events

    Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann

    Scoil Éigse

    Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy

    Céilidhs, Sing-songs, and Concerts

    5 Technology and Irish Traditional Music Culture

    Part 1: Old Media

    The Role of Literacy in an Oral Practice

    The Phonographic Revolution

    Film, Television, and Video Technology

    Part 2: New Media

    Traditional Music in a Digital Age: The Role of the Internet

    The Dawning of the Postdigital Day


    Conclusion: The Lifelong Process of Becoming an Irish Traditional Musician

    Searching for Patterns of Musical Enculturation

    The Job of Journeywork: Navigating Multiple Paths


    Dr Jessica Cawley is an active performer, educator, and researcher in the area of Irish traditional music and music education. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of New Hampshire (2006), an MA in Ethnomusicology from the University of Limerick (2008), and a PhD from University College Cork (2013). She established the non-profit organization Creative Tradition in 2013, where she currently teaches traditional music in schools and in the community in partnership with Music Generation.