1st Edition

Music, the Moving Image and Ireland, 1897–2017

By John O'Flynn Copyright 2022
    306 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    306 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Music, the Moving Image and Ireland, 1897–2017 constitutes the first comprehensive study of music for screen productions from or relating to the island. It identifies and interprets tendencies over the first 120 years of a field comprising the relatively distinct yet often overlapping areas of Irish-themed and Irish-produced film. Dividing into three parts, the book first explores accompaniments and scores for 20th-century Irish-themed narrative features that resulted in significant contributions by many Hollywood, British, continental European and, to a lesser extent, Irish composers, along with the input of many orchestras and other musicians. Its second part is framed by a consideration of various cultural, political and economic developments in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland from the 1920s (including the Troubles of 1968–1998). Focusing on scoring and other aspects of soundtrack production for domestic newsreel, documentary film and TV programming, it interprets the substantial output of many Irish composers within this milieu, particularly from the 1960s to the 1990s. Also referring to broader cultural and historical themes, the book’s third and final part charts approaches to and developments in music and sound design over various waves of Irish cinema, from its relatively late emergence in the 1970s to an exponential growth and increasingly transnational orientation in the early decades of the 21st century.

    Introduction: Music, the moving image, and Ireland

    Conceiving the field

    A national cinema?

    Aims and methods

    Representing Ireland

    Musical tropes and their alternatives: a book of three parts

    Musical and ideological readings

    Part 1: Irish Themes on Screen and in Sound

    Chapter 1: The first half-century: From silent newsreel to narrative sound film

    The beginnings of Irish cinema

    Early Irish-themed sound film

    Max Steiner and Irish-themed film

    British and Irish film: the mid-to-late 1930s

    Irish-themed British film music: William Alwyn

    The luck of the Irish?

    Chapter 2: Harping on? The 1950s to the 1990s

    The early to mid-1950s

    Irish-produced and Irish-themed

    Fighters, writers and leprechauns

    Different directions in the 1970s

    Re-working sonic Irishness

    Chapter 3: Literature-to-film adaptations and music

    O’Casey and Synge

    Joyce, music and film

    New generations of writers

    Elmer Bernstein and adapted Irish screenplays

    End-of-century adaptations


    Part 2: Perception and Production from Within

    Chapter 4: Sounding nation and culture on screen

    Early perspectives on the independence struggle

    Anthropology and ideology

    Nation building

    Tourism, heritage and the natural world


    Documenting tradition in a modern age

    Chapter 5: Soundtracks to Ireland’s troubles: dramas and documentaries

    The long 19th century on TV

    The Northern Ireland Troubles in documentary film

    The mid-1990s: A new aesthetic for Troubles documentaries?

    Critical perspectives on the Republic: the 1960s

    Continuing themes of unemployment, emigration and diaspora

    Abuse, abjection and marginalization

    Millennial perspectives on Irish history

    Chapter 6: Irish Composers and 20th-century film and TV

    Mid-20th century composers

    Combining tradition and modernity?

    Experimental scoring: Brian Boydell

    Composing for TV: A.J. Potter

    From newsreel to feature film: Gerard Victory

    The late 20th century: Seóirse Bodley, John Buckley and Roger Doyle


    Part 3: Cinematic and Musical Developments

    Chapter 7: Soundtracks for an emerging Irish cinema: Margins, borders, troubles

    On the margins: first wave Irish cinema

    Early narrative features on the Troubles

    Troubles films go mainstream

    South of the border: past troubles

    Chapter 8: A plurality of genres

    Documenting music on screen

    Traditional and folk soundtracks

    Traditional music and orchestral scores: Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, Bill Whelan and Shaun Davey

    From stage to soundtrack: music hall, dance bands and jazz

    Popular music: composition and compilation

    The Irish music-film

    Chapter 9: 21st-century themes

    Soundtracks, places, spaces

    Crime drama

    Past traumas

    Looking back at the Troubles


    Beyond Ireland


    Conclusion: Retrospectives and recent developments

    Music, the moving image and Ireland: the first 120 years

    21st-century documentary features

    Retrospectives and (re)-composition

    Developments in screen music production

    Glossary of Musical Terms

    Selected Filmography



    John O’Flynn is Associate Professor of Music at Dublin City University. He is author of The Irishness of Irish Music (2009) and co-editor of several books, including Music and Identity in Ireland and Beyond (2014) and Made in Ireland: Studies in Popular Music (2020).

    "Overall, I highly recommend Music, the Moving Image and Ireland, 1897–2017 as a seminal book that demonstrates the evolution of music in Irish-themed and Irish-produced films over the last 120 years."
    - Lauren Alex O’Hagan, Örebro University