Music, the Moving Image and Ireland, 1897–2017  book cover
1st Edition

Music, the Moving Image and Ireland, 1897–2017

ISBN 9781138561779
Published December 31, 2021 by Routledge
306 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

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


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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).