Cover image for The companion to Irish traditional music
The companion to Irish traditional music
Vallely, Fintan.
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xviii, 478 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML101.I73 V35 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Reference-Music
ML101.I73 V35 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The Companion to Irish Traditional Music represents a landmark in the study of one of the Western world's most universally recognizable forms of cultural expression. This ambitious volume comes at a time when Irish music and culture is experiencing a genuine renaissance, as evidenced by the popularity of such phenomena as Riverdance.

Only a handful of books have attempted to present an overall picture of Irish traditional music, and many of these are now outdated or out of print. Since the late 1960s, the traditional music scene has changed radically: the commercial life of traditional music has mushroomed, bringing with it tremendous growth in what might be called music tourism. At the same time, an energetic revivalism has taken hold, the result of a wealth of new approaches to playing and spirited debate over the influence of traditionalism in Irish music.

Fintan Vallely has harnessed the expertise of dozens of specialists who between them present a remarkably comprehensive picture of the field, incorporating ancient history, past ideals, and contemporary ideologies. The companion presents A-Z descriptions of individuals, traditions, and instruments, as well as an analysis of the modern history of traditional music-making. Biographical entries cover significant musicians and composers and central themes; central themes within traditional music, such as the oral tradition, the Bardic system, and the politics of Irish music, are given extended entries.

Not just the ideal reference for the interested enthusiast, The Companion to Irish Traditional Music provides a unique resource for every home, school, or library with an interest in the distinctive rituals, qualities, and history of Irish traditional music and song.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

There's more to Irish music than the Chieftains and Riverdance, as this volume attests. Entries, arranged A^-Z, are the work of the editor and various contributors and cover songs, archives and collections, instruments, dances, history, regional variations, personalities, broadcasting and recording, Irish music in the U.S., and more. More extensive cross-referencing would be helpful.

Library Journal Review

Musician and musicologist Vallely and 110 other contributors from all over the world offer a rich assortment of facts and analyses regarding traditional Irish music and dance. The research spans history from the Bronze Age to the present, but the emphasis is on 20th-century people and practices. The A-to-Z arrangement of entries, which vary in length from a few words to 15 pages, also features black-and-white photographs, a few diagrams and maps, music samples, a chronology of important events in the development of Irish music, a bibliography of music collections and texts, and a discography of music and dance recorded on audio- and videotape. Most helpful are the concise, informative biographical entries and the lengthy pieces on instruments and playing styles, although some presume a familiarity with their subjects that few Americans have. Unfortunately, in an effort to cover anything and everything related to Irish music, the editor burdens the book with general statements on topics such as "gender" and "Irish bars" or universally used musical terms such as "triplet," detracting from the unique and valuable information it does provide. Recommended for academic libraries with large music collections.ÄVivian Reed, Long Beach P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

"Ceili bands," "uilleann pipes," "Sliabh Luachra," and Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance are a few examples of the diverse information to be found in this unique guide to the rich heritage of Irish traditional music. Ireland's musical exchanges with other cultures as far afield as Australia, Cape Breton Island, and Finland are also addressed. Well over half the book is devoted to hundreds of biographical treatments of individuals, groups, and musical families. Nevertheless, this coverage is not comprehensive by design, but a "considered sample"; for example, accomplished accordionist Sharon Shannon is included, but well-known singer Mary Black is not. Although the entries (there are more than 800) were provided by 109 contributors actively involved in the performance and study of Irish music, most were written by Vallely, himself a performer, teacher, and scholar of Irish music. The text is accompanied by more than 100 illustrations, including diagrams of instruments and examples of music. There is also a selected bibliography, a discography, and a chronology of Irish music, 1571-1999, but no indexes. Recommended for the study and understanding of Irish traditional music. R. Nash; University of Nebraska at Omaha