University of Limerick
Talty_2019_Ivory.pdf (2.32 MB)

The Ivory tower and the commons: exploring the institutionalisation of Irish traditional music in Irish higher education (discourse, pedagogy and practice)

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posted on 2023-02-24, 19:45 authored by Jack Talty
This dissertation explores the institutionalisation of Irish traditional music pedagogy in Irish higher education. In particular, this research examines how Irish traditional music is located in academic institutions, and how this relates to the practices and processes of the wider Irish traditional music community. Informed by elements of social-science-inflected ethnographic practices (particularly interviews), this study, for the first time offers a diverse and extensive range of community commentary on thirdlevel Irish traditional music pedagogy to the academic record. This dissertation also examines public discourse that has facilitated intra-communal debate on the institutionalisation of Irish traditional music in Irish higher education. Throughout the dissertation, I use the term ‘discourse’ to describe “ways of speaking about the world of social experience” that “is a means of both producing and organising meaning within a social context” (Edgar and Sedgwick 2008, p.96). In addition, this research provides an overview of the historical development of Irish traditional music studies in Irish higher education, as well as presenting a contemporary overview of the Irish traditional music studies offered in nine higher education institutes in the Republic of Ireland. Also, this thesis examines the existence of discourse and research in extra-academic contexts such as Irish traditional music events, with a view to assessing the extent to which practitioners and other stakeholders in the Irish traditional music community engage with discourse, intellectualisation, and analysis of Irish traditional music. Three chapters of this dissertation deal specifically with three prominent themes that have emerged from a combination of international scholarship on the educational institutionalisation of Western classical music, jazz, and folk and traditional music, and the large-scale fieldwork interviews conducted specifically for this research.1 First, I explore the concept of canonicity in music education, and explore how the selection and prioritisation of elements of a musical culture such as repertoire, style, and aesthetics, for example, impacts the diversity of third-level Irish traditional music pedagogy in Ireland. Second, I examine the ways in which folk and traditional music pedagogues draw on, adapt, or depart from Western art music educational models, to better understand how third-level Irish traditional music pedagogues negotiate the historical predominance of the Western classical tradition when designing pedagogies for Irish traditional music. For example, to what extent do pedagogues design music theory systems based on idiomatic musical characteristics of Irish traditional music? Third, I investigate how higher education institutes offering studies in Irish traditional music negotiate community expectations and needs in relation to balancing what are perceived as authentic and traditional interpretations of Irish traditional music, with artistic exploration and experimentation. Notwithstanding the cultural and geographical specificity of this work, my research findings are expected to contribute to wider, international conversations that are happening on how best to locate folk and traditional musics in higher education environments. This dissertation does not provide a critical ethnography of all or any of the institutions engaged in the research. What it does do is provide an overview of histories, activities, practices and discourses in order to provide context for the institutionalisation of Irish traditional music within and beyond Ireland.



  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Aileen Dillane





Department or School

  • Irish World Academy of Music & Dance

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