University of Limerick
Casey_2019_Why.pdf (2.96 MB)

Why I sing the songs I sing: an exploration into the creative strands that contribute to my performance of song

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posted on 2022-12-19, 11:36 authored by Karan Casey
This thesis explores my role as a creative female voice within Irish folk and traditional music, dealing with questions relating to my creative process, the performance of social justice, orality, performativity and social activism. My two PhD performances provide the central inherent intellectual and emotional contributions to the philosophical considerations that this thesis formulates. The first chapter is a road map outlining arts practice methodological and theoretical approaches, situating the research primarily in my performances and in my auto-ethnographic writing. Also introduced are the more traditional research methods of ethnographic interviews, data from archival work, panel discussions and a questionnaire. The cultural framework and background of traditional singing was interrogated in Chapter 2 and contextualised by an overview of the literature on Irish traditional and folk song. I specifically explored the origins of political folk song as it forms a central part of my repertoire. I utilized my performances to explore further how performativity, orality, arrangement and the reworking of the songs is deeply embedded in my creative process. Chapters 3 and 4 involve an intensive interrogation of my two performances. Chapter 3 focusses on my first performance of traditional, folk and self-composed songs. It highlights issues relating to my creative process, particularly my song-writing and the central role of the performance of social justice. In Chapter 4 I concentrate on my second performance entitled I Walked into My Head. This performance was a radical new departure for me involving song-poems, sound design, piano playing and movement as well as newly-composed and traditional songs. I particularly emphasise here the effect of my social activism and research on my performance. This thesis affords an insight into my role as a creative female performer in the world of Irish traditional and folk music. I am a folk singer who is greatly informed by traditional Irish singing. My performance is eclectic, borrowing freely from other musical realms but reframing them through my own musical personality. All the aspects of my creativity are important to my performance, particularly my creative-writing. The performance of social justice is integral to my creative life and illuminates how I feel about the world. It contributes to my connection with the audience and along with my activism has the inherent power to enact social change.



  • Faculty of Science and Engineering


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Joyce, Sandra

Second supervisor

Moloney, Mick





Department or School

  • Irish World Academy of Music & Dance

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