University of Limerick
Brown_2019_Strung.pdf (4.43 MB)

'Strung out': forging a new path for the cello within Irish traditional music

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posted on 2023-02-25, 12:04 authored by William Alec Brown
This practice-based research investigates the role of the cello in the context of Irish traditional music. Drawing from artistic practice as the primary method of investigation, the author analyses imagined spaces within the idiom of Irish traditional music presented through the development and presentation of two major performance works; Transcending Liminality: (Re)Locating Thebrowncello (2015) and Spreagadh: Inspiration (2016). This thesis consists of five chapters in which the research is situated as well as two performances and an audio CD. It resides under the umbrella of qualitative research, informing on the methodologies, theoretical concepts and creative processes of the author’s creative practice. The invention of an entity the author puts forth, entitled Thebrowncello, represents the manifestation of creativity between the author and his instrument in a variety of cultural and musical contexts. This entity is analysed and used throughout this work in order to examine concepts such as authenticity and imagined spaces within Irish traditional music, as well as concepts such as liminality and communitas and how they have facilitated in the status change of a non-native instrument within the tradition. Two audio/visual recordings of the author’s two major musical performance works and an audio CD containing a solo album accompany this thesis, which are analysed in separate chapters to address the central research questions of investigation: How can I integrate the cello into Irish traditional music as a melodic and accompaniment instrument? and, What is Irish traditional cello? What can it be? This research utilises various methods of investigation. These methods are primarily different forms of autoethnographic writing, personal journaling, narrative inquiry, ethnographic interviewing and literature reviews. These methods assist in creating a foundation of data with which to analyse the two major performance works. This thesis also includes data gathered from participants within the performance work and audience members in order to discover the impact of these works within the idiom of Irish traditional music. The result of the analyses of these performances further connects the author with the entity known as Thebrowncello and informs on how this creative relationship can act as a window into the process of incorporating a new instrument into a tradition to which it is not native. The emergence of this entity and its effect on author’s creative practice, as well as the entity’s impact within the community of Irish traditional music illustrates the importance of this research within the field of arts-practice and Irish music studies.



  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Sandra Joyce

Second supervisor

Niall Keegan





Department or School

  • Irish World Academy of Music & Dance

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