Thesis submission ID 374 | created | last updated

John O’Flynn, Perceptions of Irishness in Irish music: A sociological study of national identity and music
PhD, University of London, 2004

Volumes, pp.: 1 (260pp.)  
Supervisor(s): Lucy Green
Repository (online):
Repository (hard copy): University of London

General specialism: Musicology
Historical timeframe: 1970-2000
Key terms, concepts: Sociology of Music, National Identity, Perceptions, Ideology
Key terms, persons: Various
Key terms, places: Ireland, Dublin, Limerick, 'The West'
Key terms, genres, instruments: Classical, traditional, popular

This thesis examines the links between music and national identity in contemporary Irish society with particular reference to people’s perceptions of different types of Irish-produced music. A sociological framework for the research problem is established, and existing theories of Irishness and music are reviewed. Data comprises interviews and observations carried out at music events along with a selection of cultural products and cultural commentary from published, broadcast and recorded sources. Two key contexts for the study are set out: a brief and recent history of popular, traditional and classical music in Ireland, and an overview of aspects of the national field of music production and consumption.

Although commonsense views equating ‘traditional’ music with ‘Irish’ music are confirmed, the relationship between Irish identity and Irish music emerges as a contested site of meaning. The analysis exposes the negotiation and articulation of civic, ethnic and economic ideas within a shifting hegemony of national-musical culture, and finds inconsistencies between and among symbolic constructions of Irish music and observed patterns in the domestic field. More specifically, the analysis illustrates how settings, genres, social groups and values can bear on individual identifications or negations of Irishness in music. While the apprehension of intra-musical elements leads to perceptions of music that sounds Irish, style and authenticity emerge as critical articulatory principles in the identification of music that feels Irish. The celebratory and homogenising discourse associated with the international success of some Irish musical forms is not reflected in the opinions of interviewees; at the same time, an insider/outsider dialectic of national identity is found in various forms of discourse about Irish music.

Combined, the findings contribute to a theory of national identity and music that interprets the specific interrelationships between structural, cultural and experiential phenomena in the context of a differentiated national-musical field.

Related publications:
The Irishness of Irish Music (2009, Ashgate)
Thesis submission ID 374