Thesis submission ID 895 | created | last updated

Áine Mulvey, Song Literature in Ireland: The Influence of the Irish Cultural Revival (1891-1922)
PhD, Dublin City University, 2022

Supervisor(s): Dr John O'Flynn

General specialism: Musicology
Historical timeframe: 1891-1922
Key terms, persons: Charles Villiers Stanford; Hamilton Harty; Alicia Adelaide Needham; Herbert Hughes; Charles Wood; John F. Larchet; Carl Hardebeck; Charlotte Milligan Fox; Annie Patterson
Key terms, genres, instruments: Irish Art Song; Irish Folk Song arrangements

This thesis focusses on the development of Irish Art Song during the period of the Irish Cultural revival (1891-1922), as various political and social movements in Ireland sought to assert its nationhood and to define its national identity through cultural means. The research will centre on key individuals who strove to compose original art music at a time when political, religious and social forces converged to create a particularly inhospitable climate for its reception. Recent revisionist scholarship has viewed the rise of nationalism in the nineteenth century as an obstructive force in the development of art music in Ireland. At the same time, the remarkable and popular successes of the Irish Literary and Gaelic Revivals made an exceptional abundance of texts available for musical setting. A central aim of this thesis will be the analysis of the work of composers who were inspired by this literature and who endeavoured to develop an authentic 'Irish voice' in their art songs.

The analysis of the music for this doctoral research focusses on three main areas: song settings of poetry written by leading Revival and Gaelic poets in both English and Irish languages; the settings of traditional melodies within the context of a European aesthetic; and the work of composers who strove to attain a distinctive Irish voice in their original songs. The role of institutions and societies in supporting the creation of the repertoire and its subsequent reception will also be considered.

This thesis focuses on the development of Irish song literature in the context of the Irish Cultural Revival of 1891–1922. This was a period of intense cultural and political activity in Ireland, during which musical and other artistic productions were consciously deployed to assert a culturally distinct Irish nation. The remarkable and popular successes of the Irish Literary and Gaelic Revivals—parallel movements within a larger Cultural Revival—led to an exceptional abundance of texts available for musical setting. However, the response of song composers to these texts and to
the revival movement as a whole has, to date, been an unexamined area within Irish musicological research.

The definition of song literature for this study is intentionally broad, and includes published song collections, translations, and arrangements of folk songs, as well as original art song compositions. The research examines how aspects of the Revival cultivated the development of a distinct Irish song literature and considers how Irish identity was expressed through the medium of song. The response of songwriters to the revival movement is contextualised through an investigation of the milieu in which writers, poets, composers, and performers collaborated.

The findings of this research challenge narratives that suggest that music was a missing element during the Revival, and instead show that the production of song literature constituted a vibrant thread throughout the period. The research positions Irish composers at the heart of revival activities and shows how songs were used as potent articulators of a unique Irish identity and culture.

Through an assessment of Irish song literature, this thesis traces the contribution of a neglected element of Irish expression during an exceptionally creative period prior to political partition and the formation of the Irish state.
Thesis submission ID 895