Brian Casley, The role of the mandolin in Irish traditional music (MA, Dundalk Institute of Technology), in progress

These details defined Tue Jan 15 16:07:53 2013  edit
 Author:  Casley, Brian 
 Title:  The role of the mandolin in Irish traditional music 
 Degree, institution:  MA, Dundalk Institute of Technology 
 Status, year:  in progress 
 Supervisor(s):  Daithí Kearney 
 General specialism:  Musicology 
 Content, key terms:  Persons:
Genres, instruments: 
Andy Irvine, Johnny Moynihan, Barney McKenna
Irish traditional music, Bluegrass, Mandolin

Some of the mandolin players in Irish traditional music since the 1960s and 1970s are regarded amongst the most successful and creative musicians in Irish traditional music but the role and place of the mandolin within the tradition has not yet been explored. In this dissertation I will consider the introduction of the mandolin to Irish traditional music and the various styles and approaches used by various performers.

In addition to a focus on Irish traditional music, I will consider the development of the mandolin in a wider European context and, in particular, its role in other musical traditions. I will analyse the influence of other musical traditions on the development of mandolin playing styles in Irish traditional music, particularly those of the Balkan region. Such an understanding will be linked to other aspects of Irish traditional music, including the commercialisation of the genre exemplified by the popularity of the band Planxty and the show Riverdance, both of which draw on both Irish and Balkan rhythms and musical ideas.

I will specifically focus on the playing of Andy Irvine who is one of the most successful mandolin players within Irish traditional music over the past 50 years. I will focus in the role of the mandolin to accompany Irish traditional songs and also his development of a style suited to the dance music tradition.

While the mandolin, as an instrument, is largely unexplored, it is closely connected to the banjo in the context of Irish traditional music. The banjo has become a very significant instrument in Irish traditional music in recent years, particularly through the playing of Barney McKenna, Kieran Hanrahan and Gerry O’Connor. Each of these musicians also play the mandolin. I will explore the reasons for the imagination of the mandolin as a ‘second instrument’ and how these musicians have influenced the playing of the mandolin in the wider Irish traditional music world.