Francis Ward, Processes of Transmission in Irish Traditional Music: Apporaching a Virtual Orality (PhD, University of Limerick, 2016)

These details defined Wed Apr 20 12:33:43 2016  edit
 Author:  Ward, Francis 
 Title:  Processes of Transmission in Irish Traditional Music: Apporaching a Virtual Orality 
 Degree, institution:  PhD, University of Limerick 
 Status, year:  accepted, 2016 (May 2016) 
 Volumes, pp., etc.:  1 (371pp.), 110,000 words 
 Supervisor(s):  Dr. Colin Quigley 
 General specialism:  Ethnomusicology 
 Content, key terms:  Concepts:
Genres, instruments: 
Irish traditional music, tradition, transmission, oral, orality, online, virtual, experience, teach, learn,,, face-to-face, community, interaction, agora, digital media, folklore, ethnography, archive, oral memory, classic model, homology, synergy
Ethnomusicology; anthropology; media studies; communication theory; music education; oral tradition; folklore; ethnography

This thesis charts the changing transmission processes in Irish traditional music through the medium of the Internet, and documents the emergence of a virtual orality within this arena of transmission. It accomplishes this by proposing a classic model of transmission in Irish traditional music to which online transmission can be compared. The classic model outlines how an individual experiences the Irish music tradition through vertical and horizontal processes of transmission, and in the three dimensions of time, space and community.

The research methodologies include text-based enquiry, ethnography, virtual ethnography or netnography, and quantitative data collection. Two case studies are presented in the research for ethnographic enquiry. The first case study, the Online Academy of Irish Music (, is a website dedicated to the online teaching of Irish traditional music, and offers numerous courses on different Irish traditional instruments. The second case study,, in contrast to the, is free to use, and all content is user generated. The site consists of an extensive tune archive and discussion forum on Irish traditional music.

While the research is rooted in ethnomusicology, it is a synthesis of communication, literary and oral tradition theory, ethnomusicology and Irish traditional music studies. This mélange of theoretical perspectives ultimately leads to the development of a unique ethnomusicological hermeneutic which seeks to expand the boundaries of the discipline. Equally, innovative data analysis methodology employed to extract and analyse the discussion forum data further broadens the conceptualisation of what constitutes fieldwork and indeed ethnomusicology itself.

The thesis draws heavily on the work of John Miles Foley, a scholar of comparative oral traditions, who proposes a homology between oral and electronic arenas of transmission, what he terms the oAgora and the eAgora. He posits that the Internet and oral tradition are fundamentally alike, and that the Internet has the potential to represent the pathways of oral traditions. Ultimately, the analysis presented suggests that we may be fast approaching the emergence of a virtual orality, which attempts to represent the Irish music oral tradition as a ‘system of systems’, and allows for the extension of the discourse of Irish traditional music into the online arena of transmission.

The research concludes by recognising a synergy, rather than a homology, between the oAgora and the eAgora. This synergy describes the interaction of the two agoras to produce a combined effect, greater than the sum of their separate effects, resulting in the widespread and potent transmission of Irish traditional music.

Finally, the analyses bear relevance for a range of disciplines including folklore studies, media, literary and communications studies, and Irish traditional music studies. It also resonates with research in music education and the broader social sciences.