Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Formal and Informal Ways the Irish Learn Traditional Music

A typical Galway music session (Photo: Chris Hill)
I'm increasingly interested in learning how and why people play traditional music.  Did you start as a child or learn as an adult?  Did you have musical parents or family members or did you seek it out on your own?  Did you take lessons or teach yourself?  Did you play another style of music prior to this? Do you learn by reading music or play entirely by ear?  Do you deliberately practice scales and exercises, or do you simply learn by playing tunes?  Do you look at the tunes from a music theory perspective, or does theory not even enter into the equation?  Questions like that.

Jessica Cawley
While trolling the internet for this type of information I came across an Undergraduate Research Journal article written by a young woman named Jessica Cawley titled Investigating the Ways the Irish Learn Music.  Originally a saxophone performer, Jessica spent the summer of 2005 in Galway Ireland listening to and observing trad music sessions, getting to know the musicians who play in them, and interviewing the players about the ways they learned the music.  She found that the session musicians in Galway had diverse learning experiences.  As an academic musician, the study also had some unforeseen effects on Jessica's personal philosophy about music, allowing her to rediscover the joy behind all music.

It's an interesting 7-page article and you can read it here:  http://scholars.unh.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=inquiry_2006

After the study was published, Jessica would return to Ireland to pursue traditional music full-time, taking up the flute, which has become her primary instrument.  She is now an active performer of traditional music and saxophone in the Cork area!

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