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Music and the Irish Imagination

Thierry Dubost
Alexandra Slaby

Defining and redefining Irish music

Elver-Gleams: Sub-marine Soundings from the Irish World Academy

Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin


This paper explains why and how the place of music and dance research and performance as a core part of Irish studies is encouraged. The collapse of divisions between orality and literacy in the presentation of research is proposed as a model of what changed perspectives could provide to define new intellectual frames in the field of Irish studies. The programmes at the Irish World Academy (University of Limerick) are discussed, and the architecture of the new Irish World Academy building itself is referred to, as examples of a changed outlook on the interactions between various fields of Irish culture. Finally, the choreography of Colin Dunne – examined through his piece Out of Time within the wider context of contemporary dance in Ireland – illustrates the need for renewed points of view to question evolving art-forms which require alternative analytical tools.

Cette étude explique pourquoi, et comment, la recherche consacrée à la danse et à la musique, ainsi qu’à la représentation, devrait constituer un aspect central des études irlandaises. Dans la présentation de la recherche, l’abandon des divisions entre oral et écrit sert de modèle pour définir ce que d’autres perspectives pourraient apporter, en établissant de nouveaux cadres de pensée dans le domaine des études irlandaises. Les programmes enseignés à l’Irish World Academy (University of Limerick) font l’objet d’une analyse ; on mentionne également l’architecture du nouveau bâtiment de l’Irish World Academy. Tous deux témoignent d’un autre regard posé sur les interactions entre les différents champs de la culture irlandaise. En conclusion, la chorégraphie de Colin Dunne – étudiée à travers sa mise en espace d’Out of Time, dans le contexte de la danse contemporaine en Irlande – démontre la nécessité de proposer de nouvelles perspectives afin d’étudier des formes artistiques en pleine métamorphose, lesquelles requièrent de nouveaux outils d’analyse.

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Extrait du texte

The recently established Irish governmental organisation, Culture Ireland,1 with its remit of promoting the Irish arts across the full spectrum of genres and expressions worldwide, has established with Fulbright Ireland a series of annual residencies of scholars / musicians linking four university campuses with a particular interest in Irish music within Irish studies: Boston College Irish Studies Program, New York University at Glucksman Ireland House, University College Cork School of Music, and the Irish World Academy at the University of Limerick. It is, indeed, to be hoped that such an initiative will extend to further like-minded campuses in the future, and that the spirit of the essentially non-verbal expressions of music and dance will in time take their full place in the spectrum of disciplines investigating and celebrating Irishness in all its manifestations.2

When I speak of Irish studies within the context of embracing such non-verbal expressions as music and dance, I am ...


Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin is the Chair of Music and founder / director of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick. He is noted for his development of a uniquely Irish traditional piano style. He has recorded extensively with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and has released some fifteen recordings overall. His most recent recordings include ELVER GLEAMS: New and Selected Recordings (EMI, 2010), and the DVD Irish Destiny, music for the historic 1925 silent movie of the same name (Irish Film Institute, 2006). In 2004 he was appointed inaugural Chair of Culture Ireland (the statutory body for promoting Irish arts – including Northern Ireland – worldwide) and was reappointed in 2008. In 2005 he was awarded an Honorary D. Mus. by the National University of Ireland at University College Cork for his contribution to music in Ireland. Other awards include Ollamh na hÉigse (Professor of Arts) in 2005 by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Boston College Honorary Alumnus Award for contributions to Irish music in the USA (2006), and Gradam Cheoil (Irish language television award for contribution to Irish music) in 2011. In May 2011, he performed with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland for The Queen’s Concert in the National Convention Centre, Dublin, marking the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland. In December of the same year he performed at the Grand Canal Theatre, at the request of the newly appointed President of Ireland, Dr. Michael D. Higgins. He was in residence for the year 2012 at the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the DeBartolo Center for Performing Arts at Notre Dame University where he is writing a new symphonic work for performance in 2014. For further information see and

© Presses universitaires de Caen, 2013

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