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The Social Context of Irish Folk Instruments

Thomas F. Johnston
International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music
Vol. 26, No. 1 (Jun., 1995), pp. 35-59
DOI: 10.2307/836964
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/836964
Page Count: 25
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The Social Context of Irish Folk Instruments
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Abstract

In the study of Irish folk instruments and instrumental performance in social and historical context the Irish harp, Uillean pipes, flute, tinwhistle, fiddle, bodhrán (drum), melodeon, concertina, and accordion are examined together with the social and musical role of the players. The sociocultural and historical wellsprings of instrumental usage in Irish traditional music are numerous, and span a wide spectrum of political, religious, and economic events in the history of the Irish people. The sociomusical roles of the court harper, the itinerant minstrel, the dance accompanist, the marching pipe band, the revivalist folk band, and the touring super-groups are discussed. Change in instrumental usage and some other features often emanate from social and historical causes and in turn affect society. Musical instruments also tend to become invested with cultural symbolism.

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