The Melodic Tradition of Ireland
James R. Cowdery
The Kent State University Press
This is a major work, at once synthetic and analytical. The author has drawn on previous studies of Irish music and general melodic theory to describe the inner workings of a rich melodic tradition. Irish folk music, resting upon monophonic melodies which are varied and ornamented, and thus viewed from several perspectives—ethnographic and musical, “insider” and theoretical—to weave an integrated image of a still thriving genre. The concepts of “tune family” and “melody type” are starting points for the qualitative study of melodic change and tune relationships without recourse to simplified tune skeletons or statistics. The concept of “implicit” folk theory leads both to rigorous theoretical analysis and to an examination of the musicians’ own words, thus creating a working model in which a particular performance is understood in a larger context.
The historic and ethnographic passages convey the setting of the music and suggest the ways in which Irish musicians reflect patterns in culture and patterns in sound.