The Development of the Irish Art Music Tradition between 1890-1990
In June 2007, two Music Department staff members, Jeremy Dibble and Patrick Zuk, were awarded AHRC funding for a major research project on Irish music. The project ran until 2010, and focused on the careers and creative achievements of prominent Irish composers since 1890. This research is very much in the nature of a pioneering venture: until comparatively recently, the tradition of Irish art music has remained largely unexplored and undocumented. The last general history of Irish music was written as long ago as 1905. Very few biographies or studies of Irish composers have so far appeared in print. In many cases, their work remains comparatively unknown: the bulk of it was never published or recorded, and can only be consulted in archives. This is greatly to be regretted, as it perpetuates the neglect of an aspect of Irish culture which is of enduring interest and value.
The present project seeks to remedy this neglect in the case of several important figures:
- Michele Esposito (1855–1929), an Italian composer and pianist who was a figure of seminal importance in Irish musical life
- Hamilton Harty (1879–1941), a student of Esposito who developed an international reputation as a composer, pianist and conductor
- Frederick May (1911–1985), a student of Vaughan Williams, who composed some strikingly individual chamber music and orchestral works
- A. J. Potter (1918–1980), another Vaughan Williams pupil and a prolific composer of orchestral and stage works
- Brian Boydell (1917–2000), who is generally regarded as one of the most significant Irish composers of his generation.
In addition, a newly-appointed AHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Alasdair Jamieson, will concentrate on investigating the careers of composers from Northern Ireland, including Joan Trimble (1915–2000) and Havelock Nelson (1917–1996).
This research will result in the production of several monographs dedicated to individual figures. These will be published in a new monograph series, Field Day Music, which is co-edited by Patrick Zuk and the Irish composer and musicologist Séamas de Barra. The series is published by the distinguished Irish publishing house Field Day in conjunction with the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame, under the general editorship of Brendan MacSuibhne and Seamus Deane. Two monographs have already appeared in this series, on Aloys Fleischmann (Séamas de Barra) and Raymond Deane (Patrick Zuk). Five others are currently in preparation:
- Jeremy Dibble, Michele Esposito
- Alasdair Jamieson, Joan Trimble/Havelock Nelson
- Ita Beausang, Selina Boyle
- Mark Fitzgerald, James Wilson
- Gareth Cox, Seóirse Bodley
In addition, the research from this project will contribute to a new multi-authored history of Irish composition in the long twentieth-century, co-edited by Jeremy Dibble, Patrick Zuk and Séamas de Barra.