UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Tradition and innovation in Irish instrumental folk music Hillhouse, Andrew Neil


In the late twentieth century, many new melodies were composed in the genre of traditional Irish instrumental music. In the oral tradition of this music, these new tunes go through a selection process, ultimately decided on by a large, transnational, and loosely connected community of musicians, before entering the common-practice repertoire. This thesis examines a representative group of tunes that are being accepted into the commonpractice repertoire, and through analysis of motivic structure, harmony, mode and other elements, identifies the shifting boundaries of traditional music. Through an identification of these boundaries, observations can be made on the changing tastes of the people playing Irish music today. Chapter One both establishes the historical and contemporary context for the study of Irish traditional music, and reviews literature on the melodic analysis of Irish traditional music, particularly regarding the concept of "tune-families". Chapter Two offers an analysis of traditional tunes in the common-practice repertoire, in order to establish an analytical means for identifying traditional tune structure. Chapter Three is an analysis of five tunes that have entered the common-practice repertoire since 1980. This analysis utilizes the techniques introduced in Chapter Two, and discusses the idea of the melodic "hook", the memorable element that is necessary for a tune to become popular. Through structural analysis, observations are made on the boundaries of tradition and innovation.

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