In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ireland

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Text Books
  • Anthologies
  • Bibliographies
  • Discographies
  • Journals
  • Catalogues
  • Irish Musical Diaspora

Music Ireland
Axel Klein
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0246


As one of the natural consequences of the general upsurge of musicology in Ireland since the early 1990s, Irish musical bibliography has met with increasing interest. Before this time, music featured in general historical or cultural bibliographies, but within these it rarely featured in any prominent way. More than anything else, this had to do with a general lack of important studies relating to the history of Irish art music. Relevant monographs were for a long time few and far between. A particular challenge in Ireland’s case is the widespread equation of the term “Irish music” with traditional music. This is also visible in studies about the Irish musical diaspora in regions like North America. There is a widespread belief that art music is alien to Ireland, imposed on the country by English colonial force. As the English colonial rulers represented a Protestant minority in a predominantly Catholic country, the religious conflict also played a major role in a debate that, in music, is far less resolved compared to other areas of Irish Studies like literature where Irish writers of Anglo-Irish background are much more accepted as Irishmen than their musical counterparts. In the field of ethnomusicology, the bibliographic treatment of printed music collections, though as yet incomplete, has been maintained since the early 20th century. One challenge in this area is the fact that Irish traditional music is closely linked to that of other traditions, in particular English, Scottish, and Welsh; another that much relevant material is of an ephemeral nature, and potentially yet another that some sources are in the Irish (Gaelic) language. The Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) in Dublin compiled and published a current bibliography of Irish traditional music (originally in print in the mid-1980s and online since 2004). The computer databases and archival collections of the ITMA constitute a large body of bibliographic information. There is much Irish traditional material in the online Roud Folk Song Index of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. Other repositories with large holdings of relevant bibliographic materials, printed and manuscript, and extensive catalogues include the National Folklore Collection of University College Dublin and the libraries of Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, and Queen’s University Belfast, as well as the Belfast Central Library, the National Library of Ireland, and many libraries outside Ireland such as the British Library, the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

General Overviews

Since Flood 1905 no overview of Irish musical history has yet appeared in the form of a monograph. The best substantial overview since then appeared as separate chapters in the nine-volume A New History of Ireland.

  • Martin, F. X., F. J. Byrne, W. E. Vaughan, A. Cosgrove, and J. R. Hill, eds. A New History of Ireland. 9 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982–2005.

    In the absence of a modern history of music in Ireland, the five articles by four authors in a nine-volume general history together make for the best overview of Irish musical history available today. The articles are: Ann Buckley, “Music in Ireland to c. 1500,” Volume 1 (2005), pp. 744–813; Brian Boydell, “Music before 1700,” Volume 4 (1986), pp. 542–567; B. Boydell, “Music, 1700–1850,” Volume 4 (1986), pp. 568–628; Aloys Fleischmann, “Music and Society, 1850–1921,” Volume 5 (1996), pp. 500–522; Joseph J. Ryan: “Music in Independent Ireland since 1921,” Volume 7 (2003), pp. 621–649; and Roy Johnston: “Music in Northern Ireland since 1921,” Volume 7 (2003), pp. 650–670.

  • Flood, William Henry Grattan. A History of Irish Music. Dublin: Browne & Nolan, 1905.

    Flood’s study has been controversially received ever since its first edition (followed by editions in 1906, 1913, 1927, and a reprint in 1970). The book has been praised for its comprehensiveness and detail but criticized for its nationalistic overtones, speculative claims, and the general lack of sources. As such it must be treated with extreme caution. However, Flood is known to have had access to archives, which burned during the Irish Civil War (1921–1923).

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