“Will you meet me on Clare Island?”: Music-making, islandness and ethnography in a small island community
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This dissertation presents an ethnographic account of music and social life on Clare Island, a small community off the west coast of Ireland. Focusing on the structures and settings of music-making, the research details the interactions between island environment and performance in the expression of island life in the twenty-first century. This original research demonstrates music-making as a fundamental process in island community life and an important measure of island health or vitality. Along with examining music-making on Clare Island, the work also explores representations of island life within Irish cultural discourse and suggests dissimilarities between popular narrative and islander experience. The ethnography centres on fieldwork conducted in 2017 but includes an historical perspective in the analysis. Grounded through ethnographic detail and living memory, this history examines the changing contexts of music-making and island life since the 1940s. Through this modern history, the ethnography describes music-making as an enduring social process in island life. The details of music-making on Clare Island in the twenty-first century suggest that against a changing social, economic and technological environment the universal themes of social bonding persist as core values in the island experience. The research greatly expands the scope of Irish Studies and also makes important contributions to the fields of ethnomusicology, anthropology, cultural history and Island Studies. This ethnography also complements the Royal Irish Academy’s multidisciplinary research in the New Survey of Clare Island, rounding out the analysis of Clare Island with a comprehensive account of community life in the twenty-first century. Through its analysis of music and island life in the twenty-first century, this dissertation makes an original contribution to knowledge.
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