Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Guest post – 500 Words of Summer – Aoife Flynn

For the latest post in our 500 Words of Summer series, we say hello to music programmer Aoife Flynn who wonders if we’re living through a golden age for Irish music. Earlier in the summer I worked on a project …

Wed, Aug 11, 2010, 14:00

   

For the latest post in our 500 Words of Summer series, we say hello to music programmer Aoife Flynn who wonders if we’re living through a golden age for Irish music.

Earlier in the summer I worked on a project with Donal Dineen (best get those OTR declarations of interest out of the way early on) where he interviewed a series of new irish musicians. During one of the interviews he said he felt we’re experiencing a “golden age of sound” in Ireland right now, and it’s a thought that’s stayed with me. It does seem like there’s an unprecedented range and quantity of music coming out of this little island, but is it a golden age and why is it happening now?
 
I’ve been working more with music in the last six or seven years so it could be that I’m simply becoming more aware of what’s out there, but the sheer number of irish albums released every year seems to indicate otherwise, particularly at a time when the “album” is supposed to be dead. With the Choice Music Prize reporting 200 plus releases fitting their criteria annually, and a dizzying array of live shows still happening up and down the country the sheer volume of music being made does seem to have shot up in the last five years.
 
Thanks to technological advancements, there has been a massive drop in the costs involved in both making and recording music of course, so it’s not hard to figure out why more of it is being made. When Catscars talks about making music on a Nintendo DS, rather than an instrument, you can quickly understand how a new generations’ approach to sound is very different, but it’s the diversity of that musical offer that’s so interesting.
 
By way of example, on Fresh Air, there were over 35 artists interviewed in eight weeks. All were operating in Ireland, but working across very different genres encompassing jazz, folk, contemporary classical, electronica, experimental, instrumental, guitar, disco, drum and bass and world music. Genre defining is notoriously tricky, but to hear such diverse sounds via one small, and very specific snapshot of the scene is quite a thing. Dineen’s tastes are somewhat particular of course, and his is an underground list in the main, but that the underground should be so rich is surely another indication of a gilted age.
 
I suspect in part it’s a generational effect, we’re more prone to “just doing it”; learning by experimenting and not being afraid to get it wrong, and from that freedom and confidence comes great things. This brave new digital world has opened up new sounds to inspire and new audiences to listen, but we’re still grappling with how to seize that opportunity for musicians to actually make a living from it.
 
I struggle to place a sound as specifically “irish” anymore, which in a global market is no bad thing. Music from irish artists like Chequerboard, Somadrone, Adrian Crowley, Patrick Kelleher http://www.myspace.com/patrickkelleher Deaf Joe, Katie Kim, Spilly Walker, Villagers or Threadpulls create some of the most exciting and satisfying music I’ve ever heard; Irish or otherwise.
 
Of course the real question is whether this golden age is sustainable. We hear a lot about creative Ireland paving the way out of recession but are the right structures in place to encourage and foster this creativity? And how do musicians harness the audience and make a living from their work? My 500 words are well gone at this stage, so over to you…

The credits: Aoife Flynn is the music programmer with The Model in Sligo and works directly with music (and other) artists on special projects, audience development and digital marking. She blogs at Stranded.

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