Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin's books of the year
Musician, composer and professor of music at the University of Limerick
The Encylopaedia of Music in Ireland (UCD Press) is just out after a good 10 years in the works – and all the better for it. Prof Harry White (UCD) and Emeritus Prof Barra Boydell (NUI Maynooth) lead a team of hundreds, and 240 contributors of 2,000 individual entries, in this wide-ranging map of Irish music across a generous span of genres. The physical production is itself a work of art. It’s expensive but well worth it, and will become the standard way into the labyrinth of music in Ireland for some time. Note how it neatly sidesteps “Irish Music” for “Music in Ireland” in the title. And proper order too.
Step Dancing in Ireland: Culture and History (Ashgate) is historic on a number of levels. It is the magnum opus of its author, Dr Catherine Foley, inconceivable without the decades of research and learning, of fieldwork and inquiry, of passion and tenacity of this dancer-scholar. But it is also the first truly academic treatment of its subject from the perspective of ethnochoreology (the anthropology of dance). As such it breaks fresh ground and establishes a benchmark for what is to come after it. With this book, Irish traditional dance studies comes of age.
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