For more than 150 years, individuals have traveled the Irish countryside to document the songs, music, and stories shared by communities. As technologies and methodologies have advanced, from pen and paper to tape recorders and video cameras, the task of gathering music has been taken up not only by scholars but also an increasingly broader group. This volume illustrates how the resulting collections are informed by individual collectors’ political and social concerns, cultural inclinations, and even simple happenstance, demonstrating a crucial yet underexplored relationship between the music and those preserving it.
Collecting Music in the Aran Islands is the first critical historiographical study of the practice of documenting traditional music collected from the archipelago off the west coast of Ireland. Deirdre Ní Chonghaile argues for an equitable framework that considers negotiation, collaboration, canonization, and marginalization to fully understand the immensely important, politically inflected, and culturally informed process of musical curation. Through the examination of four substantial, historically valuable collections from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, she reveals how understanding the motivations and training (or lack thereof) of individual music collectors significantly informs how we should approach their work and contextualize their place in the folk music canon.