This project revolves around new tunes I am composing throughout 2021 using Irish music forms that are not yet defined as ‘traditional’. Some of these forms have existed as part of the tradition for decades, others are of my own invention. These forms use irregular rhythms not usually associated with Irish traditional music.
There was a time when the tune forms we consider ‘traditional’ didn’t exist. The jig and reel were invented by unknown composers in the 16th century before becoming the main kind of Irish tune forms. In the 19th century, polkas, highlands and mazurkas were adapted from Czech, Scottish and Polish traditions to join jigs, reels and hornpipes within the same Irish tradition.
The common tune forms of the 19th Century are largely the same ones commonly played today. To the casual observer traditional Irish music forms are frozen in the 19th Century. But could there be newer forms that haven’t been named or acknowledged?
20th Century musicians like Arthur Darley (Bruckless Shore) and Tommy Potts (Top it Off) experimented with ‘odd’ rhythms. They took Irish music outside of regular metres, hinting at new music forms. Artists like Mike McGoldrick (Watermans) and Liz Carroll (The Fruit and the Snoot) continue this trend in the 21st Century.
In 2001 I composed a tune called the Bunbeg Slip-Slide, as it combined 9/8 Slip Jig and 12/8 Slide rhythms. I’ve since composed more Slip-Slides including those in Music for the Departed and Aontacht.
Other ‘odd” rhythmic styles appear in The Clare Concerto. O’Donoghue’s Silver Flute is a reel with a 6/4 bar at the end. Willie Clancy’s Milltown Malbay Heatwave, in 9/4, is what I call a Slip Reel.
With this project I delve deeper into this world of unusual rhythms by creating a Compendium of New Traditional Irish Music Forms.
I am experimenting with form to create new tune styles which are ‘odd’ variations on jigs, reels, polkas, slides etc. So they come from within the tradition whilst exploring new territory. I’ll also compose using odd-beat forms which already exist in the tradition, yet haven’t been named.
Slip Reel – A reel-style tune with an extra beat, either in 5/4, 9/4 or 9/8
Hop Reel – A reel with occasional extra ‘hop’ beats
Clipped Reel – 7/8 reel as composed by Mike McGoldrick and Liz Carroll
Darley Jig – Jigs with occasional extra beats like Arthur Darley’s Bruckless Shore
Jig-Mazurka – Mazurkas with occasional jig bars like John Doherty’s Mazurka
Slip-Slide – Tunes mixing 9/8 and 12/8 meters
Hop-Flings – Highland Flings with extra ‘hop’ beats
This compendium is supported by a Traditional Arts Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland.