Ancestral Imprints: Histories of Traditional Irish Music and Dance

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Aug 24, 2013 / 0 comments

How do the ways we save and share and transmit ideas affect they way they develop and are passed on? That is one of the questions at the heart of Ancestral Imprints. The subject matter being transmitted, in this case, is the traditional music of Ireland.


Ancestral Imprints: Histories of Traditional Irish Music and Dance


Editor Therese Smith teaches at the School of Music at University College Dublin. Her opening essay, appropriately titled Footprints in Our Sand, offers a context for the contributions of chapters from thirteen scholars, musicians, and thinkers. They approach this idea of the transmission of music from a wide range of perspectives, and within Irish traditional music, focus on a diverse range of subjects as well.


There’s the story of early recordings of traditional music on wax cylinders. There are considerations of how nationwide broadcasting has influenced the place of regional styles across Ireland. There’s investigation of how well known and lesser known written collections of Irish music, both in Ireland and America, came to be and what their influence has been. There is a chapter on the revival of interest in music played on the harp in the mid twentieth century, a look at how traditional sean nos singing has lived through the changes in the ways it is shared, and more besides. Each writer does take a historical approach -- the subtitle of the book is histories of Irish traditional music and dance -- and though the writing is varied, it is all academic in tone.


The narratives work well together, and they stand separately too. It’s possible to dip in and out of the chapters as subjects of interest arise. There is a useful bibliography and a good index to help with this.


Though the subject matter is Irish traditional music, the questions raised and the stories told in answering them may well be of interest to scholars from other areas, and to those interested in others aspects of the history of Ireland as well.


Ancestral Imprints
Therese Smith, editor
Cork University Press




Kerry Dexter is the music editor for Wandering Educators, You may reach her at music at wanderingeducators dot com and find more of her work at