Friday, August 24, 2007

Irish music, Irish landscape

There are times, and places, when Irish music seems to be reduced to songs about fighting, drinking and dying, and tributes to the old Irish mother, with songs such Seven Drunken Nights, Danny Boy, Whiskey in the Jar, Four and Nine, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, and the like. But the subject matter of Irish music is endless, it’s just endless. And the substance of it is timeless.

In Ireland, the pub is a place of community and connection, sharing and talking and sorting out life, as much and more as it is a place for drinking. The music arises from and becomes part of that conversation. That’s true going back in time. There are songs of husbands, wives, single folk, lovers parted, reunited, betrayed, left lonely, and found again; children, elders, travelers, heroes, pirate queens, saints; songs of magic, songs of faith, songs of stones, cottages, castles, lakes, rivers, and the sea, and always, songs of emigration, immigration, leaving, returning, longing for and remembering home.

That music goes back centuries, and is still sung, and is still vital. Music about the substance of life is a tradition which continues with today’s musicians as well, people like John Spillane, who writes of resilience and independence framed in the face of wildflowers growing along the road, of Liz Carroll, who without a word, through the voice of her fiddle, evokes the Irish landscape; John Doyle, who dances with his guitar through tunes centuries old made new, and Cathie Ryan, who honors both her Irish and her American heritage, what’s remembered and what’s changing, in her songs. It is no accident, either, that those songs and tunes are rooted and grounded in the land: the light and shadow of landscape in Ireland, and in Irish America, is rooted and grounded in mystery, magic, faith, and deeper than all, in music.

While Danny Boy and the lament of his mother have their place, as does The Whiskey in the Jar and those smiling Irish eyes, they are the part, not the whole. The substance of Irish music is about life. Love and sorrow, grief and hope, faith, despair, laughter and joy. It is just endless.

photographs from Galway, Louth, Donegal, Clare, Derry, Down

irish sea copyright kerry dexter

bishopsgate derry northern ireland copyright kerry dexter
celtic cross louth copyright kerry dexter

cathie ryan in clare copyright ckerry dexter

History, faith, and the sea: three things which are always present. And the music which arises from all that.

photographs taken by and copyright Kerry Dexter. thank you for respecting this

you may also wish to see
Music Road: learning about Irish music

Music Road: patrick season: music and mist
Music Road: patrick season: emigration
Irish Music Festivals: a guide

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi ,

i heard 'Four and nine' on TG4 Abair Amhran. I like that song. But I can't find the lyrics nowhere. Can you help me?

kind regards,

Dirk, Flanders, Belgium

6:49 AM  
Blogger Kerry Dexter said...

as you can tell it's not my favorite song. that aside, loads of people love it. it's been recorded by the Bridies and they've posted the lyrics here


10:14 AM  
Anonymous jessiev said...

kerry - LOVELY post, i esp liked the photos as it reminded me of the great times (and music) in ireland. i've not seen a music so steeped in place before. thank you for sharing this!

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Debbie said...

I love the pictures. Irish music is my favorite. Thanks for sharing your post.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i was wondering did anyone know the lyrics of the song ''four and nine'', or show me how to get them. I absolutely love this song & I followed the link above but it does not work, can anyone help me?

3:28 PM  
Blogger Kerry Dexter said...

sorry that link I posted some years ago doesn't work any longer.

you will find several versions of the lyrics at this discussion (you'll have to scroll down through a lot of messages from people saying they don't know or just giving a chorus until you get to replies with lyrics)
best of luck with it --

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Dominique said...

I love this meditation on the meaning in Irish music. So often, people seem to think of Irish music in stereotypical terms without stopping to realize there is more to it than just jolly drinking songs or Danny Boy.

8:51 AM  
Blogger bandz said...

Like Aine, I'm trying to find the word to the song "4 and 9" or a recording of the entire song.


3:37 PM  
Blogger Kerry Dexter said...

you'll notice I left a link for Aine which tells a place to find the lyrics to the song. The Bridies are the group which has recorded it, and I believe it was the title of one of their ablums, though I do not know if that is in print still. However, you might do a search on their work and the song title and see if that will help you find a recording of it.

4:11 PM  

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