Clare County Library
Traditional Music Sessions from the BR Taylor Music Collection
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About the BR Taylor Collection
by
Barry Taylor


The recordings presented here are a selection of those made during our numerous holiday visits to Clare before taking up residence in 2001 and are largely concentrated on the 1970s, with a few from later dates.

Our first visit, in 1975, served as an introduction to the music of west Clare and Irish traditional dance music as a whole. The following year, we returned to Miltown Malbay and the Willie Clancy School and continued where we had left off, recording at the School but also carrying out some ‘real’ field recordings. A meeting with Seán Reid proved eventful and, at his invitation, we visited him at his home on the Gort Road, Ennis. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk to and record a man whose experience and knowledge of Irish music was unparalleled and who introduced me to many aspects of Irish music of which I was largely unaware, particularly the wealth of music available on 78 rpm records. Over two days, I copied 56 records (112 sides) from his enormous collection, which had been amassed over many years. He arranged also for us to visit to the Hayes’ family, who introduced me to the music of east Clare and the céilí band – with subsequent consequences for my later study of Irish music.

At the time of the 1975 and 1976 visits, I was studying for a degree in English at the University of Leeds, which included a module in folk-life studies. Part of this module demanded a dissertation (thesis) and, by 1976, I had decided that the relationship between Junior Crehan and Michael Downes - as teacher/mentor and pupil – would be the subject of my study. My thesis ‘Traditional fiddle playing in West Clare: Junior Crehan and Michael Downes' (University of Leeds, 1976-77) was, I believe, the first detailed analysis of the oral transmission of style and repertoire in the Irish musical tradition. This work could not have been completed without the generous assistance of Muiris O Rocháin and Harry Hughes, so I was delighted when a shortened version of the work was published as ‘A Contrast in Styles’ in Dal gCais (Volume 4 1978 - can be read on www.oac.ie).

This concentration on the processes involved in passing the culture of a community from one person to another certainly influenced my future field recording and led to far more recordings of musicians talking about the music than the artefacts of the their culture. This emphasis is more truly reflected in my publications and lectures than in the examples presented in these selections, which concentrates on the tunes played. This is not to say that the selections themselves are not worthy of inclusion on their artistic merit alone but to point out that they were recorded as part of an ongoing exploration into the nature of the dance music of Clare. In a sense, I would like these recordings to be seen as complementary illustrations of the ideas presented in my book ‘Music in a Breeze of Wind: Traditional Dance Music in west Clare, 1870 –1970’.

I should also add that, during the whole period from 1975 to the present day, I have been endeavouring to discover and master the mysteries of Clare fiddle playing and that some of the selections were recorded simply as aids to that journey!

Many years ago, I received a salutatory warning of the need to ensure security for such materials. A letter arrived from the University of Leeds informing me that the original of my thesis was missing from their archives – it was either mislaid during a move by the department or, more likely, simply stolen! Fortunately, I was able to supply them with a copy. Thus, I was delighted when the Clare County Library, in the shape of Anthony Edwards and Maureen Comber, invited me to lodge my collection with the Library, working on the premise that the more places that hold the collection, the more likely it is to be preserved.

I am aware also that, over the years, some of the original recordings deposited with the Institute of Folk-life Studies had been copied and circulated among enthusiasts. I mention this not to censure the process, as I believe that the products of the tradition are the result of generations of copying from musician to musician and, thus, do not belong to any one individual. Although we may all seek to add our personal stamp on these materials, without the transmission of the style and repertoire of a community from person to person over generations, our individual efforts would count for very little.

Like many, if not most, people involved in recording traditional players, I have exchanged recordings over the years. I have been delighted that my recordings should have reached a wider audience because their subjects well merited the exposure of their talent brought about by this process. In the past, there was some concern about the protection of the rights of the players but the digital revolution has well and truly let the genie out of the bottle. The onward march of the world wide web has led to many important collections becoming available to anyone with an Internet connection - if you are not convinced, just look at the materials on YouTube! Thus, I believe any attempt to restrict recordings to private collection is futile. So, my collection also includes materials sent to me by like enthusiasts and I see their inclusion to be in the spirit of disseminating worthy recordings to the widest audience. I sincerely hope that those who feature on these recordings, as well as their friends and relations, will join me in supporting and advancing this endeavour so as to bring the beautiful music of Clare – particularly that of past generations - to the widest possible audience.

Finally, I must thank Anthony and Maureen for their foresight in innovating this project. Also for their hard work in transforming the raw materials of a novice field worker into something that can be enjoyed by both future generations of Clare people and the worldwide audience that have come to appreciate the culture of this county.

 
 


Barry Taylor and Michael Downes, photo by Pat Mackenzie

Barry Taylor and Michael Downes,
photo © Pat Mackenzie.



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