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British Forum for Ethnomusicology

Review: [untitled]
Author(s): Sandra Joyce
Reviewed work(s):
The Petrie collection of the ancient music of Ireland by David Cooper
Source: British Journal of Ethnomusicology, Vol. 12, No. 1 (2003), pp. 175-177
Published by: British Forum for Ethnomusicology
Stable URL:
Accessed: 06/01/2009 19:54
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British Journal of Ethnomusicology.
enced as social communion" (197). Thus
reggae, in conjunction with a host of other
styles of black music, contributes to forg-
ing allegiances among diasporic Africans
in a world that is integrated by capitalism.
Both Larry Crook and John Murphy deal
with the Recife movement commonly
referred to as the mangue beat, but each
looks at the musical constructions of dif-
ferent musicians, namely Chico Science
and Mestre Ambr6sio, respectively.
Crook looks at how the drums and
rhythms of the maracatu de baque virado
(turned-around beat), the oldest and most
Africanized element of the Recife carni-
val, were appropriated by Chico Science
to generate the distinctive sound of the
mangue beat and how this contributed to
giving the style the "pre-modem authen-
ticity" required to make it attractive to the
consumers of "world music". Murphy, in
turn, introduces us to Mestre Ambr6sio's
self-conscious process of limpeza (cleans-
ing), in which "outside stylistic references
were removed ... in order for [the group]
to discover their own most basic musical
references" (252). In this way it became
possible for them to create a style "from
the inside out", that is, to add global musi-
cal referents to a solid base formed by
regional, traditional styles.
This is obviously a book that Brazili-
anists, popular music scholars and students
of cultural studies will find useful, though
it is more likely to be consulted for its
ethnographic content than for its theoreti-
cal sophistication. Even though it contains
16 chapters as is, one is left wondering
why some topics were so heavily covered,
while other, quite obvious ones, were not.
For example, the musical traditions of
immigrant groups in Brazil, samba schools
or capoeira abroad, or even the musical
life of Brazilian communities abroad, were
entirely neglected. These are topics that
remain open for investigation and may
provide useful keys to understanding
musical processes of globalization.
School of Anthropological Sciences,
Queen's University Belfast
s. reily @ qub. ac. uk
DAVID COOPER (ed.), The Petrie collec-
tion of the ancient music of Ireland.
Cork University Press, 2002. 280pp.
Hardcover $53.37. ISBN:
George Petrie was bom in Dublin in 1789
and died in 1866. He was by profession a
painter, draughtsman, archaeologist and an
amateur classical musician who was one of
the leading collectors of Irish traditional
material of his day. Petrie was a great
admirer of his predecessor, Edward
Bunting, to whom he donated several
pieces, eleven of which were published by
Bunting in his third volume, The ancient
music of Ireland arranged for the piano-
forte (1796, 1809, 1840). However, Petrie
was also quite critical of Bunting's
collecting methods, stating in the work
reviewed here that harpers and other
instrumentalists, who were Bunting's main
sources, were untrustworthy because they
took "barbarous licences" with the melo-
dies by improvising (36), and that tradi-
tional singers were the "proper deposi-
tories" of the airs (36). Petrie was in some
ways progressive in his attitudes, however.
He was critical of what he saw as the
neglect by Bunting and other previous
collectors of the importance of different
versions of airs. He himself set about
acquiring as many different renditions of
airs as he could, sometimes collecting
more than fifty of one tune. The motivation
for searching out different versions seems
to have been an attempt to distil a "purer",
"more correct", "older" account of the
repertoire, an account that perhaps owed
more to his own Victorian aesthetic. He
was not progressive enough to allow the
melodies to stand on their own merit, but
instead, with the help of his daughter,
arranged them with piano accompaniment.
Some of the features of The Petrie collec-
tion include bilingual titles and metronome
marks. Each tune is also preceded by
notes on the source of the music, and any
additional information Petrie can provide,
such as the classification of the tune as a
"planxty", "march tune", etc. The notes
range from three lines to four pages.
The Petrie collection was originally
published by the Society for the Preserva-
tion and Publication of the Melodies of
Ireland, of which Petrie himself was a
founder member. The second volume was
not printed in his own lifetime, the first
part of this volume being published in
1882. Between 1902 and 1905 Charles
Stanford published The complete collec-
tion of the ancient music of Ireland, as
noted by George Petrie (1789-1866), in
three volumes comprising 1,582 tunes,
with the original introduction to the first
volume but with the notes to the tunes and
the piano accompaniment omitted. The
Petrie collection of the ancient music of
Ireland is regarded by many as the last
great Irish antiquarian published collection
in the tradition of Bunting, where the
motivation is the recording and transmis-
sion only in a cross-cultural sense from a
music practised mainly by a rural working
class to an amateur, classical and, to some
extent, nationalist middle class.
David Cooper's recently published edi-
tion of The Petrie collection is a faithful
reproduction of Petrie's original works but
transforms the collection for a modern
audience in three ways. Most notably the
piano parts, arranged by Petrie and his
daughter for a more "complete" nineteenth-
century drawing room performance, have
been omitted. Hardened scholars of nine-
teenth-century Anglo-Irish music may
complain that the omission of the "origi-
nal" piano parts impoverishes the reader's
understanding of the values and aesthetics
of collector/publisher/audience and that
the modern motivation for the exclusion of
the parts is just a new idealization of a past
for traditional Irish music. However,
Cooper, who is Professor of Music and
Technology at Leeds University, obviously
intends this edition to be of particular
significance to modern traditional per-
formers, who may have little interest in
what were essentially bland accompani-
ments of a bygone era. The Irish language
content has also been modernized by Dr
Lillis 6 Laoire sensitively enough to be
cognizant of regional varieties of dialect,
again serving the purpose of a performing
edition. Perhaps the most important aspect
of the presentation of the melodies is that
"points of divergence" (21) between the
1855 collection and the original manu-
scripts are carefully noted despite appar-
ently rare significance, illustrating Cooper's
methodical editing, which presents the
modern performer with interpretative
options. In all other ways this edition
reflects Petrie's original publication and,
most thankfully, Cooper, unlike Stanford,
has retained the original notes to the tunes.
These give us an insight into some of the
most important repertoire in the Irish tra-
dition - albeit from Petrie's opinionated
and often bigoted standpoint - from the
"Londonderry Air" (made infamous by
countless, vandalous baritones as "Danny
Boy") to some big songs of the sean-n6s
tradition such as "Bruach na carraige
baine" (The edge of the white rock).
Where potential disappointment in this
edition can be felt is, perhaps, in the short
introduction. Cooper, to a large extent, is
uncritical of Petrie and his musical work.
This work was naturally very much of its
time, reflective of Victorian morality, the
imagination of a "golden" Gaelic past and
embryonic Irish nationalism. Cooper does
not fully get to grips with the complexity
of Anglo-Irish identity of the time, which
was undoubtedly the major guiding force
in the motivation for and conduct of the
collection and its publication. In contex-
tualizing the subject matter he relies on
Harry White's The keeper's recital, a
much-debated work in itself and notably
controversial in the statement quoted in
The Petrie collection that "the consolida-
tion of music as a fundamental of sectarian
culture is almost complete" (11) - a state-
ment that ignores Petrie's own religious
and complex political background. The
introduction does give an interesting
insight into the man: the snapshot of the
collection process and the way Petrie and
his colleague Eugene O'Curry interacted
with their sources is sure to be of interest
to those new to the field. What is most dis-
appointing is that there is no account of, or
attempt to uncover, the editorial process
that led to the publication of the collection,
informed by the motivations mentioned
above. It is precisely for this process that
Petrie is often criticized in any assessment
of his legacy.
Perhaps the problems I find here arise
from the dichotomous nature of the publi-
cation which, according to the dust cover,
claims to form an invaluable addition to
the bookshelves of both students and
performers of Irish traditional music.
Certainly the edition will be welcomed by
traditional performers, and in that context
it is almost unparalleled in the quality and
accessibility of its presentation. Yet for
well-versed students of nineteenth-century
Irish music publishing, the publication
adds little to their understanding of Petrie
and the circumstances that drove him to
publish what he did in the manner he did.
Indeed, Petrie's music and notes are essen-
tially presented uncritically, but perhaps
this is the intention. Whatever, I do not
wish in any way to undermine Cooper's
achievement. This is a most welcome
publication. After all, this edition of
Petrie's first published collection and the
incomplete, posthumous second edition,
originally intended for performance by
amateur classical musicians, is obviously
intended for a new and distinct breed of
musician. Cooper has managed to achieve
this in a sensitive and creative manner, pre-
senting the traditional performer with what
he or she needs without the application of
(what one might be so bold as to describe
as) a destructive process of editing to suit
a modem traditional music aesthetic.
Bunting, Edward. Ancient Irish music
(Vol. 1, 1796; Vol. 2, 1809) and Ancient
music of Ireland (Vol. 3, 1840).
Dublin: various publishers. Reissued by
Walton's Piano and Musical Instrument
Galleries, (Publications Dept), Dublin,
in one volume, 1969.
Stanford, Sir Charles Villiers (1902-05)
The complete collection of the ancient
music of Ireland, as noted by George
Petrie (1789-1866), 3 vols.
Petrie, George ( 1855). The Petrie collec-
tion of the ancient music of Ireland.
Dublin: The University Press.
Petrie, George ( 1882). The ancient music
of Ireland. Dublin: The University Press.
White, Harry (1998) The keeper's recital:
music and cultural history in Ireland,
1770-1970. Critical conditions: field
day essays, Vol. 6. Notre Dame, IN:
University of Note Dame Press.
Irish World Music Centre, University
of Limerick
sandra.joyce @ ul. ie