"The Making of Irish Traditional Music" challenges the notion that Irish Traditional music expresses an essential Irish identity, arguing that it was an ideological construction of cultural nationalists in the nineteenth century, later commodified by the music and tourism industries. As a social process, musical performance is complicated by the varying experiences of musicians and listeners. The question of an Irish identity expressed musically is further explored through the experiences of both 'local' and 'foreign' musicians, including the author. The conclusion that a radicalised ideal of national culture and an assimilative model of cultural contact are compatible has important implications for Irish society today. Irish traditional music is now performed and consumed world-wide. "The Making of Irish Traditional Music" considers the implications of this for the way we understand music's relationship to individual and collective identities such as ethnicity and nationality.The core of this book is its analysis of the experiences of 'foreigners' playing Irish music, both in Australia and in the heart of Ireland's traditional music empire, County Clare, as 'pilgrims' to summer schools.
While there is no material barrier to foreigners playing Irish traditional music, an exploration of the relationship between Irish traditional music and place concludes that, even where renowned 'local' musicians attempt to draw outsiders into their musical world, the fact that they define their music as emerging from the local landscape impedes their project. These cross-cultural encounters also have implications for the ways in which Irish society deals with new-comers - economic migrants, asylum seekers, returning emigrants and refugees from urban life - seeking an Irish identity.