Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 42, Page 5

Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 42, Page 5
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periodical Publisher
Na Píobairí Uilleann
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Chairman, NPU
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Píobaire, An
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9ber of musicians alongside Ennis. There is noquestion in my mind that these next publica-tions will deal with equally valuable culturaland artistic material. But if the Ennis bookencapsulates the approach and methodologyto what’s coming next then in the absence ofa unifying rationale for such an enterprise Ihave to say I remain open to persuasion as toits value and utility. In the publication under review, I had hopedfor something of a guide to the process andchoices that Mitchell used to arrive at thenotations and transcriptions.While he does gives us somedetails and indications these areat best minimal and often irritat-ing in their brevity and incom-pleteness. In dealing with what Ithink is the big question (what isthis book for?) Mitchellexplains that his purpose is to‘discover all the elements thattogether make up the music ofSéamus Ennis. This volumecontains the result of thatresearch.’ However this does not sit easilywith the explanation that ‘Initially an attemptwas made to capture ‘everything’…it was therealisation that I was trying to capture theartistry in the music that made me decide toscrap all the double and triple dots and startover.’ The text would have benefited fromsome description of what Mitchell meanswhen he says that the book contains the resultof that research. What does he mean by‘everything’. What is the ‘everything’ herefers to? How did he know when he had toseparate artistry from everything? Does hisbook aim to deal with artistry in any sense?Or is there a deliberate decision to stay awayfrom that and focus on the mechanistic ele-ments of Ennis’ playing (this is what I thinkthe book does)? Did starting over lead to adifferent result? If so, where is the differenceto be found? For me this area of questioningis where the real interest and value mighthave been. Otherwise the implication is thatit’s probably easier to leave the book asideand just listen to the music, and for me thebook reaffirms the correctness of that courseof action as a universal law in this music. If indoubt, just listen. And keep listening. I think that this level of ambiguity or ambiva-lence in purpose underlines one of the biguncertainties in the objective and focus of thisbook. However in fairness to Mitchell he iscapable of explaining what hewants to do on other levels andhe is very explicit in setting outa challenging objective for thisbook ‘to demonstrate, to a wideraudience than it presently has,the musical richness that Irishtraditional music played on thepipes can contain…provide akey to a deeper knowledge ofthe musical potential in pipingfor generations of pipers tocome.’Mitchell is equally clear on setting out arationale for the detailed transcriptions andthese are offered in the belief ‘that texture is avital component of the music’. What is pre-sented in the detailed transcriptions isdescribed as ‘all the artefacts in the music thatgo to create the background texture alongwith the higher level melody and ornaments.’Mitchell wisely counsels the reader that ‘Thisis not a standard music book, rather an in-depth transcription of 179 tunes and it shouldnot be used in isolation from the recordingstranscribed.’ This raises a couple of issueswhich I think detract from the value andimpact of this book. The first is short term andmay be relatively easily fixed: provide a sam-ple sound recording to accompany the bookwhich otherwise carries a serious health8~ Reviews ~Dermot McLaughlinPat Mitchell’s latest book is a welcomeaddition to the shelf of serious profes-sional publications about Irish tradi-tional music. It also forms an important partof NPU’s influential programme of print andaudio-visual publication that has been build-ing momentum in recent years. Mitchell’s new book follows on his earlierwork on the piping of Willie Clancy and PatsyTuohey and has as its subject the dance musicof another piping giant – Séamus Ennis. Asfor the book’s real objective, well that’s not soeasy to say. This is an impressive publication,clearly the result of hundreds or even thou-sands of hours of detailed and painstakingwork. As a book it is solidly made – wellbound on good quality paper with an easy-opening large format that creates commodi-ous pages for all of the musical transcriptions.It is well designed and very legible through-out. The graphic design on the front cover isby contemporary artist Édaín O’Donnell andit’s a good representation of Ennis playingpipes. So for your money you get a lot ofbook and a lot of material! Taking on a subject such as the dance musicof Séamus Ennis, or of anyone else for thatmatter, raises a few issues for me regardingthe purpose and scope of the work. At its heartthis book is all about process in the widestsense. Process here must include Ennis’ inter-nal cerebral, unconscious and aestheticprocesses that resulted in his music andsound. He’s not around to speak for himselfso his music has to do the talking for him.Process also includes the methods and choic-es that Pat Mitchell has both used andeschewed in presenting this phase of what isapparently work in progress. Mitchell is stillvery much around and is curiously inscrutableon many of these issues. This book is a workof record and it carries the same kind of bur-den of accuracy, detail, method, consistencyand comprehensiveness that you’d expectfrom a good dictionary, a good catalogue or agood concordance. For me many of thebook’s weaknesses are in these areas. The introductory text sets out (ambitiously, inmy view) suggestions of more to come: airs,stories, songs, song translations and anextended biography; a future publication ofcomparative analysis of the music of a num-The Dance Music of Séamus EnnisPat Mitchell(Na Píobairí Uilleann. 480pp, ISBN 978-0-9509743-6-1) 60.00 ( 50 to members, plus P+P)This is the most significant publication from Na Píobairí Uilleann in many years. In light ofthis we have requested two reviews, one from fiddle-player and piper Dermot McLaughlin,and one from piper Néillidh Mulligan, Patron and former chairman of NPU. We have alsoincluded a representative sample of the messages we received in response to the book.
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Píobaire, An, Volume 4, Issue 42

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