This page is to explain some of the projects I’m working on right now, or which I may or may not start working on in the future.
You might also want to look at my list of potential research projects, which I am probably not going to get around to doing, but which may be useful for prospective PhD candidates looking for an idea of something they could usefully do.
Old Irish Harp Transcriptions Project
This has been my main artistic and research project since Autumn 2019. I am searching for, identifying, categorising and analysing musical notations which appear to have been written down as live transcriptions of the playing of old Irish harp tradition-bearers. So far the only person I have identified as doing this is Edward Bunting, but I hope that in time I may identify such transcriptions made by other people in the late 18th or early 19th century.
I have made a tune-list of tunes in Bunting’s transcription notebooks and printed collections, which indicates both the nature of any transcriptions and the tags or attributions given. I have been compiling indexes and text-transcripts of the key transcription notebooks. And I have been studying individual tunes, writing up my conclusions here on this website, and making YouTube demonstration videos of the transcription notation realised as old Irish harp performances. In October 2020, I made a kind of half-way-point interim summary.
The main research aims of this project are to narrow down the evidence for what is old Irish harp performance style? By ruthlessly excluding consideration of harp tunes that are passed down to us as piano arrangements, or through the fiddle, pipe or song tradition, I hope that we can get a more focussed view of the idiomatic Irish harp style which came to an end in the early 19th century. Creating a view of what the harp style is like will help inform revival attempts.
Defining the old Irish harp tradition
This is my next project, and I suppose it is what all my previous work is leading to. I want to try and draw together all of the strands I have been working on, to generate an overview of “what is the old Irish harp”, “how do we play it” and “what does it sound like”.
My aim here is to come up with answers that situate the old Irish harp as a viable instrument in 21st century musical life here, so that the instrument, its sound and its music have some kind of relevance to the lived experience of ordinary people in Ireland today, whilst simultaneously respecting the inherited (yet broken) tradition passed down to us from the old harper tradition-bearers from just over 200 years ago.