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Photo by Erik Sharar

This blog comprises the research component of my senior thesis capstone project at Davis & Elkins College, where I am completing an Interdisciplinary BA in Multimedia Performance Studies. The project itself encompasses this body of written research, a capstone presentation to the college community, and a solo performance piece that coincides with the D&E Dance Festival, April 21-23, 2017. 


The work examines the cultural and historical context of two very different composers and uses this inquiry as a lens through which to investigate my own creative process as a player and writer of music. Through an exploration of the lives and extant works of Turlough O'Carolan and Josie McDermott (17th and 20th century composers, respectively), I hope to better understand the role of composition within the Irish music tradition. My examination of Carolan and McDermott has been guided in part by the following questions: How do new compositions find their way into the shared repertoire of a tradition? What themes can we identify that connect the experiences of music-makers in different times and across cultures? What identities are created and performed as individuals navigate their own interpretation of Irish tradition, and indeed, of our constructs of “Irishness”?

I will use this research and my own preparation for the live performance portion of my thesis to scrutinize the expressions of identity that inform my own work, and to examine the changing interpretations of the historical and social context in which these two earlier composers are situated.

(In conjunction with the D&E Dance Festival)

Senior Thesis Concert:

Boiler House Studio Theater, Davis & Elkins College 

Friday, 4/21, 1pm

Saturday, 4/22, 7pm

Sunday, 4/23, 1pm

(All shows are free and open to the public.)


There is not a great deal of information about Josie McDermott available, and he is survived by no close relatives, but this 2009 TG4 Documentary, Cérbh É? Josie McDermott, has been invaluable. 

Donal O'Sullivan's 1989 biography "Carolan: The Life and Times of an Irish Harper," has been an important resource, being the most complete history of his life and chronicle of his compositions.  

One of my areas of research is how the music of O'Carolan has been interpreted in different ways by modern players. A while back, I stumbled across a video of The Press Gang playing an O'Carolan piece called The Fairy Queen. After some digging, I ascertained that their setting of the piece came from the playing of Michelle O'Brien. Here, O'Brien is accompanied by Laoise Kelly. To me, it is interesting to juxtapose some of the very classical sounding settings of this music with the less ornamented versions, perhaps in more of a "traditional" vein. 

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