Many like to describe the world of traditional Irish flute playing as existing along an axis between those who think the instrument is played with the fingers and those that think that it is all embodied, about what happens between diaphragm and embouchure. Of course, the best players think it is about both. Just listen to the rhythm created by the rolling, octave jumping style of Seamus Tansey, a complete player.
All these elements (and many others) have led to the development of one of the most wonderfully diverse instrumental traditions in the western world. This diversity has been complicated in recent years by musicians such as Jean-Michel Veillon, Grey Larsen, and Mick McGoldrick looking to the new international landscape of music. These flute players can't help themselves from drawing foreign elements into their own performance from traditions such as jazz, Indian flute playing, and, 150 years late, the western art tradition.
All the players here are innovators, re-creating traditional music according to their own aesthetic model, sometimes faithful to ideas of tradition, but always individual. Indeed it could be argued that the most innovative and creative musicians are those that develop their performance behind the high walls of tradition. Musicians such as Eamonn Cotter, Noel Rice, Turlach Boylan, Jimmy Noonan, John Wynne, and Cathal McConnell certainly have the ability to knock these walls down but decide not to, achieving distinctiveness by the most difficult route. Many such players are keeping faith with their idea of a regional style and are often attempting to create interpretations of such styles on this relatively new instrument.
In nearly all the regional traditions of Ireland the fiddle is central. Perhaps the history of the flute in Ireland can be characterised by flute players such as Frankie Kennedy approaching these fiddle traditions with sensitivity, not just trying to fit in with these regional voices but to add to them. Perhaps the journey of one who could be regarded as the greatest fluter of us all, Matt Molloy, can be characterized as a negotiation of the great piping tradition embodied by Seamus Ennis and Liam O'Flynn. In doing so Molloy established the first of what I once heard SÃ©amus MacMathÃºna describe as cosmopolitan styles, typified here by Barry Kerr, Tom Doorley, Liam Kelly, and Deirdre Havlin, among others.
This double CD, though very much one of contemporary flute playing, is a testament to the tradition that has gone before it. Echoes of the humour of Tom Morrison can be heard in John Skelton's throaty style, and the vibrancy of John McKenna in the forceful Sligo polkas of Martin Gaffney. It is great that two relatively recently deceased bastions of tradition, Micho Russell and Josie McDermott are here, illustrating that the music of past masters is as relevant to the future of traditional music, if not more so, than all so-called 'innovations'. This is made obvious by the inclusion of tracks by Garry Shannon and Marcus Ã“ MurchÃº who have kept the music of these two respectively alive in their own recordings.
The ethnomusicologist, Alan Lomax, spoke of the cultural greyout that he believed would be the damnation of the new global cultural economy. The Irish flute, mass-produced in a different culture, acquired through migration and the adoption of 'other' performance practices in the flute bands, should be an obvious example of cultural conformity and blandness. But here you can hear the fallacy of the Lomax thesis. The artillery effect and precision of Hammy Hamilton's northern blast; the peaceful but troubled flow of Mike Rafferty's East Galway idyll; the west Clare complexity of Eamonn Cotter's fingers; the American optimism and verve of Skip Healy and the stupendous technical wizardry of Sylvain Barou represent just a small part of the diversity of sounds made by so-called 'Irish' fluters.
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1. Garry Shannon (3:34 Reels) Windwood (The Fox on the Town/Lady of
2. Eamonn Cotter (3:36 Reels) The Golden Keyboard/Ambrose Moloney's
3. Marcas Ã“ MurchÃº (4:22 Jigs) Maho Snaps/Get Up Old Woman & Shak
4. Michael McGoldrick (4:39 Reels) Teehan's (Terry Teehans/Her Long
5. Catherine McEvoy (2:39 Reels) The Duke of Leinster/The Ladies Pa
6. Marcus Hernon (4:22 Air) The Invisible Corncrake
7. Seamus Tansey (2:29 Reels) Mick Flatley's Delight/Ed Reavy's Fav
8. Barry Kerr (3:35 Jig/Reel) Ships in Full Sail/The Three Sisters
9. Deirdre Havlin (3:21 Highland/Reel) The Mighty Clansmen (King Ge
10. Noel Rice (2:15 Slip Jig) The Choice Wife
11. Josie McDermott (2:59 Reels) The Kerry Man/The Pigeon on the Gat
12. Laurence Nugent (3:56 Jigs) Old Hag You Have Killed Me/Pride of
13. Mike Rafferty (2:02 Reels) The Hard Road to Travel/Shanks Mare
14. Loretto Reid (3:54 Waltz) Leon's Waltz
15. Liam Kelly The Hungry Rock
16. Colm O'Donnell (3:10 Jigs) The Battering Ram/The Besom in Bloom
17. Jimmy Noonan (2:59 Reels) Courting Them All/Denis Murphy's Miss
18. Hammy Hamilton (1:55 Reels) The Dark Haired Lass (Mick Hoy's)/Bo
19. Turlach Boylan Johnny's Wedding/Colonel Rodney's
20. Tom Doorley Are You Ready Yet?
21. John Skelton (4:07 Air/Barndance) The Fire in the Hearth/Around
22. Cathal McConnell (3:43 Jigs) Scotland-Ireland/The Hangover/The F
23. Niall Keegan (3:29 Reels) Dunmore Lasses/My Love is in America
24. John Wynne (3:41 Reels) The Ballinafad Fancy/Lady Anne Montgomer
25. Martin Gaffney (2:21 Polkas) The Dark Haired Girl Dressed in Blu
26. Joanie Madden (5:31 Reels) Molly Ban/Paddy Lynn's Delite/Jack Mc
27. Paul McGrattan (3:50 Air) Easter Snow
28. Mark Roberts (3:47 Jigs) Boys of the Town/The Rollicking Boys of
29. Skip Healy (2:50 Reels) Silver Spear/Glen Allen/Bay of Fundy
30. Sylvain Barou (4:12 Reels) Clare's Reel/The Silver Reel/Brendan'
31. Grey Larsen (4:53 Jigs) The Walls of Liscarroll/Maguire's Kick/T
32. Eoghan MacAogÃ¡in (2:54 Air) SÃ© FÃ¡th Mo Bhuartha
33. Fintan Vallely (4:01 Reels) Miss Chalmer's Reel/Brian Gibson's R
34. Hanz Araki (3:40 Hornpipes) The Plains of Boyle/The Ballyoran Ho
35. June NÃ Chormaic (2:36 Reels, Live) Fred Finn's/Fr. Newman's Re
36. Micho Russell (2:32 Reels, Live) The Fermoy Lassies/The Reel wit
37. Seamus Egan (2:46 Reels) The Maid of Galway (medley)
38. Terry Coyne (4:26 Reels) Contentment is Wealth/Tom Ward's Downfa
39. Matt Molloy (2:12 Reel) Drowsie Maggie
40. Frankie Kennedy (3:10 Reels) The Cat That Ate the Candle/Over th
41. Jean-Michel Veillon Ton Per Bodouin/Dans Fisel