Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) to the Technological University Dublin, 2013


The study of style in Irish traditional music is very much in its infancy. Although current authors locate its beginnings in the 1980s, valuable information can be found from as far back as the eighteenth century. While style is a much-discussed topic, to date it has not been the subject of a major study. Through what is termed ‘the oral tradition’, much of the genre’s stylistic features are transmitted as implicit knowledge. This type of knowledge is difficult to measure, consciously use and share and while these difficulties have been highlighted in one EU-level report, they are also well known in informal conversation. Were this implicit knowledge to be codified into explicit knowledge, it is likely that the process of overcoming these issues could begin, however, at present, no such supplementary approach to transmission exists. In this study it is contended that through the collation of existing explicit knowledge and the codification of implicit knowledge, the creation of an archive of explicit stylistic data is possible. Furthermore, this thesis explores how such an archive may in the future be used as a resource in reducing the issues surrounding measurability and creativity. In order to do this, a two-part model termed the musical catalyst process is proposed. Its first component, the musical catalyst framework acts as a set of instructions for constructing an archive of explicit stylistic data and draws on the relevant literature (1786–2012), audio recordings, permutation formulae and practice-based research. As the initial lists of explicit stylistic knowledge grow, the implicit aspects of style are progressively easier to identify. While the stylistic data of the genre could never be exhaustively collected, the aim is to develop and explore a process that would deliver concrete results and which could be used as a reliable approach beyond this project. The end result of this is an archive of explicit stylistic data that has the potential to be further grown.