Document Type

Theses, Masters


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



Publication Details

Thesis successfully submitted for the award of M.Phil.


Although modern remembrances in the fields of literature, theatre, poetry, and the visual arts have received considerable scholarly attention in Ireland since the publication of History and Memory in Modern Ireland in 2001, similar activities in an Irish art music context remain unexplored. This thesis addresses this lacuna in examining how the contemporary Irish composers Donnacha Dennehy (b. 1970) and Jennifer Walshe (b. 1974) have remembered, reimagined, and reinvented the past to communicate their positions on Irish history and modern Irish society, as well as to respond to recent historical and curatorial practices. Through a series of five works written between 2003 and 2019, Dennehy has critiqued the ideologies underlying imperialism, racism, and colonialism in Irish history, and challenged the recent period of revisionism in Irish historicization. His anti-colonial project combats historical amnesia, advocating for consciousness of the past to address current problems. In January 2015, Walshe, in collaboration with a handful of Irish artists, musicians, and composers, published Aisteach, a fictional history of an Irish avant-garde. This alternative tradition consists of an ‘archive’ of Irish avant-gardists who allegedly created art and music in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Including many female and LGBTQ figures, Aisteach builds a more diverse and inclusive history of Irish art and music, which in turn casts a new light both on the real historical past and the present musical and political scenes. Through a detailed examination of Dennehy and Walshe’s compositions, this study aims to illustrate how they evoke alternative memories that fill gaps in Irish history and work through their cultural inheritance to reshape and, in some cases, reaffirm conceptions of national identity.