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Joe Arnold - The Session


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  • Model: TN1939B
  • Shipping Weight: 0.125kg
  • 10 Units in Stock

Book Reviewed by Matthew Horsley

This self-published booklet is a brief introduction to the context and tradition of the Irish traditional music session and the broader practice of Irish traditional music.

It is clearly aimed at a readership unacquainted with the music session experience, including musicians seeking to learn something about Irish traditional music.

It is structured according to a series of questions loosely categorised into various topics.

Interspersed with this information are poems, song lyrics, and extracts from interviews suggesting (rightly in my view) that the session experience cannot be entirely rationalised into objective facts.

To further this aim, a suggested listening list (or an accompanying CD) would be a welcome addition.

The information provided is considered, sound and relevant to the audience although necessarily too brief for a knowledgeable reader.

For instance, the analysis of session culture according to the opposing forces of inclusiveness and exclusiveness is an astute one that I would like to see explored in greater detail in another piece.

At times, the order of the various topics seem a little non-intuitive and their selection inconsistent (eg. A detailed description of the bodhran is given without similar treatment of other traditional instruments).

While the format seems natural for the most part, occasionally I am left with the impression that a question is a set up for a particular piece of information rather than something a curious reader is likely to ask.

Unusually for an author living in Australia, the focus is very much on the session phenomenon within Ireland with references to Fleadhanna Cheoil, the European Union and Irish musical tourism.

Indeed, at one point the reader is left with the distinct impression that they must travel to Ireland in order to witness or participate in a session.

This is a significant omission and one that could easily rectified with an additional section on sessions within the Irish cultural diaspora.

Although published in 2009, little mention is made of contemporary musicians (the Boys of the Lough being the most recent reference), many of whom would likely provide an easier listening experience for a casual reader that the older musicians mentioned.

Similarly, no mention is made of the impact of the internet and other recent technology on the session phenomenon and the broader scope of Irish traditional music.

Criticism aside, this booklet is informative, engaging and well-aimed at its intended audience.

Its format would allow for easy duplication and it could easily be made available to curious observers at session venues, festivals and the like.

This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 24 June, 2014.