I’m delighted to begin working with ITMA this month. It’s been quite a journey–from our discussions and application process last year around this time, to our current preparations to begin this 2-year project. Now, I find myself in Dublin and ready to get to work!
It is my hope that I can further ITMA’s valuable work through our LITMUS (Linked Irish Traditional MUSic) project. Our aim is to open up the collections even further using this tool of linked data, and eventually allow anyone across the world to explore topics, people, tunes, relationships, songs, helping them learn more about traditional Irish music and dance.
Although I’m tasked with something very technical, for me, it’s a calling that goes far beyond the computer. I can thank my teacher and friend James Kelly for making me keenly aware of the rich history, archival recordings, and influential musicians of the (distant and recent) past that help shape our approaches today. I remember learning about these musicians through James’ colorful stories, sometimes punctuated with tunes learned from the many visitors to his father’s house and shop on Capel Street here in Dublin. And, certainly we had many lively discussions on today’s music and musical approaches.
As I continue along my own musical journey, I cherish these stories, memories, and tunes, while also immersing myself in more academic questions of how to best represent Irish (and other) traditional music using information technology, and how to organize musical knowledge passed along primarily through oral transmission. It’s somewhat like chasing a moving train–we don’t stop making music, singing songs, dancing sets, or telling stories–nor do we continue to do so in quite the same way as those before us.
This is why I’m especially honored to join a “living archive,” one that maintains its connection to the present tradition and those involved in shaping it. As the tradition moves onward, so does the logistical task of enabling access to all kinds of materials (past and present) for those who practise it, research it, teach it, and appreciate it.
The fellowship with ITMA will be an intense period of great learning for me, along with the opportunity to build something that can have a lasting impact. Through the new ITMA website, and through social media (stay tuned!), I look forward to sharing our progress with you in the coming months.