Connections In Sound

- Patrick Egan

Listening to multiple versions of an Irish folksong posted by many different fieldworkers over many different regions and years - and programatically denying priority to any single one - will go a long way toward providing a facsimile, eAccurate sense of the song's many-sided, irreducible character. eAccuracy is like a video continuously being shot and (re)-edited rather than a photograph filed in a shoebox. Miles Foley, 2012

Oral Tradition and Internet - Despite superficial differences, both technologies are radically alike in depending not on static products but on continuous processes, not on "What?" but on "How do I get there?" In contrast to the fixed spatial organization of the page and book, the technologies of oral tradition and the internet mime the way we think by processing along pathways within a network. In both media it's path-ways-not things-that matter. Miles Foley, 2012

Performers of Irish traditional music, song and dance use the internet as a means to access and explore their musical genre in a variety of ways. New perspectives and tools are being imagined by researchers in order to understand the role that archives might play in a changing media landscape since the digital turn.

As a Library of Congress Kluge Scholar in Digital Studies, my research is focused on understanding the ways that performers use use the internet in North America and also the role of archives in the every day lives of performers. As a case study in this investigation, I have started to explore audio collections containing Irish traditional music at the American Folklife Center (AFC). Some of my initial forays and snapshots of this research have been brought together and shared in this post.

My first activity at the AFC was to survey their audio collections to find recordings of Irish traditional music. I began this quest by asking the question: Where are these recordings located? I am focusing on recorded sound that was collected between 1900 and 1989, connecting performer descriptions of tunes, songs, stories and dances. To date I have information to share on the following collections, forming a key part of several ongoing projects. For more information see my blog post here at The Signal.

Types of Recordings

In the following chart, I present the variety of performances or tune types found in the audio collections at the AFC. Hover over each circle to see the results, each type is color coded.

Pathways to the recordings

The following chart illustrates both access points to the collections which contain Irish traditional music, but also the types of material that can be found in each specific collection. On the left is each item, moving towards the collections themselves and the physical recordings contained within them. The access points for each collection are shown on the right hand side.

The visualizations above offer snapshots of collections that were discovered, but also the range of performances that exist within each collection. In the next visualization, the collections are mapped onto a US map that incorporates census data for Irish born immigrants over a century when these performances were recorded. This visualization may be accessed here