The Songs of Fionn mac Cumhaill: An Historical and Musicological Analysis of Indo-European Musical Poetics in Ireland, Scotland and Nova Scotia
The purpose of this study was to investigate through archival and musicological analysis the audio recordings of Fenian lays made in the middle of the last century. These recordings were made from informants who learned the material orally; they contain cultural elements that assist in comprehending the musical mechanics of Fenian lays at a time when their performance practices were being extirpated by foreign musical influences. These elements include Indo-European (IE) thematic material, poetics, language register, pitch structuring, rhythm, and vocal techniques. Audio recordings of Fenian lays from Ireland, Scotland, and Nova Scotia, Canada were analysed in terms of their linguistic-musical material. Results show that the rhythm of the lays did not display a repetitive musical metre but the more complex structure of speech. However, rhythmic patterns did alter with volume. Also, resonance tuning was apparent. Many characteristics associated with volume in lay recordings exist in declaimed speech as well; both may be seen to act as a bridge between speech and metered song. Lay poetry appeared to be syllabic, which is unusual for a stress-timed language; this reflects an Indo-European genesis that is supported by the presence of oral-formulaic language. Both stress and accent shifted pitch by poetic line to match spoken characteristics. A high language register was present, which does not indicate composition by the intelligentsia for use at court, but rather a fear-induced protective linguistic device apparent in all social classes. Moreover, the addition of delineated pitch to spoken declamation may be seen as an attempt to further increase the communicative register. The pitch structure was seen to be anachronistic, matching the linear scales played by pastoral instruments, particularly that of wooden shepherd trumpets used since at least the beginning in the Early Neolithic Age.
Advisor: Johnson, Henry; Kuch, Peter
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Music and Irish and Scottish Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Fionn; Cumhaill; lay; song; natural; scale; diatonic
Research Type: Thesis