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The Sound of Politics in Early Nineteenth-Century Ireland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 April 2021

Abstract

In the early 1800s, Jonah Barrington, an Irish judge, bemoaned that the air chosen as the march for the Irish Volunteer Movement had “no merit whatever, being neither grand, nor martial, nor animating,” contrasting it with the zeal of French revolutionary music. The emotional impact of music might be a matter of taste, but such a statement is suggestive of an aesthetics, where political music, or music used for political purposes, should have specific qualities that could be identified and judged by listeners. This article explores how people in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Ireland identified music as political, using theories of the effects and affects of sound during the period and a corpus of Irish political music as an access point into historical experiences of musical enjoyment. While the impacts of music on the body are challenging for historians to retrieve, scholarship from the history of emotions highlights the important role of normative frameworks of emotion in accessing embodied experience. Working from this perspective, this article argues that we can begin to access the sound of politics for audiences of this period, contributing to our understanding of the role of music in political life.

Type
Special Forum: Music and Politics in Britain, c.1780-1850
Copyright
Copyright © The North American Conference on British Studies, 2021

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References

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21 Paddy's Resource (Belfast, 1795); Thomas Davis, ed., Spirit of the Nation, lib. ed. (Poole, 1845).

22 Georges Denis Zimmerman, Songs of the Irish Rebellion: Irish Political Street Ballads and Rebel Songs, 1780–1900 (Dublin, 1967).

23 George Petrie, The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, ed. David Cooper (Cork, 2002).

24 Petrie, Petrie Collection, 45.

25 See Barclay, Men on Trial.

26 Barclay, “Sounds of Sedition.”

27 Richard Leppert, “Social Order”; Tim Carter, “Music and Dance,” in The Bloomsbury Cultural History of Emotions, ed. Claire Walker, Katie Barclay, and David Lemmings (London, 2018), 53–69.

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32 See also “Literature,” Belfast Newsletter, 27 September 1844.

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36 “Douglas Jerrold's Magazine,” Vindicator, 29 January 1845; Davis, Spirit of the Nation, vi.

37 “Irish Songs,” Nation, 4 January 1845. See also the discussion in Roe, Principles of Rhythm, 72–108.

38 Petrie, Petrie Collection, 44.

39 “Account of the First Part of the British Empire in Europe, written by the celebrated John Lewis De Lolme [sic], L.L.D.,” Walker's Hibernian Magazine: Or, Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge (Dublin, 1787), 533–35, at 535.

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68 Thanks to the reviewers for improving this discussion.

69 Barrington, Historic Memoirs of Ireland, 2:173–80.

70 Johan Fornäs, Signifying Europe (Bristol, 2012), 149–201.

71 Barrington, Historic Memoirs of Ireland, 2:173–80.

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