I too am very interested in the way that people learn to play, sing, dance,
etc., particularly in the context of what is generally referred to as
Might I suggest the following works, which I have found enlightening in
studying this topic. Firstly, what I believe to be the most important work
on the subject, Alan P. Merriam's 'The Anthropology of Music'; a complex but
inspiring book that examines the relationship between the singer/musician
and his/her cultural milieu in detail.
In the Irish context, Marie McCarthy's 'Passing It On - the Transmission of
Music in Irish Culture' was a chance personal discovery whilst browsing in
Eason's bookshop on afternoon. 'Music In Ireland - 1848 - 1998', edited by
Richard Pine, provides an interesting survey of the subject. Of course, the
anthology of Breandan Breathnach's writings 'The Man and His Music' is
essential reading, particularly the chapter 'The Use of Notation in Irish
Music', which was the starting point for my own paper to the Derry
Crossroads Conference: 'From Flag Floor to Concert Platform: Passing On the
Tradition' (due to be published whenever the conference proceedings are
published but I can make a copy available to anyone who should want it -
contact me off list).
I believe that my undergraduate dissertation 'Traditional fiddle playing in
West Clare: Junior Crehan and Michael Downes' (which failed to get a mention
in 'The Companion to Irish Traditional Music'!) was possibly the first
detailed study of the process of tradition passing between Irish musicians.
A synopsis of this is contained in Dal gCais Volume 4, as 'A Contrast in
Styles' (similarly available from me as the relevant volume is out of
Finally, the proceedings of the first Crossroads conference, which contains
many useful references, is also essential reading.
Some of the above publications may be out of print, so, if anyone should
want further details, please contact me off-list.