LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.5

Help for IRTRAD-L Archives


IRTRAD-L Archives

IRTRAD-L Archives


IRTRAD-L@LISTSERV.HEANET.IE


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

IRTRAD-L Home

IRTRAD-L Home

IRTRAD-L  September 1998

IRTRAD-L September 1998

Subject:

Interview with Donal Lunny (LONG)

From:

Ayelet Hacohen <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Irish Traditional Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 5 Sep 1998 09:28:17 +0300

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (253 lines)

Hello all,

Yet another interview - with Donal Lunny this time - which was in the Irish
Times today:

Following his own act / Donal Lunny talks to John Kelly

               It is quite impossible to overestimate the significance
               of a place called Prosperous. It was here that Donal
               Lunny, perhaps the most influential figure in Irish
               music, first began to investigate a multitude of hidden
               musical possibilities and set about discovering how
               jigs, reels and hornpipes might be presented in a
               whole new way.

               From those early gatherings in Kildare, Lunny has
               consistently remained in the vanguard and is now
               recognised worldwide as a composer, a
               multi-instrumentalist, a performer and a producer.
               More immediately in Ireland, Lunny has been that
               vital presence behind many of the most exciting
               episodes in Irish music - from Planxty, through The
               Bothy Band and Moving Hearts, to various bands of
               his own and now his latest venture, Coolfin.

               Born in Newbridge, Lunny began his musical journey
               by avoiding piano lessons. His was not particularly a
               traditional music household and, via the radio, he was
               hearing as much classical, rock 'n' roll and jazz as
               anything else. His feel for music was natural, however,
               and the desire to play it was irresistible. It just so
               happened that the best opportunity to play music, of
               any sort, was 10 miles away in the village of
               Prosperous.

               "I've a feeling that it was entirely to do with that
               opportunity to play music and I suppose if it had been
               jazz I might have ended up playing jazz. Certainly I
               used to see a guy walking down the street in
               Newbridge who was in a showband and he had a
               guitar and I was completely fascinated by this. I
               wondered what kind of life he had and what kind of
               music he was playing.

               "But then the very first opportunity I got to actually
               play with people had been with traditional musicians.
               There was a ballad group in Newbridge called the
               Liffeysiders and we did Clancy Brothers songs and the
               like. But the thing that I found most exhilarating in
               terms of possibilities was being at those traditional
               music seisiúns in Prosperous.

               "There was anything up to 10 or 15 musicians all
               lathering away for the evening under the generosity of
               Pat Dowling and this was carte blanche for me. I
               didn't exactly abuse the music but I could be
               experimental with the guitar. I think the lovely thing
               about playing in Prosperous was the acceptance and
               the tolerance because, while I wasn't making horrible
               sounds on the guitar, I might have been a shade
               extravagant in trying out the odd augmented or
               diminished chord."

               Lunny's first taste of success came with the group
               Emmet Spiceland, although this gave no real indication
               of what was yet to come. He taught himself guitar and
               consequently developed an approach to music that was
               entirely his own. He never learned to play in any
               particular style and had simply set about, from an
               early age, discovering as many chords as possible and
               devising his own methods for playing lefthanded
               guitar.

               "I thought I had invented the lefthanded guitar! I got
               the notion of reversing the strings spontaneously and
               worked away at it. I had to work out my own chords
               and found this a delightful challenge. I used have a
               piece of wood under the desk with the strings and the
               frets on it and when I should have been listening to
               the history teacher I was researching chords under the
               desk!

               "I had always understood music at a very early age but
               whatever innate knowledge I had about music I took
               completely for granted. I never suspected that I was
               different from anybody else until I was about
               13years-old and I was on my last legs at Newbridge
               College where I had been idling for three years. The
               only ray of light, if you like, was Father Flanagan
               who taught art and music. He was a gifted man. He
               was brilliant. The college had a choral recital one year
               and it very quickly emerged that I could retain far
               more music in one chunk than anybody else in the
               class. Father Flanagan saw this and he encouraged me.
               I owe him a great deal for that."

               Lunny was, and still is, on the lookout for new sounds
               that might draw something new from within the music
               itself and his first move was to explore the potential
               of the Greek bouzouki. Musicians like Johnny
               Moynihan and Alec Finn were already using the
               bouzouki in Irish music and Lunny, too, was drawn to
               its rhythmic possibilities.

               Initially finding the round back a little awkward, he
               came up with a flat-backed design which he restrung
               with unison as opposed to octave strings to produce
               what he refers to as a "silvery sound". The Irish
               bouzouki had been invented and was to become
               trademark Lunny. It proved to be a versatile
               instrument - in the Bothy Band, Lunny took what he
               refers to as "the hacksaw" approach; in Planxty the
               musical accompaniment was usually more what Liam
               O'Flynn has described as "a filigree".

               "A lot of that originated from Andy Irvine building
               counterpoints to himself from his songs. Andy was,
               and still is, an original. I had played with Andy quite
               a bit before Planxty formed and I used to build
               something to go with what he did. So I would do a
               counter melody to Andy's counter melody and found
               that this could be applied within the context of
               Planxty as well. So I suppose it was a mixture of
               spontaneity and having worked together already that
               brought it about. I didn't become aware that what I
               was involved in could have any wider effect until
               well into Planxty. Prior to that it didn't feel
               momentous or groundbreaking or anything. It was
               fun."

               Planxty enjoyed success, cult status and a series of
               albums that has never been equalled. The similarly
               successful Bothy Band, which followed Planxty, was a
               conscious attempt to crank things up a little more and
               go for the musical jugular.

               Lunny was by now aware there was a huge potential
               audience for the music but he also knew that, to reach
               that audience, all manner of choices would have to be
               made about how the music was presented. It was
               perhaps the Bothy Band's great achievement that it
               managed to be a loud, dynamic, high energy band with
               all the attitude of rock 'n' roll without ever
               compromising the music itself. Certainly Lunny knew
               well that Irish music could be souped up easily enough,
               but any notion of an out and out Celtic rock approach
               was never an option.

               "That just disenchanted me. I always felt that to do
               that, a serious concession would have to be made. If
               you're going to stick on a snare and a bass drum,
               you've got to think hard about what you're going to do
               with it rather than just apply the formula. Formulas
               turn me off. I had heard attempts at that kind of
               treatment of traditional music and it had never
               worked. Not even partially. One thing that hit me very
               forcibly way back was that if you take rock drumming
               and impose it on Irish music, you are taking music
               from another place and another time and putting it as
               a layer on top of it.

               "But if you take the Irish music and then draw the
               components and the character from within the music
               itself, then the music is actually generating the rhythm
               and the syncopation and the punctuation. "That's what
               I've always been trying to do. But yes, my view of it
               was that we were up against bands with big rhythm
               sections and superb production. At the time we were
               the right age to be in the heart of the pop scene and I
               thought that if only we could get to people, they
               would like it. So we did strive to make the music as
               exciting and as dynamic as possible and we went a
               long way in that direction." The formation of Moving
               Hearts turned many heads. Lunny teamed up with
               Christy Moore and a particularly impressive line-up of
               musicians playing pipes, drums, percussion, electric
               bass, guitar and saxophone. With Lunny on bouzouki
               and synth, Moving Hearts clearly had a million
               possibilities and it seemed like the ideal forum for
               Lunny to explore his ideas on rhythm and his declared
               interest in African music. The Hearts were at times as
               spectacular as any band could ever be and their
               performances at venues such as Lisdoonvarna and The
               Baggot are now the stuff of legend. That said, it still
               wasn't quite what Lunny himself was after.

               "I didn't really get the chance to explore things in
               Moving Hearts, at least in a direct way, because
               Moving Hearts was closer to a rock 'n' roll band, much
               closer than I would have liked. Every time I mention
               this I always qualify it by saying that I learnt an
               enormous amount and I will always be grateful for
               having been there because I learned how rhythm
               sections work from real masters. It was always very
               well built and if I said that I didn't like the snare
               where it was, I had to come up with a very good
               argument for moving it anywhere. But what was
               coming out was rock 'n' roll although sometimes my
               spanner into their works did help to disrupt it slightly,
               and could just shift it a little in the direction of
               something more indigenous."

               There are as many different approaches to the idea of
               experimentation as there are musicians themselves.
               Some thrive on it and others are downright against it
               in any form. For Lunny, with his particular track
               record as a performer and a producer, he finds he is
               constantly forced to question whether or not a
               particular piece of experimentation is valid or not.
               Furthermore, the many requests made on him to
               perform with other artists from various genres can
               throw up endless difficulties in terms of concession
               and compromise. Where and how to draw the line is
               the constant puzzle.

               The new album Coolfin sees Lunny joined by many of
               the musicians who have been working with him in
               recent years including John McSherry on pipes and
               Nollaig Casey on fiddle. The record which also
               features Sharon Shannon, Eddi Reader, Marta
               Sebestyen and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, is a varied
               mix of music and song characterised by Lunny's
               rhythmic variations and his ongoing attempts to
               uncover yet further possibilities from within the music
               itself. As ever, he will be watched, listened to and
               scrutinised because, as everyone with an interest in
               Irish music knows, where Donal Lunny goes, others
               follow.

               "This is another step and there are several more steps
               to go - big ones. This is still at a marked remove from
               where I'd like to be. There are still conventions that I
               feel could be abandoned. I think we're getting there
               with the music but there are other avenues to be
               explored instrumentation-wise or treatment-wise. I
               really feel that there are other sounds that we could be
               using and, with that in mind, I've been trying to
               design several instruments - new instruments.

               "It's not worth saying any more about it until
               something manifests but I'm preoccupied with it and I
               feel a certain amount of frustration at not being at that
               point yet. I'm uneasy too about the fact that what I say
               or do might be taken as a definitive thing. It makes
               me a lot more careful about what I do and say. Music
               is about love of some sort and about emotional
               expression. How you get that is in what you play and
               what sounds you use and how they are applied. That's
               what my concern is. But yes, I saw a book in Japan
               where I was number one in what they called `the
               pantheon of Irish music' and I thought, oh no! I can't
               follow my own act!"

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

June 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
October 2018
September 2018
June 2018
January 2018
September 2017
March 2017
February 2017
September 2016
July 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
April 1998
March 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997
November 1997
October 1997
September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997
December 1996
November 1996
October 1996
September 1996
August 1996
July 1996
June 1996
May 1996
April 1996
March 1996
February 1996
January 1996
December 1995
November 1995
October 1995
September 1995
August 1995
July 1995
June 1995
May 1995
April 1995
March 1995
February 1995
January 1995
December 1994
November 1994
October 1994
September 1994
August 1994
July 1994
June 1994
May 1994
April 1994
March 1994
February 1994
January 1994
November 1993
October 1993
September 1993
August 1993
July 1993
June 1993
May 1993
April 1993
March 1993
February 1993
December 1992

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LISTSERV.HEANET.IE

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager