Monday, May 25, 2020

Notebook: Seeing Music

Christy Moore:
When I go to West Clare I can see the music in the hills and stony fields. Today I look out upon the Sheep's Head and over Dunmanus Bay to Mount Gabriel and I can see many things: the beauty of it all, the bay, the beacons — as one man tries to quietly fish in it another hungry man seeks to poison it. I can see God's work everywhere but I cannot see the music. In West Clare you can see the fiddle music, you can stand looking over a stone wall into a poor little field and it is there as plain as day. I saw concertina music on the square in Kilrush in 1964 and the vision never left me. Coming up from The White Strand in Milltown Malbay I met chanter music, and on the windswept Hill of Tulla (East Clare) I met the man that wrote Spancilhill. The music scarpered off the big fields of Meath and Kildare — there is no sign of it at all. I have seen it in Ahascragh too, and above in Ardara and you can plainly see the flute music in Fisher Street. You'd always have a better chance of glimpsing it around stony half acres, but seldom if ever on the ranches brimming with sleek shiny bullocks full of antibiotics and growth hormones. Show me a scrawny auld heifer unable for a bull and I'll show you a slow air with a slip jig traipsing after it. The combine harvesters have driven the music out of the John Hinde-coloured pastures where it has been forced to live in exile in libraries and museums. It needs the birdsong and the meadow to breathe, the wind through the furze, the distant corncrake in the meadow, the smell of the fair day.

From One Voice: My Life in Song (Hodder & Stoughton, 2000).
"Spancilhill" (or "Spancil Hill"): a song associated with Robbie McMahon, a version of which appears on Christy Moore's 1970 album Prosperous. John Hinde was a popular photographer and creator of nostalgic colored postcards.

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