Last year, I had a spellbinding conversation with Eugene Dunphy when the shared his knowledge and passion for Karl Hardebeck, the blind organist, composer, Gaeilgeoir and champion of Irish music.

Hardeback was of the opinon that Edward Bunting got it all wrong when he transcribed the music played at the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival. The 19-year old Bunting transcribed the music in notes wheras Irish music was modal. Now, not being an expert in music, I’ve been trying to find out what exactly “modal” music is.

I’ve asked a few people, but I couldn’t understand their answers. It’s not you, it’s me, honestly.

Until that is, when I was chatting to Liam Ó Maonlaí in the back bar of the Duke of York after the great RéDhamhsa gig at the Black Box. Above is how he described modal music.

Easy peasy and beautifully explained by Liam.

So the next time you’re turning your nose up at sean-nós singing, have a closer listen, get into the groove. It’s all part of the beautiful expression of universal human emotion.


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