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Picture of Rites of Spontaneity

Rites of Spontaneity

Communality and Subjectivity in Traditional Irish Music Sessions

Author(s): Augusto Ferraiuolo

Book Description

A room in a pub. Some musicians facing each other. They play well-known traditional Irish tunes on flutes, tin whistles, and fiddles. Every musician plays the melodic line adding her own variations and grace notes. Some musicians are just listening; others are cracking jokes. The crowd nearby is composed of friends, occasional patrons, a regular audience, and curious tourists. Some seem not to care; some come closer to listen or perhaps even participate.

This is called a “session”. From an anthropological point of view, sessions are not just a musical environment. They are a combination of social interactions, suggesting specific dynamics between community, subjects and cultural items.

A scene like that can be found the world over, from Dublin to Boston and Rome. During the last forty years the practices and the appreciation of this particular music, and of this particular setting, have moved decisively from local arenas into the global marketplace. A transnational perspective is, therefore, necessary.

As such, this book will appeal to a very wide range of readers, from musicians and aficionados to scholars and students.


ISBN-13: 978-1-5275-3954-9
ISBN-10: 1-5275-3954-7
Date of Publication: 01/12/2019
Pages / Size: 288 / A5
Price: £61.99


Augusto Ferraiuolo is a Lecturer and Visiting Scholar at the Department of Anthropology of Boston University. His work focuses on ritual and performances in a transnational and diasporic perspective. He published several books and articles in both English and Italian, including The Tammorra: Dance and Music of Southern Italy (2016) and Religious Festive Practices in Boston’s North End: Ephemeral Identities in an Italian-American Community (2009). He also served as a consultant for the edited Alan Lomax: Italian Treasury: Folk Music and Song of Italy (1999). Since 2011, he has been the Director of the Intimate Lens International Ethnographic Film Festival. He is also a musician who has performed in many sessions in Ireland, Italy, and the USA. His most recent recording is Riverrun, with the Irish-Italian band àr meitheal.