The Litany of the Saints

Musical Quotations and Influences in the Music of Tommie Potts

Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin

In this essay I wish to turn the normal instance of a composer in a classical tradition borrowing ‘folk’ or ‘traditional’ music as material for symphonic development on its head. My case study here is that of an Irish traditional musician borrowing classical themes and motifs as an inspiration for the development of his revived traditional repertoire, and in the process stitching these borrowings so far into the fabric of the traditional material as to be unrecognisable – unless they are pointed out. Instead of the usual story of oral-traditional practise! What can this tell us about music and identity in general, and about music and identity in Ireland, in particular? If a classical composer might wish to make use of Irish traditional material in order to install an Irish identity into the compositional process, what might motivate a traditional musician to cross that action in the opposite direction?

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