Oct 05 2008

What in the World: Reading Rory Gallagher’s Blues

Published by at 10:30 am under articles

Contemporary Irish popular music represents a set of enormously successful cultural and economic practices. Much in the same way that Irish literature was felt to have produced an inordinate number of geniuses throughout the last century, so the island seems capable of issuing forth an endless supply of successful pop and rock acts. (1)

The standing army of Irish poets has been joined by the standing army of rock ‘n’ rollers. Following the ideology of French music theorist Jacques Attali, Smyth is certain that the study of popular must become a central part of the Irish Studies curriculum because, according to Attali, music is “prophesy. Its styles and economic organization are ahead of the rest of society because it explores, much faster than material reality can, the entire range of possibilities in a given code” (7). As Smyth points out

music is the most sensitive indicator of social change… Because of its intensively dialectical nature — in which economics and aesthetics are so closely enmeshed — music registers and engages change before other aesthetic forms: its dilemmas will be ours, so, to, its negotiations and compromises. In this way, Attali shifts music, and more importantly the analysis of music, to the centre of the academic stage, for it’s there that the future is in a sense taking place. (7)

Theodor Adorno divided sound into high music and low noise whereas Attali eschewing what Smyth refers to as Adorno’s “bourgeois classification of sound’ believes that “now we learn to judge a society more by its sounds, by its art, and by its festivals, than by its statistics” (6). For the beleaguered parent in Ireland trying to listen to the news on RTE, the loud blues, punk, or hip-hop bursting forth from his or her teenager’s room is both a nuisance, threat, and, perhaps, a harbinger of a new barbarism. For Smyth, it is from Bono or Conor Deasy that one hears the real news and not from Anne Doyle on RTE. What was once noise, is now prophesy.

Facebook Comments Box
Share on Facebook

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “What in the World: Reading Rory Gallagher’s Blues”

  1. kathleenon 01 Apr 2009 at 10:57 pm

    Hmmm. Thank you for this, which I’ve just discovered.

    Your comments are astonishingly astute, intelligent, and very well informed.

    One of the (alleged) quotations from an interview with Rory in his last days is something like: “The checked shirt has become stigmata to me.”

    That, if true, says so much — frankly, for someone like me, who is of Irish descent and Roman Catholic childhood — and says pretty much everything. It’s uncomfortable, but revealing.

    I do wish that someone (and the most likely person is Donal) would write, or at least authorize, the definitive biography of Rory.

    Greetings from The States.


  2. Richard Day Goreon 01 Aug 2012 at 6:38 am


    I’ve been waiting for years for Rory to be examined at an academic level. He’s so much more than a guitarist or songwriter or uniquely lovable bluesman: he’s culturally important in a way that deserves serious, serious consideration.

    I’m sure many fans will read this piece and say “WTF” because of its dry academic-speak, but Rory’s music being part of an academic conference is a huge achievement! Even the intellectuals are waking up to the fact that Rory was, is, and will always be, relevant.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply