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Music, Emotion and Identity in Ulster Marching Bands

Flutes, Drums and Loyal Sons

Gordon Ramsey

Ulster’s marching bands form perhaps the most vibrant participatory folk music tradition in contemporary Europe, and are one of the most significant and visible elements of working-class loyalist culture in the divided society of Northern Ireland. Their significance springs largely from the central place they have assumed in the lives of their members.
This book presents an ethnography of three County Antrim flute bands from the very different genres of ‘part-music’, ‘melody’ and ‘blood and thunder’. The author explores the emotional rewards of communal music-making and the way that identities are formed through the acquisition of tastes, competences and skills within specific communal contexts, paying particular attention to the impact of class position. These issues are examined in the context of the competitions, concerts and street parades that are central to the social lives of thousands of band members and supporters in Northern Ireland.


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Chapter 8 - Conclusion - 219


Chapter 8 Conclusion This book set out to answer two questions: firstly, how are processes of identity formation and transformation related to musical practice? And secondly, how are these processes mediated by emotion and aesthetics? In this chapter I will summarise the answers this research suggests to these questions, before assessing the significance of those answers for ethnomusi- cology, for the musicians with whom I played, and for the society in which they are embedded. Summary of Findings My entry into the field through the Corps of Drums made it evident that in order to understand the practices and discourse of those with whom I wished to engage, I needed to learn to share their competences. My recruit- ment to BVFB demonstrated that the only overt qualification necessary for my entry to the f lute-band world was the desire to enter it, enacted in my acquisition of competence and verbal expression of interest. Perhaps, however there was an implicit qualification, in that my habitus had to be suf ficiently in tune with that of band members that they were motivated to invite me. The aesthetic judgement that this was a social world in which I wanted to participate motivated my acquisition of competence and expres- sion of interest, which in turn motivated the invitation to join the band in a process of mutual engagement. It is significant for understanding the meaning of f lute-band member- ship to bandsmen that questions of the supposed symbolic connotations 220 Chapter 8 of participation...

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