An open letter to the general editors of the Encylopaedia of Music in Ireland

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To Harry White and Barra Boydell,

As President Higgins emphasised at its launch the other week, the publication of the Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (EMIR) by UCD Press is something to celebrate, a resource from which many generations to come will hopefully benefit enormously. The contributors and you the editors are to be congratulated on the achievement and – as our President also mentioned – on the spirit of academic collaboration the work reflects.

Inevitably, there are omissions, reflecting editorial emphasis and biases, and some of these should be debated, as you acknowledge in your introduction to the volumes. However, I am sorry to find one very serious, and I would suggest pointed, omission that goes beyond mind-set and space constraints, and actually undermines the book’s authority. Being an academic publication, a publication of record as it were, for scholarly research, how can you justify omitting the Journal of Music (previously the Journal of Music in Ireland) as an entry? No one can credibly argue that since its establishment in 2000 the Journal has not played a noteworthy role in debate about our musical culture – a fact that EMIR’s own index reflects to some extent, with at least twelve references to the publication in other entries. Readers should note that unlike the Journal, comparable publications have their own entries in EMIR.

A related ommission that is glaring to anyone with an interest in music criticism is the writer Barra Ó Séaghdha, who for some years was one of the most prolific commentators on musical matters in the country and initiated some important debates, often in the pages of the Journal, including one on the Encyclopaedia project itself (ironically about bias).

Considering the Journal published Ó Séaghdha’s criticisms of the project (recently summarised on, I fear the reason for the omissions amounts to thin skin and score settling. I am saddened and actually angered that publicly paid academics of such standing as yourselves can do such a disservice to scholarship in one respect while in another giving so much to society with such a publication.

I think an explanation is called for, and that the distorting omission ought to rectified as soon as possible. ­

Yours sincerely,

Paul O’Connor

Previously Traditional Music Editor at the Journal of Music


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