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The International Ballad Commission Conference
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6/27/2016 to 7/1/2016
When: Monday, June 27, 2016
Where: Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick

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The 46th Kommission für Volksdichtung/International Ballad Commission Conference: Songs of Liberation, Rebellion and Resistance will take place at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, June 27-July 1, 2016.

Call for Papers:

Ireland has a rich repertoire of traditional song and Limerick has played no small part in contributing to this legacy. Many songs have been written about the city and its inhabitants - its local characters, wars and battles, trials and tribulations.

In his 1909 publication Old Irish Folk Music and Song, Patrick Weston Joyce described Limerick as ‘a home of music and song; they were in the air of the valley; you heard them everywhere - sung, played, whistled; and they were mixed up with people's pastimes, occupation and daily life’. Breandán Ó Madagáin states of Irish song: ‘there was scarcely a form of human activity, literally from the cradle to the grave, into which song did not enter’.

2012-2022 has been designated by the Irish Government as the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ (see The period 1912-1922 was a time when when Ireland was, in the words of W. B. Yeats, ‘changed utterly’. Important events of this period include the Dublin Lock-out of 1913-14; the First World War (1914-1918); the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921). Of particular significance to the timeframe of this conference are the events commemorating the Easter Rising of 1916 ( This centenary has inspired the central themes of the 2016 ballad conference, and invites proposals on the topics of liberation, rebellion and resistance within the broader context of international song scholarship.

Songs have consistently been used as communicative devices, markers of identity and much more. They work in a multitude of ways: as expressive tools; historical documents and propaganda pieces; agents of unity and solidarity, fear and exclusion; etc. Their study can provide a window into the minds of those affected by social and political distress and success. Buchan wrote that ‘The literary concerned with the literature created and transmitted by traditional means within that culture...with the relationship between the literature and the social and cultural context: ...with how the literature in quality, substance, and style is determined by the conditions of the society that produces it’. Ó Madagáin states: ‘Songs are not an independent entity in themselves: they are a form of human behaviour. And their vital context is the social life and culture of the community’. Merriam further promotes the idea that songs are representative of human thought and behaviour, and interrogates the way that song functions in societies affected by political and social dissonances: ‘Song texts, then, can be used as a means of action directed towards the solution of problems which plague a community…because of the freedom of expression allowed in song, texts seem clearly to provide an excellent means for the investigation of psychological processes of the people who constitute a culture’ . These writings provide a starting point for the exploration of the themes of this conference.

Presentation subjects may include, but are not limited to:

  • Songs of war and protest, rebellion and revolution 
  • Home and abroad: songs of foreign wars and migration 
  • Singing as an act of liberation and agency 
  • Liberation in the expression of the taboo through song 
  • Gender representation in songs of liberation, rebellion and resistance 
  • Songs as instruments of change and transformation 
  • Song as an historical source; the role of collections and collectors in classifications of song 
  • Cultural nationalism, literary revival and traditional song 
  • The hero and the villain in songs of liberation, rebellion and resistance 
  • Any other subject within presenter's research interest

Proposals are invited for individual papers of 20 minutes duration (10 minutes will be allocated for questions at the end of each paper).

Please submit an abstract of up to 300 words, as well as your full name, institutional affiliation (if applicable), e-mail address and a 50-word biography, by Thursday February 4th, 2016. This information should be sent in a word document attachment to the e-mail address:

All proposals will be reviewed.

Please address any queries to

This conference is organised by the TradSong research cluster at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick (see

The conference will feature concerts, field trips and a céilí (social dance event). It coincides with the Blas International Summer School of Irish Traditional Music and Dance ( and with the International Council for Traditional Music's symposium on The Contributions of Ethnomusicology and Ethnochoreology to Vernacular Music and Dance Education in 3rd Level Institutions on June 30th.

Conference Conveners:

Eamonn Costello 
Carrie Dike 
Sandra Joyce 
Niall Keegan 
Mary McLaughlin 
Róisín Ní Ghallóglaigh


Buchan, David (1974) The Ballad and the Folk, London: Routledge, p ix.

Joyce, Patrick Weston (1909) Old Irish Folk Music and Song, Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, p vii.

Merriam, Alan (1964) The Anthropology of Music, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, pp 201-204.

Ó Madagáin, Breandán (1985) 'Functions of Irish Song in the Nineteenth Century’, in Béaloideas, Galway: University College, Galway, pp 131-132.

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