Toner Quinn’s New Book Launched by Martin Hayes at the Irish Traditional Music Archive

Martin Hayes, Toner Quinn and Liam O'Connor at the launch of ‘What Ireland Can Teach the World About Music’ (Photo: Tim Fleming)

Toner Quinn’s New Book Launched by Martin Hayes at the Irish Traditional Music Archive

‘What Ireland Can Teach the World About Music’, a collection of writing on music in Ireland, is available now.

A new book by Toner Quinn, What Ireland Can Teach the World About Music, has been launched by fiddle player Martin Hayes at the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin.

A collection of writings on Irish music, the book contains more than fifty essays and articles drawn from Quinn’s work as Editor of the Journal of Music as well as a number of radio essays and public talks.

Published under a new Journal of Music imprint, What Ireland Can Teach the World About Music addresses a range of questions including: What can folk music tell us about our society? How do we create a deeper public discussion around music? And, how do we support music in our villages, towns and cities?

Speaking at the book launch, Hayes said:

There needs to be a voice within a music that holds everybody to account … Séamus Ennis or Breandán Breathnach or Tony MacMahon … We’ve had those voices and, unfortunately, many of those authoritative voices have passed, and I would say that Toner Quinn is one of those people that’s occupying that space now, and I say that with the utmost respect to those previous musicians I just mentioned. So it’s from that point of view that I think this book is incredibly important.

He added:

One of the important things that Irish music can teach the world about music is the value of this kind of critical discourse, and the weight that it puts behind the music. Yes, we play music, and we can do it without talking about the music, but the intellectual journey that goes on behind the scenes and underneath, it creates the power and energy and confidence, and brings weight and certainty and makes music unwavering in a way – so that kind of writing, that kind of discussion, is hugely important.

Quinn founded the Journal of Music in 2000 as a print publication and moved it online in 2010 and further expanded its musical coverage. 

At the launch, Quinn said:

At the age of 26, I started a magazine to address all the big questions in Irish music, and I figured I would have everything wrapped up in a couple of years and be able to move on! But what happens when you start a magazine like the Journal of Music is that it sets off a whole series of events. Readers react, a dialogue starts, people start writing, and they start responding and giving you feedback, and the more you publish the more you realise how much more there is to write and publish about. And just as you think that you have arrived at some sort of plateau, along comes a new artist or an idea  – or a global crisis like a pandemic – that challenges what came before, and you see these shifts in music and in our society and you want to try – or certainly we in the Journal of Music want to try – and document them and understand them – and I don’t know if that work ever ends.

The master of ceremonies for the launch was Director of the Irish Traditional Music Archive, fiddle player Liam O’Connor. Following the speeches, Hayes, O’Connor and Quinn performed a set of two reels, ‘The Killarney Boys of Pleasure’ and ‘Noelle O’Connor’s’.

What Ireland Can Teach the World About Music is now available to purchase online from the Journal of Music, from Hodges Figgis in Dublin, Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop in Galway, and Amazon. Visit

Toner Quinn (fiddle), Malachy Bourke (fiddle) and Stephen McFarlane (guitar) will be performing at the Concertina Cruinniú festival in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, on Friday 9 February, playing a selection of tunes and presenting readings from the new book. Visit

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Published on 1 February 2024

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