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Creative Impulses, Cultural Accents: Brian Boydell's Music, Advocacy, Painting and Legacy

Barbara Dignam, Barra Boydell (author)
Publication date:
1 October 2021

Author Biography

Barbara Dignam is Assistant Professor in Music at Dublin City University. Her research explores intersections of music, language, technology, and culture. She contributed to The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (Dublin, 2013), and has published on contemporary Irish composer Roger Doyle in Irish Musical Analysis. Barra Boydell is Emeritus Professor of Musicology, Maynooth University, and Brian Boydell's son. Co-editor of The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (Dublin, 2013), his other books include A History of Music at Christ Church Cathedral Dublin (Woodbridge, 2004).


A towering figure in the musical and cultural evolution of modern Ireland, Brian Boydell (1917–2000) has been described as a ‘renaissance man’ and by President Mary Robinson as a ‘tireless wheeler-dealer for music’. One of Ireland’s leading twentieth-century composers, he was also an outspoken agitator and positive disruptor for the enrichment and expansion of music and cultural identity in Ireland. He became a household name as composer, broadcaster, adjudicator, public lecturer, performer, musicologist, professor of music at Trinity College Dublin and long-term member of the Arts Council. Stimulated by the centenary of his birth in 2017, this collection of 15 essays presents a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarship on Boydell’s legacy and provides fresh perspectives on his diverse contributions to Ireland’s music and culture. The wide range of contributors to the book parallels the breath of connection that Boydell continues to engender in generations of scholars and fellow enthusiasts. Essays consider his music, from his earliest works to his orchestral music and his pioneering compositions for Irish and concert harp; others focus on his dynamic contributions including his musicology, his decisive involvement as a founding member of the Music Association of Ireland, his transformational professorship at Trinity College Dublin, and his illuminating radio broadcasting. Less well known is that Brian Boydell exhibited as a painter in the 1940s, an aspect of his artistic creativity that is also explored in this book, as is his extensive collection of private papers now in Trinity College Library. Above all else, Creative Impulses, Cultural Accents: Brian Boydell’s Music, Advocacy, Painting and Legacy celebrates an entirely fascinating figure who contributed immensely to the cultural evolution of a modern nation.