Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson (1948–2019) was a poet, prose writer, translator and flute-player. He was the author of Last Night’s Fun – A Book about Irish Traditional Music, The Pocket Guide to Traditional Irish Music, The Star Factory, and the poetry collections The Irish for No, Belfast Confetti and First Language: Poems. He was Professor of Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast. Between 2008 and 2010 Ciaran wrote a series of linked columns for the Journal of Music, beginning with ‘The Bag of Spuds’ and ending with ‘The Raw Bar’.

Big Book, Small Back Room
Reading the Companion to Irish Traditional Music, Ciaran Carson reflects on the many ways traditional music has changed in recent decades, but also how much it has stayed the same.
The Raw Bar
Ciaran Carson cherishes the moments when listening is important.
The Princes of Serendip
"Memory is more of a narrative, a plausible story, than an exact recording of events or circumstances", writes Ciaran Carson.
The Musical Priest
He was a cantankerous eccentric who stressed that the Irish language and music were inseparable. Richard Henebry should not be forgotten, writes Ciaran Carson
Viol, Fiddle, Violin
How can musicians that are so eminent in their own genre fail to understand the conventions of another?
Sixpenny Money
A tune that was once an ordeal begins to mesmerise Ciaran Carson again; and what Frankie Gavin couldn’t teach Yehudi Menuhin
Around the World for Sport
Ciaran Carson remembers how we was driven by music when he had no car...
The New Rough Deal
How old music becomes new
The Suffering Ducks
How has a Belfast flute sound evolved in such a short time?
The Thing Itself
How do we recognise the real thing in traditional music?
The Art of the Possible
It is possible now to do almost anything to Irish traditional music. Whether one should is open to debate.
The Small Back Room
Ciaran Carson on the ideal space for playing traditional music.
The Telephone Reel
In his latest column, Ciaran Carson considers the mix that makes the session
The Little Bag of Spuds
Ciaran Carson’s second column in a series – in which he maps the learning of a tune – takes him into the virtual.
The Bag of Spuds
The first in a series of traditional music columns by Ciaran Carson
In Praise of the Ceili Band
There’s a burst of applause before the band launches into a set of reels: the pace is immediately fast and furious, and you can hear the audience in the background, whooping and hurrahing above an excited buzz of conversation. I can’t see the line-up,...
The Crack Goes On
Writer, poet and flute-player Ciaran Carson remembers the traditional music group Planxty and reviews a recent book on the pioneering band.