The term "Celtic music" encompasses Irish traditional music
and traditional musics of Scotland
and the Shetland Islands
; Cape Breton Island
and Maritime Canada; Wales
; the Isle of Man
; Northumberland (northern England
; and Galicia
). The term, though widely used, is eschewed by many traditionalists.
Common characteristic musical forms include jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, strathspeys (Scotland) and slow airs. Much of the music is typified by strong, repeating melodies in a set rhythm, which reflects a background as music to dance to. Ballads are also common. Largely through the immigration of the so-called "Scotch-Irish", Celtic music was the foundation for traditional "folk" music in the U.S., especially that of Appalachia.
The Breton musician Alan Stivell claimed (translation by Steve Winick)
- Defining Celtic music is made that much more difficult by the fact that, for a Celt, reality is liquid (but the difficulty does not prove its non-existence). And for me, the nationality of a music is not made of absolute criteria, but by relative traits. Thus, even if it is rare in its pure state, the running pentatonic scale (re, fa, sol, la, do) is more "loved" by the Celts than by other European peoples. In many cases, Celtic music is in a state of instability between the pentatonic and the diatonic (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do). . . . As on the linguistic plane, there are two branches, the Gaelic branch and the Brythonic branch, which differentiate themselves mostly by the extended range (sometimes more than two octaves) of Irish and Scottish melodies and the closed range of Breton and Welsh melodies (often reduced to a half-octave), and by the frequent use of the pure pentatonic scale in Gaelic music.
An earlier version of the above article was posted on Nupedia
. This article is Open Content.