Wednesday 3 July 2024

REPORT: Brontë Studies + Diaspora Studies

I took my Brontë Studies + Diaspora Studies presentation for an outing, Monday July 1, at the Bradford Literature Festival.

It went down well.  Of course I had shaped it for that day's target audience.

In the event I was assigned a shorter time than originally planned - always the way with festivals.  We must go with flow, think on feet.

So...  Outline the method and apply the method to the Brontë material, giving detailed examples.  We map Diaspora Studies across Brontë Studies.

And abandon some sections.  I abandoned the section on Terry Eagleton, and the section on The Piano.

Sad about that - the research material on Diaspora Studies + The Piano needs developing.

Did you know that the Brontës had a piano?

Retained the section on Tuberculosis, which worked well with this audience.  Very moving - and, of course, we have all been through the Covid crisis.  Terrible to say out loud, but Ireland and the Irish do have a special relationship with Tuberculosis.  It is there in the experience, it is there in the research record.  We have done the work.

And - reaching for an example of Diaspora at Work - I turned to my own bookselves.  And took down my copy of...

MacDonagh, Donagh, and Lennox Robinson. 1959. The Oxford Book of Irish Verse. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

And re-read Donagh MacDonagh's definition of an 'Irish' writer, p xvii.  And there, in that version of The Oxford Book of Irish Verse, is Emily Brontë, pages 72-77.

I can remember exactly when I bought that copy of MacDonagh and Robinson - it was in 1963, in my First Year at New College, Oxford.

As to Brontë + Diaspora...  I am not sure about the next steps.  I have far too much material for a simple presentation, but the material is now in a tidy state - and, thanks to my efforts last Monday, I now have a much better understanding of my own thought processes.  If you see what I mean...  Certainly I will tidy the notes and references.  The whole thing is well grounded in the research material.

This is, of course, the sort of thing I should be doing, in my role as Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University - it is the sort of thing we planned when we first discussed the role.  But I have gone on long enough, on this blog, about vicissitudes...

In my presentations on Monday I did thank all the individuals and organisations - especially here in Yorkshire - that help us to think about the Brontës, and their importance in world culture.  Almost any thought we have can be followed into the research material.  ALMOST any thought.  With the usual cautions.  But I wish that every research area that Diaspora Studies requires us to explore had such research resources.

Having thanked so many already...  I want especially to thank, here, Aidan Enright, now based at Leeds Beckett University, my friend and colleague here in Bradford - who encouraged me to organise my Brontë material.  And I thank Lizzy Newman, Creative Producer, Bradford Literature Festival.

Patrick O'Sullivan

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University

July 3 2024

Thursday 11 April 2024

Working Title: The lyricist in the recording studio

 Working Title:

The lyricist in the recording studio

This note is for my friends and colleagues in the Irish Diaspora Studies community, and elsewhere in academia...

We have just finished and released a second album of my songs.

All the lyrics are by me - the melodies are by various hands, including mine.

I am encouraging everyone to listen to both albums, to get a feel for the work.

I have made these 2 HearNow web sites for the 2 O'Sullivan albums...


Album 2

Harney Sings O'Sullivan

Tiny Url


Album 1

Hladowski Sings O'Sullivan



Note that the links to those web sites can be shared.

You can also see there the links to the main music platforms - people can move on to their usual music supplier.

But I have also set it up so that the full tracks can be listened to on the HearNow web sites. The audio quality seems good.


The album titles

Harney Sings O'Sullivan

Hladowski Sings O'Sullivan

Are distinctive enough and searchable...

So, two albums, 18 tracks - plus other odds and ends out there. For example, my song Salmon's Lament is on Soundcloud, The Train (Jill's Theme) is on YouTube. So, it should now be a bit clearer what it is I do - in song...

The Working Title for the overall project is: The lyricist in the recording studio

I come from the more literary end of the song lyric traditions, of course - but I have long argued that the lyricist needs to understand the microphone and the recording studio.

And that discussion takes place elsewhere...

My songs will be of interest to the Irish Diaspora Studies community, because...

1. I am myself an Irish Diaspora Study

2. The songs sit within Irish and English lyric traditions, and develop those traditions

3. Very often the songs begin as meditations on my academic work. For example, the Montparnasse Waltz, Album 2 Harney Sings O'Sullivan, arises out of my study of Sartre and diaspora.

But then, of course, they must earn their living in the song world.

4. Very often the songs are part of specific Irish Diaspora Studies projects, including theatre projects.  For example, Irish Night or May the Winds (the Holyhead Song), Album 1 Hladowski Sings O'Sullivan

5. Very often there are notes about specific songs on my blog - which develop these observations. A search will find these notes...

Thus, this is a note (much shortened) on Montparnasse Waltz...

This is a note which links the song, Darkness, with a line from Samuel Beckett...

And so on...

But don't get side tracked. Listen to the songs....


Patrick O'Sullivan

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University


Saturday 30 March 2024

Harney Sings O'Sullivan REVIEWS


Harney Sings O'Sullivan


Our fans have posted reviews on some music platforms...

This is the album on Amazon

And you can click through to a review...

This is the album on Apple/iTunes

We are told the review is there.  But Apple has its own rules about who can see what.  We have no control over that.  You might find you are not worthy...

Just to remind you...

These are the HearNow web sites, where all tracks can be heard - with links to other platforms...

Album 2

Harney Sings O'Sullivan

Tiny Url


Album 1

Hladowski Sings O'Sullivan


Patrick O'Sullivan

Monday 25 March 2024

The second album of my songs is now complete.

I have made this HearNow web site for the album...
The web site links to the usual music platforms. But - for those who do not have a usual music platform - I have set it up so that complete tracks, not just samples, can be played via HearNow...

I am having trouble getting the YouTube link to work on HearNow. This is it...

Actually, that YouTube link is nice - you can see us bringing the album together.
Work in my other lives is a bit busy at the moment - but, in due course, I will put notes here on my blog, dealing with all your queries. Texts, sub-texts, turmoil, resolution...
Patrick O'Sullivan

April 16 2024

I now have the YouTube links on the HearNow web sites working properly.

Album 2

Friday 15 March 2024

Friend of Heavy, sung by Shannon Marie Harney


We have released Friend of Heavy, sung by Shannon Marie Harney - track 9 of the incremental album, Harney sings O'Sullivan...

Friend of Heavy, lyric and melody by Patrick O'Sullivan...

Friend of Heavy, on YouTube...

Friend of Heavy, on Spotify...

and, in due course, on every music platform...


This song was sitting on the slipway, keel in place, with a partly built superstructure...

When Shannon Marie Harney decided she wanted to take it for a spin.  She said it matched her mood...

like what we, myself, Shannon Marie Harney and Danny Yates, have done with this song...


This is most probably the most Robert Browning of my recent lyrics.  It is is part of my exploration of repetition and pattern -  in life, in art, in music.

Like, What is the Chorus for?  How does the Chorus work?  If a song has a good Chorus, we would want to take it to a live audience.

But this grim song, with that relentless A Minor...?  Would that work?  So many popular songs try to be upbeat, uplifting.  Let us go in another direction.  Be not afraid.  Heightened emotion, yes, but the emotion is depression - what the psychiatrists call a flat affect.

Note the patterned language of the verses, and the simple pattern of the Chorus.

The verses sound as if they rhyme - but, technically, by definition, I think, they do not rhyme.  They pretend to rhyme.  In rhyme, the connecting words have the same end sound.  Here the same words are simply, obsessively, repeated:  meet, god, meet, god;  might, door, might, door.

The narrative is clear - the quarrel has been horrible, horrible.  Does the narrator really believe that being a Friend of Heavy is sufficient explanation or excuse?  And...  What does that mean...  to be a Friend Of Heavy?


My original plan was that the chorus would become more and more complex, musically, as the song progressed.  Maybe a cornet solo? - but would a Yorkshire brass band really want to play this dour melody?  A male voice choir? - where could we find so many depressed men?  Yes, really bad ideas... We did bring in a bit of cello, just to fill that space...

In the end, Shannon Marie Harney brought lovely harmony ideas to the Choruses.  The melody lines become - not dour - but intense...  

The melody should be easy to play on a standard chromatic autoharp.  This is the Chordify link, so that you can see the chords in place...

It is still...  a very strange song.  

So, Track 9.  9 tracks is an album?

Patrick O'Sullivan

March 2024


Wednesday 6 March 2024

Thank you, Moniaive

Reading the annual report, 2024, of the President of UK Autoharps...

He gives due reverence to the work of Nadine Stah White and Ian White and Anja Lyttle, and their many helpers, in developing the Scottish Autoharp Gathering...

It looks as if Moniaive 2023 will be the last Scottish Autoharp Gathering in that formal format.

I have really enjoyed my visits to Moniaive and that special Scottish approach to Musicking...  In my other working lives, organising gatherings, we have met the Moniaive problem, which is simply one of accommodation.  If you build it, we will want to come - but where are we going to sleep?

Looking back at my notes from 2023...  Amongst the things that I thought worked ever so well in Moniaive 2023 were...


The music of John and Kathie Hollandsworth, a subtle and intelligent approach to a popular repertoire.

In UK Autoharps we follow the Autoharp, its strange adventures, in various niches - for example, its history as a parlour instrument or a schoolroom instrument.  It was in Virginia, USA, that the Autoharp became a folk instrument - because, as John Hollandsworth said, it got in there early, via the Sears Roebuck catalogue.  

I attach, below, a page from the 1902 Sears Roebuck, showing  Autoharps:  'one of the most popular of small instruments...  Thousands are in use and the sale keeps on increasing at a wonderful rate...  Never before has it been possible for the house to be graced with high class music at so small an expense.  The prices which we name enable the poorest to possess an instrument which will produce the sweetest music and gave just as much pleasure as would a high-priced piano.' 

Kathie Hollandsworth's historical presentation was very clear, and has been absorbed, seamlessly, into my own projects - like:  'Why the Autoharp Did Not Become A Folk Instrument in Ireland'.  More about that in due course...



A place for musicians new to the autoharp to come with their instruments - and learn and share.  The autoharp's special selling point - we get quickly to the bloody chords - means that isolated musicians find it and have fun.  

This really worked well in Moniaive 2023.  It was a pleasure to meet new people, new to the autoharp.  For...  Musicians can come to a UK Autoharps gathering to learn technique...  and vocabulary.  I remember the late, lovely, Judy Dyble saying, at her UK Autoharps presentation, 'But you have WORDS...  for THINGS...'

(Judy Dyble was, of course, not an isolated musician, singer or songwriter - but she was an isolated autoharper.  She had invented her own banjo-esque, clawhammer style.  It worked.)

For show and tell...  I brought along 3 autoharps from my autoharp petting zoo, and a selection of books from my autoharp library.


On that note...  Care and feeding of the neglected autoharp...  I showed my electric Richwood Autoharp - bought secondhand, at a good price.  It looks good, and ought to be good - but I have never got on with it.  

At Moniaive George Haig took the Richwood into his experienced hands (O those hands...), listened with his experienced ear, saw with his experienced eye.  George heard the buzzing B string and pointed out the skew-whiff chord bar holder.  I had heard but I had not seen.  This was the autoharp as it had left the factory and had been sold in a shop.  Back home in Yorkshire I arranged an emergency appointment with my luthier...

I guess, in summary, Moniaive has been kind to the Autoharp, and the Autoharp has been kind to Moniaive.  Thank you, both.  And thank you Nadine, Ian and Anja... 

Patrick O'Sullivan

March 2024


Thursday 22 February 2024

Montparnasse Waltz, sung by Shannon Marie Harney


We have released Montparnasse Waltz - lyric and melody by Patrick O'Sullivan.


This is Track 8 of the incremental album, Harney sings O'Sullivan.  You can hear Montparnasse Waltz on the music platforms, and you can see the album coming together...

Montparnasse Waltz

On YouTube...

On Spotify

YouTube Playlist Overview

Spotify Artist Overview

And, in due course, on every music platform - wherever you find your music...


My thanks to Shannon Marie Harney, who has doggedly stuck with this project.

And who, with this song, has delivered something delicate...

And, as ever, thanks to Danny Yates, City Sound Studios...


By happenstance (perhaps) we have now issued recordings of two songs whose lyrics connect with my academic work, and activities in my other lives.  Indeed, there is a danger that Montparnasse Waltz will turn into a song version of a roman-à-clef.  

(The coinage 'chanson-à-clef' does not really work - all songs have clefs, and we are always searching for the right key.  Which, in my case, is usually G.)

I am going to park all that for the time being.  In due course people who want the texts and stories can have them.  For now, as one poet friend, K. E. Smith, has put it, Montparnasse Waltz is about the shock discovery that our guru has feet of clay...  And, as ever, my thanks to Ken Smith for his careful readings of text...


But I can tell you how this song, Montparnasse Waltz, found its shape.  The idea had waited in my notebook for years.  It was only in 2022 that I sat down - found the brain health and space - to decide where the lyric wanted to go.  In 2023 I worked it out.

I wanted to stay in a ballad structure - with really solid ABAB, hardworking rhymes, and stay in ballad metre.  The rhymes are in charge.

I took a first draft to Danny Yates, and said, I want to set this as a Waltz.

The second draft made more visible, and audible, the waltziness of the piece - we move from 4/4 time to 3/4.  The melodies are mine, but obviously pay attention to ballad melodies.  But in 3/4 time...

My reading at the time included Colm O Lochlainn, Irish Street Ballads - two lovely volumes, 1939 and 1965, now back on the shelves behind me.  O Lochlainn prints ballad texts, based on his own collection of nineteenth century broadside ballads, alongside melodies that these lyrics would have been sung to in his time...

These are links to the O Lochlainn collection at University College Dublin...

I think that the balladness is still there in my lyric, Montparnasse Waltz - ballad simplicity...

'There came a young man from the east...'

...And in the melodies.  We are all dipping our toes into the great lake of ballad melodies.  But mine is a waltz.


I will write a separate blog entry on the graphic design decisions that went into the making of the Harney sings O'Sullivan art work, album and singles.  You can see that, again with this album, we signal the approach of the complete album in the design - and occasionally we have added extra information in our choice of font.

The Montparnasse Waltz design signals Paris in its use of the original Hector Guimard Paris Metro font - this design, by Andrew Milne, makes use of the work of Luc Devroye, McGill University, Canada.

My thanks to Andrew Milne - who persuaded me to accept the brave decision to use that authentic, distorted, Guimard tall letter P in Parnasse...

And then - with voice and guitar, Shannon Marie Harney and Danny Yates - we took the song to Paris, to that Café.  You know the one?  No, not that one - the other one.  Half way up the hill...

Patrick O'Sullivan

February 2024