Renan Bertho (Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), University College Dublin, Republic of Ireland)


Irish traditional sessions are informal meetings where musicians (amateurs or professionals) get together to play and sing; it usually happens in informal spaces, such as pubs or restaurants. As a newcomer in Dublin, I figured out different concepts of “what is a session”, as well as distinct settings to each one. Slow sessions for beginners, professional sessions, tourists shows, and sessions for specific instruments are just examples of models currently available in the city. Given these multiple formats, I came to ask: what are the borders and the limits of this gathering? What status can the researcher adopt in a field that is, in many ways, similar, yet different? And how the specificities of each performance impact the choice and the applicability of the research methods? Facing these questions, I’ve been doing fieldwork in weekly sessions in Dublin’s pubs. Since September 2019, I’m going to these spaces looking for a way to understand different levels of participatory performances, as well as distinctive characteristics of presentational performances. By experiencing this live music, I figured out I was performing three actions: learning (as a beginner), playing (as a musician) and observing (as a researcher). Taking this different, but complementary realities and drawing on autoethnography essays, this paper also registers my shift from a foreign researcher – a total unknown of Irish traditional music – to a learning musician, trying to develop skills to participate in the sessions. Finally, I intend to present some data (especially fieldwork notes and videos) to outline answers to the questions above.