As many listeners will know, we at Radio Riel are great fans of Celtic music – as befits our roots in the Independent State of Caledon in the Second Life Metaverse. Indeed, visitors to the opening of the H G Wells Memorial Library in Caledon Wellsian at the weekend will know how much fun we have playing Celtic dance music at many of the special events at which we perform.
We thought we would continue the theme this week in From the Library – produced, as always, appropriately enough, in conjunction with the Caledon Library – with a Celtic Spectacular. We've interpreted the term pretty widely this week, in a simply enormous playlist that will take several days to complete: so you will hear orchestral works like Shaun Davey's Brendan Voyage; instrumental arrangements of Celtic classics; the classic themselves; a wide range of performances by well-known popular Celtic artists; and music inspired by the Celtic heritage. There is a slight bias towards the music of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany – ‘the Six Celtic Nations’ – but that's because we will be featuring traditional music from other Celtic Lands in later programmes.
So who were, or are, the Celts? When we use the term today, we refer primarily to the European peoples who speak, or once spoke, a Celtic language. Obvious examples include Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, and Britanny, but the Celts were spread much more widely afield. During the Iron Age, Celtic culture was spread from the Iberian Peninsula to Anatolia (Turkey), but the ultimate origin of the Celts is a subject of controversy. Traditionally, scholars have placed the Celtic homeland in what is now southern Germany and Austria, associating the earliest Celtic peoples with the Hallstatt culture.
Although more recently restricted to the Atlantic coast of Western Europe (known as the 'Celtic fringe'), Celtic languages were once predominant over much of Europe, with territory largely ceded to expanding Germanic tribes and the invading Roman Empire. Archaeological and historical sources show that at their maximum extent in the third century BC, Celtic peoples were also present in areas of Eastern Europe and Asia Minor.
'Celticity' generally refers to the cultural commonalities of these peoples, based on similarities in language, material artifacts, social organisation and mythological factors. Earlier theories were that this indicated a common racial origin but more recent theories are reflective of culture and language rather than race. Celtic cultures seem to have had numerous diverse characteristics but the commonality between these diverse peoples was the use of a Celtic language.
'Celtic' is a descriptor of a family of languages and, more generally, means 'of the Celts,' or 'in the style of the Celts'. It has also been used to refer to several archaeological cultures defined by unique sets of artifacts. The link between language and artifact is aided by the presence of inscriptions. (see Celtic (disambiguation) for other applications of the term)
Today, the term 'Celtic' is generally used to describe the languages and respective cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany, also known as the Six Celtic Nations. These are the regions where four Celtic languages are still spoken to some extent as mother tongues: Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton plus two recent revivals, Cornish (one of the Brythonic languages) and Manx (one of the Goidelic languages). 'Celtic' is also sometimes used to describe regions of Continental Europe that have Celtic heritage, but where no Celtic language has survived; these areas include the northern Iberian Peninsula (northern Portugal, and the Spanish historical regions of Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria), and to a lesser degree, France. (Information from Wikipedia – The Celts)
• This programme is produced by Radio Riel in conjunction with the Caledon Library in Second Life, and presented by Elrik Merlin. For more information on the Caledon Library, current exhibits and the work of Second Life reference libraries in general, please visit the Caledon Library Web site, or one of their locations in-world.
• You can listen to the programme now at http://music.radioriel.org, or simply visit any Caledon Library branch in-world and press Play on your embedded music player.