Keening, Ireland, Art Ó Laoghaire, orality, performance, occupational song.
This article makes a contribution to the controversy regarding the performance of Irish lament, or keening. Division exists among scholars as to whether 'Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire was, in fact, extemporised over the corpse of Art O'Leary. One camp of scholars argues for a literary development of an oral genre, while the second believes that the lament is an authentic representation of a performance genre, albeit modified through its emergence as a written text and literary transmission. This paper points to the similarities between the music thought to accompany keening, and examples of 'The Keen for Art O'Leary' in particular and a milking song performed by Elizabeth Cronin of West Work, arguing for the existence of a musical genre specific to keening. Additionally, the testimony of a French scholar, who referred to the lament as a 'chant', only 17 years after its creation. This reference supports the argument that the keen was an oral performance genre.