from Edward Bunting, Ancient Music of Ireland (Dublin 1840)
Irish ábhann tríreach
spoken by Gráinne Yeats
Scottish Gaelic adhbhan-trìreach spoken by Tony Dilworth
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Adban trireach - The three moods ('Explanation': Or species of music)
This term may derive directly from a medieval text, or it may be a genuine eighteenth-century survival in Gaelic. At any rate it occurs in Sanas Cormaic, a glossary attributed to Cormac mac Cuilennáin (d.908), king and bishop of Cashel. There the word goltraige is defined as adhband trirech imedfuilnge gol, 'an adbann trírech which causes weeping'. The modern spelling is ábhann tríreach, the first word meaning 'a tune, strain of music'. The second was originally a noun meaning 'a type of poem, lyric' or 'trilling (of birds)'.
Bunting here takes tríreach as an adjective related to the number 'three' (trí), and states on p.30 that Geantraighe, Goltraighe and Suantraighe are three forms ('parts') of ábhann tríreach. In all of this he has the support of Mícheál Ó Cléirigh's Donegal glossary of 1643, where the entry defines adhbhann tríreach in terms which have been translated as "a tune or music from which three things are understood" (Revue Celtique IV:358).
Colm Ó Baoill 2002