Sound Art in Ireland – Projects Spring Up Around Dublin City

Maoiliosa McNamara

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They say that sound is our first sense, the sounds of our mothers body surrounds us before we know anything at all.  Then we are born and innately understand the sounds around us – we know what to be afraid of, so sound keeps us safe, we seek out our mothers voice and the sound of it calms us down.  It has a huge influence on our mood, it can make us sad when we are not sad, sound so powerful it can fill us with fear even when we are safe at home on our couch.

You cannot hold sound, or touch it, or feel it.  Its not a thing.  Things can make sounds and moving things make sounds but sounds themselves are nothing at all.

Think about the sounds you zone out from, the ones that you are surrounded by right now but choose to ignore.  Take a moment to listen…

A sound lives in its moment and then it is gone.  A memory is all you are left with.  Even recorded sound is not the sound itself.  Ask anyone who has themselves heard a Loon call across a lake in the early morning if the recorded version feels the same.

Being human we often want to collect and keep the world around us.  I know this as a photographer, my career began from a desire to hoard visual memories… and as a budding field recorder I hoard sound.  My mother was the same, recording the sounds of her children in the kitchen for prosperity.  The purpose always being simply to have them.  And like everything that which delights and moves us inspires us.  And that which comes from the muse, from inspiration  – is art.

Sound Art ranges from field recordings to new sounds and everything in between.  Like any medium of art it can be simple and it can be complex.

Sound Artist Anthony Kelly from Dun Laoghaire has a fascination with sound that started early on.

Anthony makes sound installations. He works with audio and visual mediums to pull apart the world and find places within it that we might overlook.  I love the sound, I find it incredibly moving, the ghosts of a moment caught on tape.

Anthony Kelly and David Spalling have created the magical Sound Map of Dun Laoghaire. It is an online sound installation site where Anthony and David collect the sounds of the borough.  You could spend hours there, from a spring garden in sandycove to the harbour at Bullock and the sound of boats against the water and then across time to a sitting room in the 1950s…

The Sound Map of Dun Laoghaire
The Sound Map of Dun Laoghaire – Click to play

Dublin City Council have recently shown huge support for the Sound Art Community. The Continuous Drift is remarkable, permenantly installed in Temple Bar. More than twenty artists collaborated with artist Sven Anderson to create a way to interact with the public in the space using sound. Some of it is not for me, the performance pieces – funnily like most performance pieces in any medium – makes me deeply uncomfortable…. but some of the continues drift – in particular this piece by Sound Artist and Dubliner Denis McNulty is moving in a way I cannot describe, its both heavenly and soul destroying. Its the sound of a dream that on waking you cannot quite grasp. And on site it is almost too much to bear.

Continuous Drift

Donegal based sound artist Ed Devane started his career looking for ways to make electronic dance music original and now finds himself deep in the world of unique instrument making, seeking new sounds and inviting the public to interact with his inventions, to create one time only compositions that fleetingly bring strangers together through sound art.

Ed Divan makes installations that coax passers by to play, he keeps them simple to wonderful effect.

What I find so beautiful about this type of installation is the ephemerality of this sound. Without the ‘take one home’ postcards of an exhibition, you cannot buy an apron with this piece on the front… because here the invitation is only to come and experience sound in the moment. You are shaped by the day you are having, who you are and by the space where the installation is, the sounds that interact with that space and the sounds introduced into that space by the artist.

Devane is inspired by this idea, his pieces are constantly changed by their space and mostly by the people who interact.

Sound Art celebrates the ear in a world where the eyes are considered the window to the soul, probably unfairly as language is how we get to know one another… We think in sounds… we express ourselves with sound that we make with our bodies, we clap, we stamp our feet, we whistle. And we chatter.  And we understand those sounds.

Sound Art tunes the ear it makes you listen, like a newborn attaching sound to experiences… it helps us learn about yourself, about humanity. And it draws out the deepest language within us and shares it around, so we can move one step closer on this relentless search to find out what it is to be human.

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Maoiliosa McNamara

39. Photographer. Student Journalist.