From 28-29 August I was in the east of Ireland, at the newly branded Maynooth University for "Audio Fabric: Socio-sonic Textures in the Real World", the annual convocation of the Irish Sound, Science and Technology Association (ISSTA). Every year since its inception I have followed this conference around the country. Indeed, I may be the only person to have presented at every session. My paper was "Field recoding - phonography and the creation of place". The rest of my time was taken up listening to the other contributors, seeking out the best pub in the (rather small) town, chatting with locals about history, recording the quiet corridors of a seminary, and getting trapped on private grounds (I escaped eventually).
The first weekend in September saw Limerick being visited by an over-sized grannie as part of "The Giant's Journey", a mega production by Royal de Luxe. I liked what this did in terms of bringing people together, but from an artistic point of view it was rather lame (pun intended). It farts! It pisses! Er, OK then. I suppose every celebration needs its spectacle. "Let them eat cake" and all that. And it did make for some good photo ops.
In September I resumed my occasional lecturing duties at the University of Limerick. I am honoured to teach on the Masters in Music Technology course at the Digital Media & Arts Research Centre (DMARC). I say "honoured", because I consider this to be the best course of its kind in Ireland. This year I had only a handful of students for Acoustics & Psychoacoustics. Funding cutbacks have made it difficult for people to engage with higher education. But those present were switched on and creative, each in their own individual way. I particularly enjoy seeing the result of their term assignment, to design and build an experimental acoustic instrument.
Later that month (September 20) came The Pigtown Fling, a collaboration between dozens of musicians and producers into one mega concert at Crescent Hall, Limerick. Though it was rather too much to take in, it did prove, for once and all, that Limerick has a hell of a lot of musical talent to spare. Here is Maeve O'Donovan on stage.
A pair of my own compositions, "Bastion 1" and "Bastion 2" were accepted for the "Wall" installation at Sonic Arts Waterford. But I was double-booked that weekend, jetting off to Berlin for "Retune 2014: Inside the Mirror" at Arena Glashaus, 26-28 September. For this conference on creative technologies I presented "Mirror and Magician: Orders of Interactivity". The audience seemed dumb-founded that I wasn't just mouthing platitudes about convergence or vague pronouncements about cybernetics. But at least the artists I shared the panel with were receptive.
I didn't get to see much of Berlin, but on the way back home had some spectacular views of Ireland from the air.
Andy Devane was an important local architect. Ed Devane is a musician and sound device builder. For the architecture open house weekend, we went on a tour with Ed to see his grandfather's many contributions to the city. This is St. Munchin's Girls National School, Ballynanty, Limerick, photographed on October 4.
I am on the organising committee for the Cuisle Limerick City International Poetry Festival, so October is a very busy month. It's always great to see familiar faces like Knute Skinner, seen here mixing with the youngest generation of poets (Caleb Brennan on the right). It's especially wonderful to hear their most recent poems. This photo was taken on the 16th at the launch of The Stony Thursday Book.
This year the poetry festival incorporated some special events, thanks to the efforts of Paul Sweeney, among others. "A Door into the Dark" involved visual artists interpreting local poetry. In this way I discovered my own poem "Siren" on the streets of Limerick.
On the same day that Cuisle closed, Softday presented "Amhran na mBeach (Song of the Bees)" at Crescent Hall. This was one of my favourite concert events of the year, though I am unlikely to be able to say why the combination of roller-skating "drag queen" (woman dressed as man dressed as...?), bee philosophy, brass band, and electronics worked so well. For other people it simply didn't gell. But it was honey for my ears. OK, I will now stop with the bee puns, before we break out in hives. (Ouch! That stings!) In any case, I love this portrait of Sean Taylor, or "Inspector Z" as he is now known.
At a DMARC seminar on October 22 I discovered my new favourite film-maker, Tony Hill. Just when you think you have it all sussed, someone wonderful comes along to turn preconceptions upside down. In his case literally, given the geometric transformations to which he subjects those in front of his camera lens. Here he is, performing a live cinema experience.
In September of 2013 I was in Slovenia as a guest of the The Golden Boat Poetry Translation Workshop. Since then, Andrej Hočevar and I have been translating each others' work. This bore fruit 7 November, when his journal, LUD Literatura, published my poem "Moč navade (na prestonski obvoznici)". I am one of those strange writers who does not actively seek publication, preferring for it to find me through friends and associates. So I cannot point you to an English version of this poem. Better brush up on your Slovenian!
Last year Angie Smalis and I created the experimental film "Boundary Conditions", with assistance from the Arts Council. In November this was featured in Light Moves: International Festival of Screendance at Daghdha Space, John's Square. I have long had an interest in this form, which combines choreographic and cinematic possibilities. I am hoping that this inaugural event will be the first of many!
On the weekend of 21-23 November my lovely wife Susannah and myself were in Kilfinane, Co. Limerick, a village about an hour from home. We had a fantastic welcome. Apparently every citizen in town was firmly supporting the Hearsay Audio Arts Festival, which led to some interesting encounters in the grocery store or outside on the streets. I presented the talk "Hearing as Science-Fiction" to a most receptive audience. And the hosts had us staying in lovely cottages... I awoke to the sound of ice melting from the evergreens. To while away the time between listening sessions, audio walks, and concerts, we found the perfect country pub.
On November 28 we celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary with -- what else -- Japanese food! Here Susannah enjoys some beef shogayaki.
The next day we were back out onto the streets, protesting the unfair water charges the government is trying to foist upon us.
At the end of the month I accepted a five day black and white photography challenge, and decided to extend it out for a month. One of my earliest entries is also my favourite, a foggy walk by the canal, taken November 30.
A week later, we scurried down to The Guesthouse in Cork for the project launch of "Electromagnetic". Bruce Gilbert is one of the artistic contributors. He's famed for his own experimental noise works, as well as for being a long-time member of the group Wire. Afterwards we chatted over whiskey, and the first sketches for a new project for 2015 were made. (Not involving Bruce and myself, I hasten to add.)
In the lead-in to Christmas, with most of our work commitments behind us, we decided to take in some cultural fare. First night it was the ballet, where photography was not permitted. The second night we enjoyed the Ancór Chamber Choir at St. Mary's Cathedral.
The third night was the contemporary dance "Chaplet of Roses", devised and performed by Angie Smalis and Colin Gee. I was happy to be the official photographer for the performance. I love shooting dance and it is always a pleasure to work with Angie. It was also my last official gig of the year.
This brings us to Christmas, with Róisín back at home for a few days, dinner out at Hanora's, a massive head cold, lots of photographs, and attempts to put the past year in perspective. Which brings us full circle.
In 2014 I debuted five films in four events, published new poetry in Slovenian, had a front-page photograph, delivered seven papers in four countries, visited two new amazing cities (Barcelona and Porto), reacquainted myself with political activism, ate and drank food made with care, discovered just how great an artist Miró really was (a revelation), played with some fantastic improvisers, released an album of which I am truly proud, and completed the first year of my dissertation. All of this I shared as much as possible with my beautiful wife and lovely friends and family.
I think I might slow down a bit in 2015.
But have I told you about that ten album boxed set idea?