The culmination of a long association with pianist Matthew Mills, Bagatelles represents some 30 years of piano music by British composer Bernard Hughes.
Throughout 2016 Ireland is marking the centenary commemoration of a key moment in its history: the Easter Rising of 1916, which paved the way towards Irish independence and laid the foundations for the identity of the nation we know today. A group of 10 sound artists (Irish and International) will be getting together in Dublin this October to celebrate one of its most unique and unforgettable icons: Countess Markievicz, in an artistic gesture that claims to claw back ‘lost time’.
As an Italian artist living and working in Ireland I have always been fascinated by this pivotal moment in history, powerful in its David v. Goliath-esque narrative, as well as by the characters who drove forward its momentum through immense self-sacrifice.
One of these is Constance Gore-Booth, best known as Countess Markievicz: a fearless, charismatic character who, since her youth, set aside the life of privilege she had born into to become directly involved with the armed struggle, ending up forced to spend a large part of her life in jail, and later dedicating her life to the poor and destitute of Dublin and beyond. A vocal and powerful female figure, independent and eccentric by most standards, but particularly for the times.
While researching the period on the lead up to the commemorations, I came across an Irish Times article featuring a lesser known event from 1916, where once again she seemed to speak out for the country on a topic where many chose to stay silent.
Countess Markievicz was complaining publicly about the Time (Ireland) Act introduced by the House of Commons that year in favour of GMT. Up to that point, Dublin Mean Time had been measured by the Dunsink observatory as rising 25 minutes and 21 seconds later than at Greenwich. Despite Countess Markievicz’s protestations, Dublin lost its time.
This relatively small episode was instantly striking both as a microcosm of a bigger struggle, and as a showcase of Constance’s sense of justice and fearlessness in speaking out, no matter what the consequences.
It hardly needs pointing out that, one hundred years later, female voices are still massively underrepresented – be it in the media, and in our own world of sound and technology.
In surveys both men and women are conditioned to think that if a woman is speaking for 30% or more of allotted on-air time, then she is hogging the discussion. This insidious bias against women’s voices has a major impact on women’s social capital.
So could Countess Markievicz be an inspiration for Irish (and International) women of today?
I was delighted when Rachel Ní Chuinn, a fellow sound artist from Ireland with a passion for Irish language and culture (she also presents the weekly music show Cluastuiscint in Irish, on Raidió na Life) agreed to come on board and co-curate the project that would explore just this idea.
Thanks to a Bursary from Dublin’s Centre for Creative Practices (CFCP), we were able to put together our first version of the project, inviting a selection of sound art ‘comrades’ to create original compositions inspired by the ‘Mean Time’ episode. The result was showcased on Culture Night in 2015 during a live performance, where Rachel and myself mediated the pieces in an improvised setting.
Following the success of this first outing, we were able to secure support from Dublin City Council and the Arts Council, which meant it was now possible to realise a bigger plan for the project: physically bringing the participating sound artists together in Ireland, to perform together in a shared space of celebration and experimentation.
Fittingly, Nova – the experimental music programme presented by Bernard Clarke on RTÉ Lyric FM – expressed an interest to broadcast the event, which would also be open to a live audience to attend. Finding the perfect venue was next: and the ideal space came to us in the refurbished shape of historical Richmond Barracks, particularly relevant as this is where Countess Markievicz had been held and court martialled during the Rising, together with 76 other women. It could not have been a better fit.
With less than a month to go, there is a palpable excitement as the project takes shape and the final details slot into place.
On the anniversary of the 1916 ‘Mean Time’ weekend, 1st and 2nd October 2016, we will be hosting free sound-related workshops for all ages, all devised and led by the female artists participating. These will offer something for everyone, including intro to vocal performance, soundwalks and experiments that explore the basic physics of sound. Then on Sunday evening at 8pm we will be gathering together to present the live performance in the atmospheric environment of Richmond Barracks. This will simultaneously be broadcast live across the country, on RTÉ Lyric FM.
I know I speak for everyone involved when I say we look forward to this precious moment of communal sharing and celebration of the female revolutionary spirit, and hope that anyone interested in Irish history and sound art will join us for this unique weekend.
‘Mean Time’ is a project featuring (in alphabetical order):
Daria Baiocchi | Fiona Hallinan | Jenn Kirby | La Cosa Preziosa | Vicky Langan | Una Lee | Olivia Louvel | Claudia Molitor | Gráinne Mulvey | Rachel Ní Chuinn
Workshops – Saturday 1st October from 2.30pm
Live performance – Sunday 2nd October from 8pm
Venue: Richmond Barracks, Inchicore (Dublin)
All events are free but ticketed.
To book, please email: