Memories of Hearsay 2014

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Download: Robot Jam

I really had no idea what to expect. Where is Kilfinane? Why is it so far away? What has it got to do with radio? The Hearsay Festival turned out to be chock-full of talented folk obsessed with sound in all its forms. Rachel Ni Chuinn’s talk about her intricately wrought documentary ‘The Shape of Sounds To Come‘ was one highlight. Steve Fanagan‘s overview of the sound design of ‘Frank’ was another. I’ve always felt the best cinematic sound design is on a different level of sophistication and subtlety to radio work. Steve’s talk only confirmed my suspicions. There are so many lessons I’ll take from his approach to using sound to build story, take the audience on an emotional journey, and reinforce character and POV.

Storytelling through sound was a facet of all the Hearsay Prize winning pieces. I’ve attended awards shows or contests where the choice of winner is inexplicable or downright outrageous. The opposite was the case here. Every single winning entry had something new to teach.

‘One Time’ is the gorgeously subtle and heartrending account of Julia Barton‘s then infant son’s life threatening illness. The piece wove archival recordings together with Zach’s response to hearing them as a precocious eleven year old. It managed to be personal, fearless and lyrical.

Kaitlin Prest’s (Audiosmut / The Heart) piece ‘A Kiss’, managed a similar feat, recounting the last kiss of lost love. The piece reveals an intimate moment in a manner both simple and surprising.

Karen Robin’s ‘Lasagne Days’ (available at her site) used a memory of childhood meals to explore the story of her broken home. I could listen to this piece all day, utterly poignant and bewitching.

‘All For Nothing’ is a mini documentary by filmmaker and journalist Charlie Lyne, with original music from Anthony Ing. The piece tells the story of the eccentric director Rolfe Kanefsky and his decent into, well if not madness, at least amusingly tragic delusion. The piece was confounding and compelling in the way the best This American Life stories used to be – developing a general point about art and ambition from one unique and memorable story. The accompanying full length album is well worth listening to.

Brendan Rehill’s beautiful soundscape ‘Aran Of The Saints’ cast us under the waves and across the sea on a journey that explored an Aran natives relationship to the perilous waves.

Finally Conor Reynold’s picked up a much deserved prize for his almost wordless drama ‘News Is Proximity’. I won’t spoil the story, but this brilliantly put together audio fiction came along at just the right time. This morning I had the opportunity to facilitate a script doctoring workshop at Colaiste Dhulaigh, and ‘News Is Proximity’ was the first thing I played. The students seemed to really respond to it’s audacious approach to narrative.

I filled dozens of notebook pages with ideas, techniques and inspiring radio pieces to listen to. I met many many amazing people, whose work I look forward to following over the coming years. Huge congratulations to Diarmuid, Mairead, Greg and Mary at Grey Heron Media, who put together a genuinely worthwhile weekend. I’ll throw links up to the prize winning pieces when they’re made publicly available.

The piece at the stop of this post is an outtake from my documentary ‘Mad Scientists of Music‘, which was shortlisted for the Ballyhoura Award at the festival. It features the voices, music and robots of ‘Deathness Injection‘.

The piece below was made during the festival, and won a tiny award for best story in the In The Dark audio scavenger hunt! It features Pat Herbert of the Hurdy Gurdy Radio Museum, the sounds of the Hearsay Festival church heater, and György Ligeti’s ‘Requiem’.


Download: Stardust

Culture File: Trevor Agus at SARC

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Download: Trevor Agus at SARC

In this penultimate episode of my series of interviews on silence, I speak to Trevor Agus of SARC. Belfast’s Sonic Arts Research Centre is a world class facility for the study of sound. I’d met some SARC staff at the Happy Days Beckett Festival in Eniskillen, including the composer and sound designer David Bird. So it was an enormous privilege to visit in person.

SARC was also recently the subject of an incredible binaural documentary by Clare Cronin, for RTE Lyric.

Trevor Agus’s interest in sound goes back to an adolescence composing computer music. This led to the study of human perception, and his current research – how humans recognise and differentiate sounds. We spoke about the adaptive utility of quiet, the possibility of silence and the pain of tinnitus.

Speaking of silence, Anand Jagatia, one of the attendees at the recent Hearsay Festival in Limerick, has a fantastic piece about silence and tinnitus. Paolo Pietropaolo also produced an incredible piece about his own tinnitus, which Brendan Baker (of Love & Radio) included in his ‘Ears Forward’ listening evening in Brooklyn last year.

Culture File – Sound & Silence with Fiona Newell

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Download: Fiona Newell on Silence

Silence, it can be an elusive experience in a modern world dominated by cities, and illuminated by technology. Silence is not only a product of our environment, but also of our perceptual system. In this second in a series for Culture File, I speak to Professor Fiona Newell of Trinity College Dublin, about sound and silence. Fiona was my lecturer at college for a number of courses on sensation and perception. More recently she’s become the go to scientific expert for discussions about how we perceive beauty (neuroaesthetics). Including the fascinating talk below, given last year at TEDxDublin.

Reading Plays – Episode 11 – Picasso at the Lapin Agile

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Reading Plays – Episode 11 – Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Radiomade on Mixcloud

Download: Episode 11 – Picasso at the Lapin Agile

His autobiography boasts that Steve Martin began working at age ten in the newly opened Disneyland, graduating to study poetry and philosophy and spend 18 years performing as “America’s best loved stand up comedian”. Martin has in addition managed a career an accomplished banjo musician and movie star. He writes “I was not naturally talented… though working against that made me inventive”. The open question is whether inventiveness is enough to moderate a lack of dramaturgic ability.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile recounts an imagined meeting between Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein, while both are in their early twenties, yet to make their mark on the century. The play is a sweetly antique ribald sex comedy set in a real Montmartre cabaret immortalised in Picasso’s painting ‘At the Lapin Agile’. It was first staged at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 1993, and won the 1996 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off Broadway Play.

Reading Plays‘ is a discussion show, featuring Gareth Stack and James Van De Waal. Each week we do a close reading of a modern play, discussing it’s merits, themes, issues raised, and so on. You can play along by reading or watching a production of the play before you listen to the show.

Next weeks play: Some Girls by Neil LaBute.

Music – Amor & Psyche – by Bitwise Operator.

Culture File – Kevin Barry on Silence

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Download: Kevin Barry on Silence

My latest report for Culture File is a discussion with Irish author Kevin Barry, about the role of silence in his work. Kevin joined Sara Maitland (author of ‘A Book of Silence‘) on a panel about silence at the recent Happy Days Beckett festival. He was a joy to talk with, and this discussion became the first of a series Culture File are running where I talk to artists and scientists about how silence impacts their work.

Airport Romance

Knives on Planes

Last year I travelled to my girlfriend’s native Ukraine. Bizarrely, many of the places we visited were shortly to become focuses of the Ukrainian conflict, from Maidan Nezalezhnosti to the coast of Crimea. On the way, thanks to the bureaucracy of fortress Europe, we were trapped overnight in Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport. There are certainly worse places to spend an eleven hour layover (each way). Yet the whole experience, and especially the enhanced security procedures at play in Paris, reminded me unpleasantly of my previous visits to City 17. I wrote this poem, published in the latest issue of Saul Bowman’s never ending zine project, after one particularly intimate encounter.

Airport Romance

I’m going to have to pat inside your waistband.
I’m going to have to pat up and down your arms and legs
with the outside of my hands.
It’s no good, you’re going to have to step through once again.
You’re going to have to go through in one movement,
not stop in the middle like you did before.
You’re going to have to come over here, my friend.

I’m going to have to touch you in a way you will never forget.
You’re going to have to show me Paris from the inside out.
I’m going to have to love every minute of it.
We’re going to have to shower once we’re done,
and comb each other’s moustaches.
Yours is going to have to be the colour of caramel,
mine is going to have to go, or people will think we are brothers.

I’m going to have to hold you and keep holding you till we’re little old men.
You’re going to have to die in my arms tonight.
The earth is going to have to slow and cool,
the stars put out their lights,
our blinding cataract.
I’m going to have to let you go.
I’m going to have,
I’m going to.
I’m going,
I’m going,
I’m gone.

Inside Margot Wadell – Book Review: Inside Lives

This is a review written back when I was studying psychoanalysis. These articles critiquing psychodynamic texts proved pretty popular (I’m assuming with students, or practicing psychoanalysts) when I initially posted them. Having recently uncovered a couple that had never made their way to the web, I thought why not release them. Hope you find them useful / interesting, despite the rather dense academese.

Stuck Inside, by Norman Rockwell.

Stuck Inside, by Norman Rockwell.

Inside lives (Waddell, 2002) attempts a phenomenological object relations account of psychological development, from infancy to advanced age. Margot Waddell considers the stages of life as states or meta-positions (Waddel, 2002, pp 8), contingent and dependent on earlier developmental negotiation, rather than inevitable developmental milestones. These states represent individuated matrixes of attitude and biological development, in which the positions articulated by Klien and others shift in the context of emotional and intellectual development, external stressors and interpersonal relations. The book examines the impact of biological changes, family of origin, adolescent affiliation, adult individuation and finally the difficulties of coping with degeneration and impending mortality.
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