Work 1: This is About
This is About is a c. 40-minute music-theatre performance combining the ancient Irish sport of hurling with the sounds of contemporary music, putting the audience at the heart of the action. The piece features synthesized music, playful and unconventional approaches to playing the piano, detailed field recordings, and harmonious vocals juxtaposed with football chants. The musical and physical action takes place around the audience, fully immersing them in the sound world.
This piece explores three primary research aims.
1) Uninhibited collaboration and the act of doing:
We explored an uninhibited approach to devising material, deciding to create all material through the act of doing. With no preconceived concept, we considered all material that arose over an initial five month period to be collaborative. This highlights a shift from traditional compositional processes (writing and giving parts to performers) to more radical approaches where nothing is cut and dried, and outcomes are devised through collaboration and constantly in flux right up to the moment of performance.
2) Visual musique concrète:
We explored the collaborative process through a kind of visual musique concrète arising from the images of performance situations. In this piece sonification happens as the result of particular performance situations: sound could only arise from the visual, rather than through arbitrary decisions. This marks a departure from other similar practices. An example of this is a pas de deux where Ingamells attempts a 'freestyle hurling' routine whilst Clancy tries to get as close to the ball as possible with a microphone in order to amplify it, layering repeated recordings in real-time to build up a rhythmic musical texture (see performance photographs (left) and from 20:11–22:05 on the audio track). A second example is finding a musical solution to overcome a lack of hurling skill. For example, to counteract Clancy's poor soloing (with a hurley) ability, he did this over the inside of a grand piano to create exciting sonic textures each time he dropped the ball. In both examples the sonic textures are the direct result of the performance situation.
3) Collaborative composition as lived experience:
Hurling is a highly physical and sonically rich game that is very much tied up with Irish identity. Clancy is Irish yet cannot play, whilst Ingamells is a recent English immigrant to Ireland and took up hurling as a way to integrate. In 2018, Clancy became a father and hoped to learn hurling so that he could play it with his son in the future. As musicians, we approached the game of hurling in a distinctly musical way to explore changes in our lives. This experience is articulated through a spoken narrative that was written by both collaborators. However, the narrative is also something audiences can relate to: the birth of a child; moving to an unfamiliar place; trying to fit in; choosing between work and family; facing up to your own limitations. As a result, this work illustrates a move towards a hyper-personal form of artistic practice, and composition as lived experience.
In addition to thse primary research aims, the work also utilises methodologies seen elsewhere in our individual practice, such as using the structure of a hurling match to create an unpredictable musical structure (see below), and using field recordings of a collection of hurling matches as an audio score.