Móin Mór for digital tape Paris 1995


In music using concepts or ideas which belong to other domains is something that has been realized by composers for a long time. These ideas can be translated directly into music, but they can also be used solely as an inspirational source and therefore be related to the music in an indirect way.

The central element of sound work is language, which is what characterizes a determinate culture. Language is made out of sound and meaning, out of syntax (rhythm) and out of words (signs). The roots of any culture are based on its original language; this is the main emphasis within my work. There is the case where a second language, the language of the conqueror is imposed onto a culture. In Ireland, English was imposed and in Mexico it was Spanish. These new languages become part of the "original" culture, but they are spoken in a different way in terms of intonation and pronunciation; new words are also introduced. Because of this, even the sound of the new language becomes a reflection of the original culture. The other sound elements which I use in my work are soundscapes (these are sounds from the country’s landscapes, rural and urban, as well as ‘indigenous’ music.) I believe these sounds also reflect the essence of culture.

Through my work I am trying to look into the future by contemplating our roots, which are part of our daily sounds. Since this exhibition Distant Relations addresses issues of culture and identity, I have chosen to comment on possible analogies between Ireland and Mexico. Two years ago I traveled to Ireland to look for inspiration for this work, I found monolithic stones of our mutual pasts there. To make a comment on Celtic history and mythology is also to talk about the myths and history of Mexico, because both emerge from a collective, archaic archetype.

I am making this commentary, through the use of technology and through modernity, two elements which have their origins in the industrialized cultures of our developed neighbors, the United States and Britain. By using computers as a musical tool, I relate in a strong way to these two countries, taking advantage of aspects from one culture to unveil part of another culture, in effect, finding my own roots which might be sleeping somewhere under an Irish plain. These roots, common to many cultures, are being covered by dust from our First World neighbors.

My visit to the Aran Islands in 1993 left a great impression on me, there were people who did not speak English. They were very tall, and reminded me of the mythical characters from the books of Tolkien. This island is so near to London, so near to Paris; and at the same time so far away. I believe places like this will disappear soon, and that’s why I think we have to keep alive our myths and histories. We benefit from much of modernity, but I hope at the same time we will never let these more powerful nations invade our psychological space through their media bombardment.

My work for this project is titled Móin Mór, its construction is based on an eighth century Irish poem and on other contemporary poems in Gaelic written by Derry O’Sullivan. The piece is also made from recordings made during my trip to Ireland in 1993 and includes transformed sounds originally recorded by Italian journalist, Antonio Grimaldi from Bloody Sunday (1972) in Derry when thirteen civil rights demonstrators were killed by the British Army.

Mixing natural sounds, the spoken word and sounds recorded from daily life, I have created a work which brings together the conflicting realities of contemporary Irish life. The piece begins with the deconstructed voice reciting the poems in Gaelic, using only the consonant sounds of the language which sound like natural elements (as the wind) representing the spirit of Ireland’s ancient culture. The voice then returns in a changed form -- with a stone like resonance, reciting the eighth century poem,


dar ind adaig I Móin Mór

feraid dertain ní deróil

dorddán dertain ní deróil

géssid ós chaille clithar


cold is the night in Móin Mór

the rain pors down in torrents

a deep roar against the wind which laughs high

sounds from the sheltering woods


As the work gathers momentum the voice returns and the Gaelic language is more distinct and the sounds of daily life and granulated fiddle music can be heard. The deconstruction of the voice emphasizes the vowel sounds and the disintegrated language becomes articulated, sounding like a desperate man attempting to create meaning from something incomprehensible. Suddenly A new voice enters, the sound of a boy speaking English, "you’re a bum, a bit of a bum, a bit of a bummy," he laughs. The boy represents a new generation of young people, many of whom neither speak nor value the Irish language, and appear indifferent to their the past.

The work ends with the deconstructed words of the poet blended with natural sounds of the ocean. An Aran islander, an old man who I met who barely spoke English, recites his own poem, almost singing. For me this represented hope that the Irish language will not be lost in our modernity.


For more information on this piece, see also (in french):