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):



Esta composición está estructurada atravez de la deconstrucción de un poema Irlandes anónimo del siglo VIII y de otros poemas Gaélicos contemporáneos escritos por Derry O’Sullivan. La obra está hecha también a base de grabaciones de campo realizadas durante mi viaje a Irlanda en 1993 e incluye algunos sonidos transformados que fueron grabados originalmente por el periodista Italiano Antonio Grimaldi en el trágico suceso de “Bloody Sunday” (1972) en Derry, en el que trece civiles pacífistas fueron muertos por el ejército Ingles.
Al mezclar sonidos naturales, la palabra hablada y los sonidos grabados de la vida cotideana, he creado un trabajo que recrea las realidades conflictivas de la vida contemporánea Irlandesa. La pieza comienza con la voz deconstruida de la voz recitando los poemas en Gaelico, usando tan solo los sonidos consonantes del lenguaje que suenan como elementos de la naturaleza (tales que el viento) y que representan al espíritu de la antigua cultura Irlandesa. La voz regresa luego con forma cambiada, con una resonancia pedregosa y recitando el poema Irlandes del siglo VIII:

dar ind adaig I Móin Mór
feraid dertain ní deróil
dorddán frishtip in gahigon
géssid ós chaille clithar

Fría es la noche en Móin Mór
la lluvia se desborda en torrentes
un profundo rugido contra el viento que rie alto
sonidos del bosque protector

La obra va adquiriendo momentum pudiendose percibir sonidos transformados de la vida cotideana y un violin Irlandes granulado. La deconstrucción de la voz está hecha ahora de células más grandes y el lenguaje se vuelve más articulado, sonando como un hombre desesperado que intenta dar significado a algo incomprensible. Depronto, una nueva voz entra, un niño hablando en Inglés que rie, “eres un tonto, bastante tonto, bastante tontito”. el niño representa a una nueva generación de gente joven, muchos de los cuales no hablan ni valoran la lengua Irlandesa, y son indiferentes a su pasado.
La obra termina con las palabras deconstruidas del poeta (ahora enfatizando las vocales) mezcladas luego con el sonido del oceano. Al final, un isleño de Aran, un viejo poeta que conocí y que apenas hablaba el Inglés, recita su propio poema, casi cantando. Para mi esto representa una esperanza de que la lengua Irlandesa no se perderá en nuestra modernidad.
Usé la técnica de síntesis granular en tres modalidades distintas. Algunos sonidos fueron transformados en el sistema de Barry Truax en la Universidad de SFU en Vancouver, otros sonidos fueron transformados en la estación ISPW del IRCAM usando FOF’s como granos fundamentales con un programa diseñado por mí con MAX. Los otros sonidos granulares fueron hechos con Csound y Patchwork. Además de síntesis granular use convolución y filtros reverberantes para transformar sonidos concretos. La pieza fué mezclada en el IRCAM.