I wrote a new piece called “What Haven’t We Heard?” about gender balance in Irish traditional music. It had its first performance at IMBOLC Festival on 31 January 2018. I am very grateful to IMBOLC and Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin in Derry for comissioning the piece, with assistance from Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Here is a video about the work, and a video of the first performance.
What haven’t we heard?
voice, harp, live electronics, tape
Composed by Úna Monaghan, 2018
Written for and Performed by Pauline Scanlon http://www.paulinescanlon.net
Song lyrics from a poem by Maureen Boyle, named ‘Weather Vane’
This is a piece about gender balance in traditional music.
It is in three parts, which I call Data, Context and Experience.
This section uses the percentage gender splits in different contexts in traditional music in 2017; the percentages of women and men involved in festivals, awards and performances. I imagine the notes of a tune as voices, and what we might hear when those voices aren’t equally represented.
The song in this section uses words from the poem ‘Weather Vane’ by Maureen Boyle. The events are very recent, and are a result of attitudes that are still painfully slow to change.
I asked people involved in traditional music to share with me their stories of inequality, on an open online call. I received many accounts, in public and in private. The piece allows for a few to be heard from the pile of cards on which I’ve written them. This section calls for lines from the repertoire of the performer, which counteract the stories. The performer must improvise between statements, the live capturing and processing of her voice, and her own song.
I am grateful to Maureen Boyle for permission to use her poem. ‘Weather Vane’ won the Strokestown Poetry Competition in 2007 and is to be found in her debut collection ‘The Work of a Winter’ published by Arlen House Press, Dublin, in 2017.
I am grateful to the people who shared their stories of recent times when they felt things weren’t quite fair. While some are shocking, most are subtle. It is the many small instances over the course of a life that result in the big glaring reality, so we need many voices, and to view them collectively.
This piece was commissioned by IMBOLC International Music Festival, Derry, 2018, with assistance from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. This video was recorded a the premiere on 31 January 2018.