Sound Experiment

Ita Monaghan and Úna Monaghan

16-18 June 2018

This month I collaborated with Ita Monaghan to produce “Sound Experiment” in the Old Labs at Newnham College.


The Old Labs at Newnham College was built as a chemical laboratory towards the end of the 19th century. Women students were not permitted to access the main laboratories in Cambridge University, which was only open to men.

With this installation we think of the overlap between science and creativity. Creativity, often imagined as being magical and spontaneous, may have process and structure. Scientific enquiry, characterised as methodical and logical, can have moments of realisation and sudden unexpected ideas.

The Old Labs at Newnham are now used as an arts venue, but some artefacts still remain on display in the foyer. Chief among these is an original fume cupboard, in which we conduct our sound experiment.

What byproducts, no longer extracted, influence the observers? Samples of sound are taken by our sample in the test tube, and the other microphone observer. We think of interactions between elements and interactions between people.

We think of the unintended consequences of experiments which lead to other unexpected discoveries; our work as artists lead to responses from audience that we may never discover. A fume cupboard is one of the few places we can control a reaction.

Air protected, floating test tubes. Controlled environments for experiments and gallery environments for art.
Is the fume cupboard open? Is the gallery closed? Is the artwork accessible? Is the methodology accepted? Are the standards rigorous?

There are limitations to our experiments, our language and our communication.
The control experiment is fleeting – we cannot tell what you take away because we don’t know what you are bringing.

You can hear thoughts on this topic from Cambridge researchers at the listening post opposite. We are all both scientists and artists. We all sample, isolate, investigate, consider, test, expect, combine, define, compare and classify.

Live Sound Engineering Mentorship Scheme for Women

I am so happy to present this in partnership with An Droichead Belfast. If you are a woman who would love to work in live sound engineering, read the information at the link below and get in touch. You don’t need experience. You do need passion and energy. I will give my time and knowledge. Trad / acoustic gigs, on the job. Please share so that we can contact everyone who might want to take part, by 20th April.

House Taken Over

I have a fixed media piece in this super art event happening in a house in Belfast over a weekend. The history behind it is fascinating, and the artwork will be equal to it. I am personally fizzing inside to have some work in it. My experience so far in life, is that it’s generally a super thing to be asked to do anything by any of the Hickey family. Great people, great curators and a great project. Take a peek:
A weekend of talks, performances and artist responses within a historical home in South Belfast curated by Hickey + Hickey.

Exhibiting Artists
Sighle BHREATHNACH-CASHELL, Joseph BEUYS, Declan CLARKE, John D’ARCY, Irina GHEORGHE, Allan HUGHES, Tom HUGHES, Dorothy HUNTER, Alexey KRASNOVSKY, Gillian LAWLER, Julie LOVETT, Roseanne LYNCH, Colin MARTIN, Lorcan McGEOUGH, Una MONAGHAN, Maeve O’LYNN, Tullis RENNIE, Penelope WARD, AMINI (Artist’s Moving Image Northern Ireland)

This exhibition is made in response to a recent unexpected discovery about the house. During WW2 it held a secret function as the Northern Irish Intelligence Headquarters for a covert operation involving a network of secret listeners who tuned in to their radio sets in homes across the province listening to enemy communications. The logs recorded by the listeners were forwarded to ‘Heathcote’, where they were transferred directly to codebreakers in Bletchley Park to be decrypted.

For more information, to view the exhibition or to book an event please email us at

Hickey + Hickey is the collaborative curatorial practice of sisters Ciara Hickey (Learning Producer at Hillsborough Castle since 2017, Co-Director of Household Belfast and former Curator at Belfast Exposed) and Nora Hickey M’Sichili (Director of the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, Ireland’s International Arts Centre, since 2013 and former Director of Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray).

Live Sound Engineering Mentorship Scheme for Women

I am so happy to present this in partnership with An Droichead Belfast. If you are a woman who would love to work in live sound engineering, read the information below and get in touch. You don’t need experience. You do need passion and energy. I will give my time and knowledge. Trad / acoustic gigs, on the job. Please share so that we can contact everyone who might want to take part, by 20th April.



An Droichead in partnership with Úna Monaghan are looking for a woman aged 18+ to take part in a pilot mentoring scheme, as an assistant sound engineer at An Droichead. Úna Monaghan is a live sound engineer specialising in traditional music and experimental music. She has worked for some of the biggest names in Irish traditional music worldwide.

This is a casual role, and will involve working at the An Droichead concert series. We are looking for someone who wants to work in sound engineering to help at the gigs, and hope to combine this with learning and training in a career path that can be difficult to access, especially for women.

Previous experience is not necessary, but would be an advantage. You must be very keen to work in live sound with primarily acoustic instruments and with music technology, with a view to a career in this area. We need someone who is energetic, enthusiastic, pro-active and willing to listen and work hard.

Other desirable qualities are:

· Irish language speaker or learner

· specific interest in traditional music

· ability to play a musical instrument

Please send a CV and 500 words on what your existing level of knowledge is and why you want to take part in the mentoring scheme to before 12pm Friday 20th April.

Fee will be provided, amount to be finalised and training will be provided free of charge. (Where possible in a live gig environment!)

We will hold interviews on Wednesday 25th April 2018.

Úna Monaghan: Concert at Anglia Ruskin University

Harp + Electronics performance as part of the Anglia Ruskin University Lunchtime Concert Series.

Concert of my compositions for harp, harp and tape, and harp and live electronics…. and maybe also one for concertina and electronics!




Joyce to Beckett: Ireland and Modernism Symposium

I will perform at Joyce to Beckett: Ireland and Modernism Symposium at Magdalene College, Cambridge, in association with the Cambridge Group for Irish Studies.

Website is here:

The symposium runs for two days and I will play as part of the concert on the Thursday evening.

Information from the symposium:

Serial publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses began in the New York based journal The Little Review in March 1918.

To mark the centenary, Magdalene College in association with the Cambridge Group for Irish Studies is mounting a two-day symposium on the role of modernism in twentieth-century Irish culture.

The distinguished line-up of speakers includes many of the leading figures in Irish studies across several generations, as well as creative writers and actors. While the main focus will be on the two greatest Irish modernist writers, Joyce and Beckett, contributors will also consider other modern Irish writers and the appropriateness or otherwise of “modernism” as a category in poetry, fiction, drama and the visual arts.


What Haven’t We Heard?

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
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.
I. Data
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.
II. Context
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.
III. Experience
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.





FairPlé is a movement that aims to achieve gender balance in the production, performance, promotion, and development of Irish traditional and folk music. We advocate for equal opportunity and balanced representation for all.


The website and mission statement are here:

While there is a marked imbalance in representation professionally and on festival lineups, I believe that the roots of the problem begin very early.  Body language in sessions; the methods of sharing or playing traditional music favour confidence; expectations that women look or sound a certain way, or even play a certain instrument.  This movement is for all, and I hope it impacts on all the ways in which we play, learn and share traditional music. Get in touch here:   or on Facebook and Twitter: @fairple

In an effort to provide a resource for festivals, promoters, venues, musicians and educators, we are compiling a directory of female folk and traditional musicians worldwide. Please submit your details here:

And support us on social media using the #FairPlé !

This movement is for everyone.

Úna Monaghan: “For” Album Launch Party


Úna Monaghan will release a new album, named “For”, on 26th January 2018. Twelve original tracks for harp and electronics – an album that combines traditional music, experimental music, improvisation, electroacoustic composition and live electronics.

Launch Party at Accidental Theatre, 12-13 Shaftesbury Square, Belfast BT2 7DB


With special guests:

Ciaran Carson
Martin Dowling
Paddy Glackin
Davy Maguire
Lorraine Ní Bhriain
Padraigín Ní Uallacháin
Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn

The night will begin with an excerpt from “Owenvarragh, a Belfast Circus on The Star Factory”. This is a recent production featuring multiple traditional soloists and a soundscape of field recordings, created from a book by Ciaran Carson and a 1979 score by John Cage.

After a harp + electronics set from Úna, Paddy Glackin will perform Úna’s piece for fiddle and electronics “Who Do You Play For?”, featuring the writing of Cathal Ó Searcaigh and Ciaran Carson.

Session to follow, in the Book Bar, upstairs at Accidental Theatre.

Tickets £7 (or £15 with CD album) from this link:

Úna Monaghan at City University, London

Composer, harper and sound engineer Úna Monaghan presents her compositions, which fuse experimental and Irish traditional music with electronics and improvisation.

Úna Monaghan’s music has been presented on BBC and RTÉ television and radio, in theatre productions, and at international festivals and conferences, such as the International Computer Music Conference, York Festival of Ideas, and Belfast Festival at Queen’s. Úna is co-founder of Quiet Music Night, an evening dedicated to performing quiet music of all genres, especially new and experimental music.

She holds a BA in Astrophysics from Cambridge University, and a PhD on New Technologies and Experimental Practices in Contemporary Irish Traditional Music, from Queen’s University Belfast.

Úna is currently the Rosamund Harding Research Fellow in Music at Newnham College, University of Cambridge.