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  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.
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: https://www.fairple.com/home-3/

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: https://www.fairple.com/contact-1/   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: https://www.fairple.com/submissions/

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: https://accidentaltheatre.co.uk/box-office/una-monaghan

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.

F R E A K Floods at Cambridge Festival of Ideas

We do not arrive in one piece. We can be both at once, oh sure,
but we’re coming off in crumbs. Fewer pixels arrive every time.
Someday there will be nothing left to dust off the tablecloth.
You’ll squint at a screen & wonder.

F R E A K FLOODS is a text-sound collaboration between writer/vocalist Emily DeDakis (USA) & harper/sonic artist Úna Monaghan (Ireland/Cambridge Faculty of Music), combining live improvised performance with recorded soundscape. Spoken word mingles with sung moments, electronic sound collage & improvised harp accompaniment to bring lost people & geopolitical shifts to lyrical life. It’s a skewhiff symphony in ten movements — a hymn for a flooded city, a lullaby for a missing brother & an immigrant’s post-Brexit prayer. On the surface it’s about the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland & the United States of America; flickering below is a spectrum of possible places in between & the impossibility of keeping still.

DeDakis & Monaghan see F R E A K FLOODS as a piece in flux: experimenting with sound’s potential to fracture location & time, with the mix of American idiom & traditional Irish music, & with the overlap of fixed & improvisational aspects.

The performance lasts c.50mins and will be followed by a Q&A session with the artists.Brexit face

Emily Dedakis: http://www.haveyouthoughtabout.co.uk
Úna Monaghan: http://www.unamonaghan.com

F R E A K Floods

F R E A K FLOODS By Emily DeDakis & Úna Monaghan

FREAK FLOODS is a musical essay by writer/vocalist Emily DeDakis (USA) & harper/sonic artist Úna Monaghan (Ireland), combining live improvised performance with recorded soundscape. Spoken word mingles with sung moments, electronic sound collage & improvised harp accompaniment to bring lost people & geopolitical shifts to lyrical life. It’s a skewhiff symphony in ten movements — a hymn for a flooded city, a lullaby for a missing brother & an immigranJJ SQUAREt’s post-Brexit prayer. On the surface it’s about the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland & the United States of America; flickering below is a spectrum of possible places in between & the impossibility of keeping still.

Dedicated to Mike Teevee, the patron saint of teleportation & impatience with being in one place at a time.


IS IT COOL TO TRY HARD NOW? By Jennifer Walshe (world Premiere)

Dublin born composer and performer Jennifer Walshe is surprising, thought-provoking, and relentlessly imaginative. The breadth and dazzling diversity of her work is simply astounding, having been commissioned, broadcasted, and performed throughout the world.
The recipient of countless fellowships and prizes, Jennifer has been described as “The most original compositional voice to emerge from Ireland in the past 20 years” (Irish Times).
We are delighted to have Jennifer Walshe involved in this year’s JamJar series as she Premiere’s IS IT COOL TO TRY HARD NOW? a piece for voice, video, electronics and Artificial Intelligence. We guarantee awe.


This concert will feature works created with computers as creative partners drawing on a uniquely human tradition: instrumental folk music. The concert will showcase works involving composers and musicians co-creating music with a program developed by researchers at Queen Mary and Kingston Universities, London, drawing upon the features it has learned from the ‘celtic’ folk tradition, and combining it with human imagination.  It will provide an exciting glimpse into how new musical opportunities are enabled by partnerships: between musicians from different traditions; between scientists and artists; and last, but not least, between humans and computers.

I will perform some of my works for Irish harp and live electronics, combining elements of Irish traditional music with computer sound, controlled via motion sensor and pitch detection.

The concert will also feature work / performances by:
Elaine Chew,Bob L. Sturm, Oded Ben-Tal, Ensemble x.y, and Daniel Banarsë

See the event ticket link for more information.

IMBOLC Festival, Derry

I have written a new piece for fiddle and live electronics, called Who Do You Play For?, first performed by Paddy Glackin at the IMBOLC festival in Derry, 31 January 2017. In addition to text I had written, the piece also featured the voices and words of poets Ciaran Carson and Cathal Ó Searcaigh. Here is a short video about the event!

Harp and Concertina Workshops in Montréal

This summer Úna is artist in residence at the Institute For the Public Life of Arts and Ideas at McGill University, funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Ireland Canada University Fund. While in Montréal she will be giving some traditional music workshops in association with the Siamsa School of Irish Music.

These workshops are made possible through the support of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Ireland Canada University Fund.

There is no charge to attend or participate in these events.

Schedule – July 17, 2016

Concertina Workshop

Irish dance music on harp, for recent beginners
This workshop will feature an emphasis on quality of technique over
quantity of tunes covered.

2pm – 2.15 Break

Intermediate – Advanced level Irish harp
This workshop is for harpers with some years’ playing experience – eg could
cover music by Turlough O’Carolan, information on the creation of your own arrangement / left hand accompaniment, or more advanced Irish traditional dance music.

3.30 – 4pm
Short harp recital by Úna, including a selection of traditional music, O’Carolan music and Úna’s own compositions.

LINK TO THE REGISTRATION PAGE: http://www.siamsa.org/news/una_reg.htm

Montréal Music

I really enjoyed giving an artist talk and performance yesterday. The venue, Casa del Popolo, is a super place, with new and experimental music on every night, and seems very artist orientated. Peter Burton and the staff there are great, and they host the Suoni per il Popolo festival every summer. Highly recommended. Anyway, after the talk and some jigs, I played several of my pieces with improvisation, electronics, motion sensor, pitch detection, Max MSP. I have had a new motion sensor delivered here by x-io technologies, and it has been very reliable, as well as providing new functionality, which I used in the new piece Luas Láimhe, written while in Montréal. Thanks to audience for their feedback, and interesting and thought provoking questions – we covered sean nós drones, existing improvisation in Irish traditional music,  feedback in electronics, embracing / improvising around technological inconsistencies, lots of great artists and musicians doing related work, control of silencing the electronics, potential tension between the contemporary and traditional parts of practice. I then spent the evening trawling an extensive record collection and listening to Alice Coltrane and John Cage. A highlight was The Piano Music of Henry Cowell, his 1953 record referencing lots of Irish traditional music in fascinating ways and through really innovative sounds. That was a suggestion from the audience too!

Thanks to everyone who came and contributed, the atmosphere was indicative of the scene as I’ve experienced it here in Montréal – inclusive, interested and warm, with vibrant, diverse artwork going on everywhere. Special thanks to Prof. Eric Lewis and Dr. Sheetal Lodhia at IPLAI for the invitation, and providing me with an inspiring place to work this summer. I also appreciate the support of the Ireland Canada University Foundation and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Una Monaghan and Eric Lewis Una Monaghan