This piece was commissioned for the Myriad Materialities Conference, 9th June 2021, for University of Oxford’s CPAGH (Colonial Ports and Global History) Network
This work examines the way in which a language or sound evolves, becomes transmuted, muted or disappears as it moves beyond the centre, or source of its origin as a result of colonial transformations and post-colonial forgetting.
Growing up in Ireland I resisted having to learn Irish in school, I didn’t understand the point, no one I knew spoke Irish, the common tongue was English, and there was nowhere in the world where having this language would benefit me. I felt a similar antipathy towards Irish music, it felt commodified, created for tourism, a specialised sound for a particular audience. Nothing to do with me. However, when I visited the Gaeltacht regions in Ireland, or heard spoken Irish in a bar, I felt a pull, an envy, an anguish, a loss at not being able to speak or understand my own language. I have felt, in recent years, as an economic migrant, the same experience towards the sound of my culture, from music to poetry, to prose. In researching for this commission, I have explored the history of my language and culture as it has spread from the centre, moving across borders as we left for work, for safety, for independence. When we think of things transported across water, across land, brought to different countries, we focus on things, objects and goods, but there are other kinds of materiality’s, which move from port to port. Language and sound are a part of these myriad materials that when forced to move, either evolve or merge with other cultures, or over time and across space, disappear. I worked with the composer and musician Tony Doyle to develop this piece for the CPAGH commission.
I would like to thank those who have supported the development of this art work, William Howard Lecteur de Gaélique from the Université de Bretagne Occidentale, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history and evolution of the Irish Language, Dr Clare Downham and Dr Eoghan Ahern from The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies, for facilitating in the translation of text from English to Irish, and to the composer and performer Tony Doyle for performing the sounds and music for this piece. I also want to thank those who have contributed their voices across time and space, to this work.