Archive for the ‘Random Musings’ Category

I’m a fortunate soul these days. I’m spending the month of July writing music for no other reason than that I want to, thanks to a recent award from the Arts Council of Ireland. No specific brief, no terms and conditions, simply following the creative urge wherever it leads. And for once, having such time and financial freedom to compose has not coincided with chronic writer’s block. So, everything’s going swimmingly. Minor niggle; the scolding figure in my head admonishing me: ‘You can’t do that’. For whatever reason, composers don’t tend to share these thoughts much with each other, so I have no idea whether this thought process is entirely standard, or uniquely my problem.

 Now, I’ve always loved sea shanties, even before they became a Tiktok sensation (!) But their recent – if somewhat surprising –  surge in popularity probably was responsible for my thoughts going in the following direction when I sat down to start writing. Without exactly intending to, I’ve ended up composing a work for multiple voices, percussion and strings, inspired by the sea. Text-wise, I’m playing around with invented words and language, in much the same way that many historic sea shanties include words that have no real meaning, owing to an initial mishearing when the tunes were overheard in a foreign port. So I’d call the piece a sort of contemporary sea shanty, except here’s where the internal dialogue becomes problematic: You can’t do that! It’s not folky enough for a sea shanty and it’s not ‘arty’ enough to be categorised as contemporary/serious. 

Rationally, I’m well aware this makes no sense. Why can’t I? Are angry sailors going to show up at my door complaining that they can’t haul their bowlines because I’ve written a shanty in 5/4? Are the contemporary music police likely to fine me for use of tonal harmony in a piece of art music? No. There is no law prohibiting the of writing a piece that resists neat categorisation, and the world would certainly continue to turn even if I never finished it. And yet, I can’t shake off the sense of misgiving.  I would truly be interested to know if other creative people experience this phenomenon. 


Funding fun

Posted: March 7, 2015 in Random Musings

It’s that time of year. Funding applications. Music Bursary Awards, Artist in the Community Awards, Artist in Residence Awards….there’s certainly no shortage of Arts funding in this country, it just takes a very particular type of personality to sit down and craft a successful application  – and no matter how many times I do it I’m always taken aback by how time consuming the process is. Sometimes it feels it wouldn’t be worth the time that goes into each application even if you were guaranteed you’d get the funding, let alone in the almost certain knowledge that you won’t.

But a happy side-effect can be that it can give some focus to your ideas – nothing like having to describe a project on paper for making you think about what you’d actually like to accomplish! And funding opportunities can steer you in directions you may not otherwise have thought of; last year I applied for and got funding to participate in a project called Connecting through Creativity without really knowing what it was, and was initially somewhat dismayed to discover that the emphasis was on Visual Arts. But there can be something liberating about participating in an arts discipline other than your own, and it allowed me to learn a lot about creative processes, possibly more than I might have had the project been built around a music framework. Plus it was fun to hang out with visual artists for a bit….spending too much time with musicians is probably not good for one’s health.

Advice to anyone else currently working on funding applications: however long you think it will take, add a day.


What a week. I’m used to running around a lot but these past few days were extreme even for me. Teaching, gigging, rehearsing Portmarnock Singers, The Gospel Project, Sandymount Gospel Choir, squeezing in a few committee meetings in between and, sadly, singing at a funeral on Thursday morning. And travelling from one of those things to the other. (The thing nobody warns you about when it comes to being self-employed is how much time you will spend just getting from one professional appointment to another – in Dublin traffic this is no joke! I sometimes envy people who go to work in the same place every day. Especially when I’m on the way to weddings in hard-to-find country churches……)

Highlights of the week for me:

1). Being introduced to a cracking Karl Jenkins piece, Adiemus,  which I’m going to be doing with Portmarnock Singers:


Can’t wait to get stuck in to this in rehearsal on Monday.


2). A very positive rehearsal on Tuesday with Sandymount Gospel Choir. As with many other areas of life, September is the time when choirs kick off again after the summer and new people often come on board – happily we’ve got a good few new choir members and, more importantly, they’re fitting in well and bringing new energy to the ensemble.

3). I discovered the existence of this organisation – the Wedding Band Association.  This is a long overdue initiative proposing a kind of Code of Practice for the wedding band industry in Ireland. I take my hat off to these guys; musicians tend not to be too wonderful about organising ourselves but this is a positive exception. Self-regulation. A great opportunity for honest, hard-working wedding bands.

2 things i have learned today:
1). Playing the drums while wearing sandals is quite awkward. I’m sure there are many people to whom this is not news.

2). You can’t install the GigPress Plugin with, only with To many people this is not news either, but if like me you have fussed and fretted, and even believed yourself to be profoundly stupid whilst attempting to perform this apparently quite simple task, take comfort from knowing that it’s impossible. In short, it’s not you.