Áine O’Dwyer – Gallarais LP
Gallarais was recorded between 2013-2015 in the shaft of the Brunel tunnel. The shaft itself is 50ft in diameter and 50ft deep with an acoustic decay of three to four seconds. The square window located in the ceiling of the shaft invited a filter of sound from the outside world; trains from 14ft below, overhead planes, and a pump mechanism, all synthesized with my own sonic contributions, becoming part of the shaft’s unified breath. This transformed the tunnels structure into a ‘mystic cave’ and host for transmigrational sound.
I’d launched my previous release ’Anything bright or startling?’ at the Brunel tunnel shaft in June 2013 to celebrate the tunnel’s 150 year anniversary, and to commemorate the passing of six men who died during the tunnel’s construction. Shortly after the launch, I began to consider the larger sonic potential of the space, and thanks to the generosity of director Robert Hulse was granted regular access to conduct my investigations.
I began to explore the notion of a personalized abstract heritage relating to the bean chointe, or Irish keener, who were professional mourners revered for their improvisational vocal skills. It is said that they were outcasts, imbued with a type of madness, and they traveled across the countryside, barefoot and dishevelled on unmarked paths. Due to the fact I was unable to track down any known living keener in 2014, and the lack of available audio documentation, this triggered my creation of an imagined reinactment, with sitespecific sounds and additional instrumentation taking on the roles of ceremonional dirge.
Although I have never been privy to an actual keening ceremony, the memory of a relatives funeral evoked what I imagined to have held comparable emotional weight. I had performed the exit music for the congregation, and after they had left, heard from my overhead position on the balcony the traumatized screams of bereavement from my family below. These horrific atonations stuck with me for both their emotional purity and phonetic power.
Gallarais, or the Gallarus Oratory, translates into ‘church of the place of the foriegner’ or ‘rocky headland’. It is a funerary chapel which takes the shape of an upturned boat, and is situated on the Dingle peninsula, Co Kerry, Ireland, representing in this instance a touchstone for abstract heritage, and the expression of the female voice.