Monday, June 24, 2013

Dublin Part Two

I've been "on residence" in Dublin for about three weeks now, in fact exactly three weeks! Just over a week to go and my time will be up here. I feel like I've been quite productive. But have also seen a lot and have tried to relax too (in my own way, which is more like being crafty or noodling around doing random tasks).

I've made a sound sculpture! I hope to document it shortly through video. It was quite the experiment as I'd done nothing like it before. I hooked up a Wii Remote to a computer running the software program Max, and embedded the remote in a giant 'crystal'-shaped sculpture that I made out of foam, fabric, and pin studs.  It has a weird leather-jacket look to it, which I quite like. Photos will come soon, once I get a nice white wall to photograph it uponz.

When you move the sculpture, different sounds of my voice, breath, and body are triggered by the position of the sculpture in space. I think it's a pretty good first attempt for something that was so out of my comfort zone. Much of the thanks though go to Rachel Quinn, the sound artist and electronic music expert in Dublin who helped me with the technological side. And a big thanks goes to an electric knife, which carved up that foam for the sculpture like turkey on Thanksgiving.

I've also read over two big books, one for teaching next year and one just for fun. I'm on to two more and think I can finish them by the end of my trip. I have a big bus ride to Galway tomorrow for a long weekend to see a friend, so I will definitely do some reading there.

There have been a lot of surprise sights along the way. One of the highlights thus far has been the Long Room of the Trinity Library. I didn't bring my camera--in fact, I wasn't expecting to be allowed to take pictures at all, as you cannot take photos in the room below the library, which houses the famous Book of Kells. The library feels like something out of Harry Potter. I was shocked to see more people just rushing through it as an afterthought from their Book of Kells trip, and not being the other way around. But then again I've very mesmerized in libraries in general- I just like looking at books on shelves, I guess. The older the better.

Another surprise has been the Botanical Gardens. It's quite beautiful this time of year, and lots of plants bloom there in the sheltered terrain that come from all over the world. A refreshing change of pace to Denver's more arid climate.

Today was Ireland's National Music Day, and there were short performances throughout the country, especially in Dublin and Cork. Though I only got to catch one fifteen-minute gig, I did get to hear the National Chamber Choir sing in the Post Office (of all places)! The singers were up on a second-story balcony and the space resonated quite nicely. I knew one of their songs from a CD I've listened to since I was a teenager; hearing it live brought me close to tears. Or maybe buying stamps is just a really emotional experience for me...either way. They've got a book of choral music that I might buy as a music souvenir, and get some friends to help me with the S, A, and T of SATB so we can all sing it together. 

Times ain't all 110% rosy, though. I'm still a foreigner and I probably look it too. I have to work sometimes to get things done- lots of favors called, a bit of pleading, a bit of waiting, asking seemingly inane questions. Sometimes things are not difficult to do or find but it's done in a different way that might not seem very obvious. A random example: I went to four grocery stores to find small white beans, which are basically in every grocery store in America. Nutrition bars are virtually nonexistent here. You can't print documents very easily without going to an internet cafe. But you can get amazing curries.

It's difficult to be beholden to people that I know here, waiting for them to help me with wayfinding or referrals and contacts.  I don't know how other proper visual artists do it. Going on a residency, you're basically plopped in a strange land, without the materials you're normally used to working with, no friends around, and you're told to make something beautiful. Sometimes there are assistants to help you, or budgets to help guide you. You make friends along the way of course. And I'm so thankful I have colleagues here who are amazing in so many ways.

One week of work and wrapping up to go, with a small 'gig' organizing a vocal performance piece at the very end. Should be exciting! 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Thoughts on a Few Days in Dublin

I've only been in Dublin for a few days now, and have recovered mostly from jet lag to write down a few things I've noticed about this lovely place. Mostly it's little unexpected things- those things that as a newcomer you think are rather novel, but once you've been here for a while it's just totally normal and unremarkable.

Sports are obviously huge here, but sportswear seems to be more popular for everyday wear than elsewhere in the world, I'm sure influenced by soccer/rugby-playing culture and role models. Wven after what I thought was the biggest surge of running suits and track pants in the '90's and 2000's, people still wear full track suits which also match their shoes. Thank goodness a lot of different fashion is happening throughout the city. Currently tie-dyed tee-shirts are big again, and cuffed pants.

Ireland has a lot of tropical plants! It must be the temperate climate and lots of moisture that makes them happy. I did not expect to see palm trees, giant calla lilies, and lots of giant hibiscus-like flower bushes here. But there they are, growing in the park or happily in people's front gardens.

Credit cards have changed here; now most foreign credit cards (without a chip and PIN) will not be accepted for transactions. This is okay if paying for cash (which is still a much more common transaction type than in the States) but a little tricky when you have to budget ATM withdraws.

Shopping malls are still kind of big here in Dublin. I've been getting used to outdoor plazas in Denver, or avoiding shopping malls entirely, but many of the better grocery stores are in a shopping mall here so they're a bit unavoidable. On the plus side, Indian food and curries are huge here, as in Britain, which they are not in Denver, so I will have my fill before I return home.

And finally, two words I've heard spoken here which I've not heard before: naff (lame or stupid), and lodgement (deposit of funds).

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Overheard on an Airplane

En route to a month in Dublin, Ireland! I received a travel fellowship to work on my music there for the month of June, and in particular I'll be focusing on a new piece for electronics. I hope to get some prep done for a large research paper as well, and study up for teaching next year (I'm assigned to teach the Intro to Music Tech course) and prepare for my doctoral comprehensive exams. So in other words, lots to do. This of course amidst also trying to have a bit of vacation, traveling around and seeing old friends.

I overheard two great things on a flight from Charlotte, NC to the Dublin Airport. One, a little girl, about three years old, singing to herself a familiar children's tune, which took an unexpected turn:

Girl: "Rockabye baby, on the treetop, where does this go, probably over to the tea party..."

And secondly, two flight attendants, talking to each other:
Flight attendant 1: "He had something bad written on his T-shirt. I think he had to turn it inside out."
Flight attendant 2: "I didn't catch what the shirt said."
Flight attendant 1, whispering: "I did, it said, stick it up the butt."