DORDÁN (2013) by Jennifer Walshe for clarinet, trombone, guitar, cello, double bass and DVD. Commissioned by the Arts Council of Ireland for Quiet Music Ensemble. 35’
Two short videos about the piece and a full-length performance documentation:
DORDÁN draws on the work of Irish outsider artists Pádraig Mac Giolla Mhuire and Caoimhín Breathnach, both of which are alter egos of Jennifer Walshe.
In 2009 Irish musicologist Antoinne Ó Murchú was digging through the archives of the Irish Folklore Commission when he came across a set of bizarre recordings made in Cork in 1952. The only information noted on the tapes was “Pádraig Mac Giolla Mhuire”. As Ó Murchú listened to the recordings, he immediately recognized them as a precursor of late 20th-century minimalism. Ó Murchú noted “I was shocked and immensely excited....layers of grinding drones from the fiddle and accordion with a tin whistle whirling above like some demented Eric Dolphy solo.....to think that the roots of minimalism could lie in Irish outsider culture..."
Ó Murchú discovered that Pádraig was born in New York in 1923, the son of Michael and Maggie, who had immigrated there from Cork. After Michael’s death from tuberculosis in 1950, Maggie and Pádraig returned to Ireland. Back in Cork, Pádraig began playing with local musicians, developing a style of playing he titled “dordán” after the Irish word for drones. Ó Cinnéide, one of Pádraig’s musical collaborators from this time, has described how “he was a soft, kind lad with a strange ear...he wanted to get rid of everything except for the held notes of the pipes...no tunes, no chanter, just the drones...truth to tell, it was a very quare sound...”
Caoimhín Breathnach lived in Knockvicar, Co. Roscommon, as a recluse for most of his life. Upon his death in 2009, a huge archive, including diaries, drawings, photographs and tapes was found in his cottage. The main focus of Caoimhín’s artistic practice was the creation of “subliminal tapes.” Caoimhín’s techniques involved recording sounds onto cassette tapes as well as subjecting the tapes to a wide range of physical processes, such as burying, burning or encasing them in various materials such as velvet, paper or moss. He believed the tapes could heal and enable the listeners to access other dimensions.”