I think music has gradually become more and more important to me over the course of my life. The longest-running and most important music for me is the bells. I was taught English change-ringing by my mother when I was a young boy, in Fawley, Hampshire. I rang at Iffley village in Oxfordshire when I lived there; more recently I was vice-captain of the band in St Andrews, Scotland, and did a lot of teaching there as well. I have been elected as the 2022 Northern District Ringing Master in the Irish Association of Change Ringers, and I am now ringing regularly with the band at Lurgan.
When I was at university, I discovered archaeology, and traditional music, and the harp. These in combination have guided my musicking since then. Archaeology of music leads on to organology and ethnomusicology; archaeology and reconstructionism saw me working with early-medieval lyres and other strange ancient things.
Music archaeology also informed my long involvement with trying to reconstruct medieval Gaelic harp music. In 2006-7 I commissioned a detailed “archaeological” reproduction of the 14th century Scottish Queen Mary clarsach preserved in the National Museum of Scotland, which I used to explore possible re-imaginings of medieval West Highland music, including an exploration of the pibroch or ceòl mór repertory of the bagpipes.
Studying music such as pibroch, and Ossianic ballads, led me to work more with old oral tradition music. I was inspired by the Scandinavian bowed-lyre or Jouhikko traditions. I also got a fiddle and learned the rudiments of playing. I was involved with the traditional music scene at the Wighton Centre in Dundee.
I also have dabbled in experimental electronic music composition. I have long been curious about the pure impersonal digital world, and how it contrasts with the messy reality of living in the physical and biological mess of life on Earth.
Now I am living in Armagh and working on the old Irish harp music. I am inspired by the landscapes and communities all around. This is the area where the last generations of old harp tradition-bearers were: Patrick Quin, William Carr, Arthur O’Neill. I like to go to their places, to think about their worlds.