Month 14 | Summer
The Pixel Trade has allowed for many great photographic projects to happen in all parts of the world and in all areas of life. I’ve attempted to write a brief summary about each one in my sporadic style of confusing analogies. For the trade with Fiona however I cannot do this. Fiona's project, Heterodyne, needs to be understood in the clearest of words for one to know how incredibly great it is. So I copied this from her website and interviewed her as part of our trade. Go to the projects website here and then listen to the first composition created for Military Road in Ireland here.
“Heterodyne is a project that scores roads and other journeys with original site-specific audio compositions. Through a collaborative process, artist Fiona Hallinan researches and selects specific locations, then invites composers to create sound pieces for them.
Heterodyne sets out to create an anthology of site-specific audio pieces for infrastructure throughout Ireland and internationally. These scores are stored and made accessible through a location-based mobile application.”
We photographed another journey for the next audio compositions, in the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland.
Interview with Fiona
Describe your most memorable adventure as a child.
There was a lot of finding, climbing and other outdoor explorations but a very memorable and formative adventure was one to do with my first experience using the internet. We were one of the first families in my neighbourhood to get a dial-up connection. At the time I recall the internet and those who used it being regarded as somehow sinister or suspicious to most people I knew. I was enthralled in a secretive way, and used to wait until my brother had left the room to go online and use chatrooms to initiate conversations with strangers. The only websites we knew at the time were US-based and the one we frequented was ESPN, a sports page. I would go and chat inanely with men in America about sports that I had no interest in, purely for the excitement of interaction.
One day I started talking to someone who it turned out was not from the US, but from Ireland. Not only from Ireland, from Cork, the city I grew up in. And not only that, it transpired he was from the same village I lived in. I immediately suggested he leave me a gift somewhere to collect. It was a naive suggestion, yet I knew enough not to want to let my parents know about this clandestine arrangement. It seemed however like the right time to reveal my online life to my friends.
Soon every 11-14 year old in my town knew about this wonder: a stranger from the suspect world of the internet was going to leave a gift for someone they knew. A sort of sceptical mob quickly formed, and we marched down to the arranged drop-off point. In my newfound smallworld fame I was starting to feel strange feelings of fear and culpability for the reputation of my internet friend. What if he had left something that would be deemed weird and the mob turned? I remember feeling strangely responsible for his reputation and that of the larger world of the internet as a whole. I overheard speculation from my peers 'I bet it's that guy who lives in his mother's house in the old village,did you hear about this time he...'. It turned out what he left in our designated spot was a small stuffed hippotamus in a striped dressing gown, which I still have to this day. I feel hopeful that my peers left that day with a confused but optimistic feeling about strangers and the outside world.
When was the moment that you realised how great music was?
I'm not sure there was an explicit moment. Music has always been there in my life and I have always been mesmerised by its power to change atmosphere. The albums that my parents played over and over in my home growing up will always prop up the foundations of my memories. I noticed as a teenager that I would listen to music in a way to alter my state of mind, or come to understand things, in an almost ritualistic way. There were some defining moments though when I realised how amazing music could be at transforming a moment, and I became fascinated by the idea of how music is altered by its context. One was a roadtrip in Iceland, driving with five friends over four hours from Reykjavik to a small town called Skagastrond in the Northwest.
My pal Kate brought us in advance to a couple of record stores and we had bought five CDs of music we'd never heard of from Iceland. Playing these new sounds over the drive and allowing them to define our experience of the landscape was a huge influence on Heterodyne. It occurred to me that the ways in which we listen to music are so important, that media informs those ways, and that it could be exciting to create a platform for the generation of site-specific soundscapes.
What about art is important to you?
Art is that thing that goes between us in a way we can't explain.
Where do you want the Heterodyne project to grow to?
I'd like it to grow and change a lot in ways that I don't yet know. An important part of the project is that it is informed by the people that are involved. At one stage in its formation Heterodyne was a PhD proposal. I didn't succeed in getting funding for that, but now it makes me really glad that the project doesn't need to culminate in a fixed text or finished piece. By its nature it is an evolving project: new people bring new sites, and new sites bring new people. Right now I'm looking at making scores for a scenic flight over Ireland's west coast, a ferry crossing of the Bosphorus in Istanbul and a motorway in Ireland that was a very contentious site when it was first built.
What is the best part about working with musicians & composers?
The best part is the magic of a finished piece you could never, ever predict occurring as a result of a shared starting point. It might be that sound and music are completely inarticulable to me, so the relationship is one of real faith. I don't make music myself. I'm terrible at categorizing or theorizing about music and I don't necessarily strive to, so the way Heterodyne works is that, after the initial constraint of the location decision and timing, the composer has full autonomy in what they create. I like that Heterodyne acts as the first sparking of a relationship, but the material of the music itself is completely the composer's own.
When was the last time you cried?
A week ago I think.
Was there a time that you realised you achieved independence?
There have been times when I've felt aware of my independence in a practical way but a very important thought I've had in recent years is that real independence doesn't really exist. I believe in inter-dependence, in people relying on one another. Right now I feel incredibly lucky to be part of a hugely supportive network of other people, some of whom are featured on this very site.
What is the biggest change you’ve seen in Ireland?
When I was seven years old we lived for a year in New Jersey. There were certain things about life there that seemed starkly different to life in Cork. Expectations, lifestyles and colours. When I say colours I mean that quite literally, as in I remember neon pigments in toys and food in America that I had never seen in Ireland. Now many of those things are similar in Ireland.
Describe your most memorable adventure as an adult.
My work has been and is my most important adventure. It really does seem that way, in that it constantly surprises me and takes me to new places. I love jumping in the sea too and any adventure that culminates in that.
If you had to recommend a favourite music album, what would it be?
There are so many, and to choose one contradicts in some ways my feelings about music in context but a pretty consistent favourite is Graceland by Paul Simon.