2015 Wind-up

Hi there,

I imagine this will be my last update for 2015.  It’s been a fairly busy year, all in all. The big news is that my album, Australian Waters, is finally finished. Yay! I currently have five boxes of them cluttering up my house. I’m very happy with how they’ve turned out all in all. You can have a listen to a few tracks and place an order right here.

I have one last major gig for the year, which should be quite an experience. It’s called Domicile, directed by Aviva Endean, and involves a number of other performers occupying a beautiful house in Calrton over the first weekend in December. I’ll be playing Vinko Globokar’s bizarre and brilliant ?Corporel which has been on my bucket list for a while now. You can find details in the Gigs section.

Some interesting things on the horizon for next year so stay tuned.





Well, after three very productive days of recording in the wilds of West Footscray, I think we have an album! Mixing, editing and mastering will take a little while longer than expected but I’m hoping for a release and launch in November. Stay tuned for more details. Below are some photos from the recording (courtesy of Myles Mumford).

While that keeps ticking along, I’ve got a reasonably busy month coming up. I’ll be playing at La Mama Musica on  Monday 21 September, both solo and duo with Sarah Wilmot. Things are still taking shape, but I think I’m planning to collide a couple of 17th century Irish laments at high speed to see what happens…

Following that is a performance for the Melbourne Fringe Festival, playing a new graphic score by Miranda Hill. And then an evening of solo piping at Farouk’s Olive on 3 October with another set from the remarkable Ysk Lightspeed Chamber. And to round things off a concert of old and new music for uilleann pipes at Melba Hall for the Melbourne University lunchtime recital series. I’ll be joined by Allan Evans and Cameron Hibbs to form Trioc for that last one. Details are appearing now in the Gigs section.


trioc studio studio 2


Mid-year Update

Embarassingly long radio silence there but here goes with a mid-July update. First up, I’m recording my first uilleann piping album, Australian Waters in late August. And I could use your help! If you’re interested in hearing more check it out at http://www.pozible.com/project/198185/ And if you feel like putting in a pre-order, I’ll be extremely grateful. I’ll keep some updates going about that project…

Also, 5x5x5 is running at the Arts Centre Melbourne again. And I’m part of it. You can listen to my piece, Spaces Without, and the four others at https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/5x5x5 or if you want the full experience come along and stream it in situ. It’s running till 20 September.


The Rolling Wave

Things are gearing up for The Rolling Wave, the culmination of my JUMP mentorship. I’ll be playing a lot of music for solo uilleann pipes, including traditional repertoire and new music by Dave Flynn (Ireland), Jeanette Little and myself. I’m very excited to be presenting this one.

More fun things coming up this year so stay tuned.




Again belated, as I try to resume some semblance of life back in Melbourne. I’m still trying to digest wverything that happened on the trip and to be honest, that’ll take some time yet. But what an experience…. Looking forward to the next one already!

Coming up, I’m doing some solo pipes at Conduit Arts Space on 17 October with some bits and pieces I picked up on the trip and some new things I’m keen to try out including a set with Elliott Flovig on guitars. I’m following that up with something for International Uilleann Piping Day on the 18th – come along to the Lord Newry for some tunes and piping chat. And very much looking forward to heading up to the Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival with the good people of the Australian Art Orchestra, a band I’ve wanted to work with for a long time… Stay tuned!


Shamefully belated update

Okay, the title says it all. Mostly this means I’ve been finding lots of things to occupy me. I spent a lovely week on Achill Island for the Scoil Acla. I was taking piping classes every morning with the wonderful Mick O’Brien and finding plenty of mountains to climb in the afternoons. Being lent (bestowed seems like a more appropriate word) the 19th century Coyne chanter that Willie Clancy played for a lovely B session was a definite highlight of the trip so far.

Another pretty full day of piping with Mikie followed, assembling a program for my gig on the 23rd of August. I’ve never played a solo piping gig that long before so both excited and a little daunted by the prospect. Then off to Dublin where I heard some excellent music, played in some equally excellent sessions and generally made a nuisance of myself. Currently in the awfully scenic tourist trap of Killarney, walking around lakes and stuff.



On Andy Conroy…

Okay, geekiness was promised and here it comes…

I’ve been thinking a good deal lately about certain aspects of rhythm and duration in Irish traditional music, and specifically the uilleann piping tradition. I’ve not gotten far but I’ll share what I’ve been thinking.

This is Andy Conroy. A bizarre and eccentric musical innovator. Not the recording of his I’ve been spending most of my time with but this one is freely available online. I’ve actually done a transcription of this setting of the Dublin Reel. Looks simple enough – quavers, triplets and semiquavers, some (well, mostly) staccato, the odd grace note. I can play my transcription to a reasonable degree of faithfulness (which is no small technical challenge) but it sounds abjectly ridiculous –  it’s completely lacking in the lift and swing that he imparts to that tune. It’s not that my transcription is wrong as such, but it just doesn’t give all the required information.

This is something that conventional Western notation, and every other musical notation system I’m aware of, has no recourse to deal with. I need to assimilate the tiny nuances of rhythm and duration that transform it from a technical exercise into dance music, but these nuances are so small that the quantity of information required to express them in staff notation becomes completely unhelpful. We’re into New Complexity territory if we go there, which is all very well, but it brings the music into a completely foreign conceptual space and one that I think will never actually produce the desired result. What I need is an understanding of style and Conroy was a stylistic law unto himself. I’m not interested in playing exactly like Conroy but I think the closer I can come to understanding how he makes music (not to mention Touhey, Doran, Clancy, Ennis, Reck and the rest of them), the richer my own playing will become.

I’m not pretending that this is fundamentally different from playing bass in a funk band, or stride piano, or Balinese gamelan. If you get the subtleties of rhythm even minutely wrong in any of these styles you end up with music that is stilted, lifeless, humourless and banal. Whereas if you get Ferneyhough wrong no-one will even notice…


Post-Willie Week

Back in Limerick now after a week in Miltown Malbay for Willie Week. What a ridiculous overdose of music, learning and fun. I think I made the most of the opportunity, taking classes with the wonderful Brian McNamara and Peter Browne, hearing some amazing music at both formal and informal gatherings, and making some less amazing music myself until the early hours. A week very, very well spent on the whole.

Back to the practice room for the next few days, trying to make sense of several gigabytes of music I recorded over the week. And then another mad event! I can feel a properly geeky post coming on in the next day or two as well.


Limerick I

I’m writing this from Limerick where I’ll be based for the next couple of months. I’ve just had a very intensive three days of piping with Mikie, which has been amazing (with a side of depressing). Amongst other things we tried to correct six years worth of bad habits, get my pipes playing to our satisfaction and assemble a set list for a solo show I’m doing before I leave. Some serious challenges in there which is always welcome.

I also had to pleasure of sitting in on a very fine session at Flannery’s and seeing an equally excellent gig featuring Matt Molloy, John Carty and friends at University of Limerick. Some effortless and beautiful music making there. This weekend marks the start of the Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy (aka Willie Week) in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, the biggest event of the summer school season. Thoroughly looking forward to many, many, many tunes and a certain quantity of wild hedonism. I’ll try to post something from there.



Welcome to the first post of my Ireland blog, which has something of an identity crisis seeing as I’m posting from London. For those who haven’t heard I received a JUMP Mentoring grant to travel to Ireland and study the uilleann pipes with the wonderful Mikie Smith of Limerick. Massive thanks to the Australia Council for the Arts and Next Wave for their support.

I’ll be updating fairly frequently with what I’m doing, what I’m working on and what I’m thinking. That could be anything from brain-numbing minutiae of piping technique to overarching issues of tradition, identity and aesthetics. Also occasional cheesy tourist snaps!

Anyhow, here I am in London trying to recalibrate my body clock and prevailing on the hospitality of Jeanette Little, who’s composing a piece for solo uilleann pipes for me. More on that soon I imagine. But today I’m off to look at old things at the British museum following by Irish tunes in Camden Town.