Music trail to provide 'soundtrack to the city'


NET RESULTS:The Contemporary Music Centre is set to bring music to smartphones and headsets in the city, writes KARLIN LILLINGTON

AN EXPERIMENTAL music trail in Dublin for the next 10 days will bring music from contemporary Irish composers direct to smartphone headsets when people stand in certain locations around the city centre.

The project, sponsored by the Contemporary Music Centre, is called “Music in the Historic Quarter” – the “historic quarter” being the name given to the area that encompasses Temple Bar up to St Patrick’s Cathedral and across to Dublin Castle.

“The project is really focusing on the rich musical history in the quarter,” says Karen Hennessy, the promotion manager for the Contemporary Music Centre (CMC). It brings together an interesting blend of traditional classical through to contemporary music, some performed live at venues such as the quarter’s cathedrals and outdoor gardens.

But the key piece for the CMC is the chance to introduce strolling visitors to unexpected snatches of music by contemporary Irish composers which will be piped through speakers at some locations, and also delivered to smartphones for private listening, at those spots plus additional locations.

The smartphone selections require an Apple iPhone or a Google android-based handset. With these, anyone can download an application developed for the CMC by apps developer Brian Solon which will be automatically triggered to deliver a piece of music when a person walks to the correct location.

The handset will also display each music point location automatically on Google maps and give the visitor directions to get to the next point on the trail. It’s a simple location-based application that Hennessy hopes will expose listeners to new composers and fresh music of a type they may not have heard before.

Five locations, ranging from the gardens besides the Chester Beatty Library to the front of the Civic Offices in Christchurch are included on the trail. At each, there will be a small stand with explanatory information about that music point. “The music will automatically start playing once you arrive at those locations,” says Hennessy.

But because not everybody has a smartphone, three of the locations will include recorded music played through speakers between 1pm to 4pm daily. So, don’t be too shocked if you come across music wafting out of the shrubberies, she says.

Though they are contemporary works, the pieces chosen all have a Viking or medieval connection suited to the historical background of the quarter, chosen as the theme for the event. The pieces were chosen by a panel that looked at all the pieces in the collection of the CMC, narrowed them down to a shortlist based on whether they were appropriate to that theme, and then picked the final cut.

Hennessy sees the event as a way of bringing contemporary music to an audience that may have never heard it before, or may find it too intimidating to attend a formal sit-down concert.

“It’s really to bring what can sometimes seem . . . [a] niche area of music out to the public. It’s bringing music out on the streets in a way that’s accessible,” she says. “When you have music out on the street like this, it’s almost like a soundtrack to the city and to what’s going on.”

People might have a set idea that contemporary music is too challenging or difficult, she says, without realising that they have actually heard and liked contemporary music as, say, backdrop music to a film. Allowing it to become the background music to the city may offer a fresh way for newcomers to encounter such music. If people don’t like a particular piece, they can move on to the next, she says.

“And it’s free, which is always a good way for people to feel they’re not taking too many risks.”

But the CMC also sees using a smartphone app as a way of linking in to a newer generation and the way they want to consume music.

“It’s just tapping into the next wave of what’s coming, the whole download generation,” she says. “There is a whole demographic around using smartphones. We’re trying to access that, to show that it’s not all pop and rock out there.”

The idea evolved out of a notion that Hennessy had for a long time to deliver music in this format. A smaller version was tried out in 2006, for the 20th anniversary of the CMC, though it was limited to music in their own offices – but it had a very good response, she says.

When Dublin City Council issued a call for outdoor events about a year ago, the CMC lodged a proposal for the music trail.

In addition to the five locations to visit with the smartphone app – three of them also playing recorded music – there are 14 live events bringing in everything from choral evensong at Christ Church, excerpts from Mozart’s Don Giovannito Anuna, the Christ Church bellringers, traditional music, and the wonderfully titled Star Wars and Rude Noisesorgan recital by Stuart Nicholson at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Full information on the programme is available on the web from\musictrail. The listening application can be downloaded from this evening, with the music trail available from tomorrow until September 1st.