By Stewart Killeen
“Embracing musical diversity in a cosy environment.”
This is one of the ambitions of the Dublin-based Listen at project: a monthly ensemble of new music, sonic art, and spoken word from some of Ireland’s most talented musicians and artists.
Listen at has occupied many residences since its launch in 2012 in the Lilliput Press, Stonybatter, in line with its other ambition to expand the project across both the city and the country. Previous venues have included The Wellington on Baggot St., The Bello Bar in Portabello, and their current residency, and home of many exceptional new music projects, Arthurs of Thomas St.
This “collaborative evening of music and spoken word” has featured some of Ireland’s most interesting and creative of artists, including Rebecca Collins, Dylan Tighe, Paul Roe, Izumi Kimura, and Billy O’Hanluain to name but a few.
Indeed, Listen at seeks to bring a broad and diverse mix of creative talent together so much so that even the flyers and posters for this “eclectic” monthly night feature artwork from visual artist John O’Reilly and graphic designer Peter Murray.
On attending one of the recent Listen at evenings at the Wellington, I was impressed by the range of sonic and artistic display on offer, and I was moved by both the captivating and frivolous mood created by the artists performing. Part founder and current curator of Listen at is Irish musician and composer, and the man behind the jazz group Fuzzy Logic Ensemble, Dylan Ryhart. I caught up with Dylan this week to find out more about this intriguing and inspiring project.
SK: The project has been running for some time now, which I’m sure takes a lot of dedication and time on your part. I’m curious about the impetus for the project, its conception, and how you have continued to sustain it since?
DR: I got involved in the project simply because I wanted to create an environment where audiences could experience lots of new music. Someone who enjoys one genre of music could come along and hear their favourite act and also something new that they have never checked out before. If they didn’t like it, they only had to wait 20mins for something else, but actually, audiences have really liked the diversity.
I suppose the impetus for continuing and maintaining the project has been the positive response the nights have received. I took over the running of this project from Laura Hyland and Judith Ring and their Listen at Lilliput and I’ve grown it in new directions in the last year, but really it’s a simple idea that I think more people or groups should do in their own areas. I have been very lucky that composers Peter Moran and Kian Geiselbrechtinger have recently joined me in curating and organising the project in it’s new home in Arthurs, on Thomas st. and I know that, with their input, it will develop some more.
SK: You talk about wanting to expand this “ambitious” listen at project across the whole city, and ultimately across the whole country. How do you envision going about realising this ambition, and do you feel there is scope to?
DR: It’s certainly an ambitious project, but I think all it takes is someone to take charge and organise it. I think this is, in fact, a simple idea and really positive for both audiences and artists. The main thing that has made Listen at so successful has been the quality of the acts. The art involved must be of the highest quality, because it’s not an experimental night. Audiences are being exposed to new music and they need their first experience to be an excellent one. That can be a challenge for promoters to maintain and it’s part of the reason that Listen at is a monthly event. It also encourages and inspires artists to get involved in the project if they know that they are in good company and you need them to be inspired by the project because it’s an unusual gig for them and they need to embrace that. I should say that if anyone is interested in taking on a Listen at series, I’d love to hear from them. (get me at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
SK: The range of artists and musicians you showcase are indeed both broad and diverse. How do you go about finding this talent? And is the focus exclusively on Irish talent, or do you hope to include international artists at a later stage?
DR: I suppose I have focused on Irish artists because there is such a wealth of them and I’m so inspired by their work myself. In terms of finding acts, it’s really a combination of artists contacting me, artists I know and respect and recommendations and suggestions. I would like to include more international artists and we do have plans to include some over the next few months, but it’s difficult as we intentionally don’t receive any funding.
SK: The project aims very much at collaboration between artists. To that end have you considered establishing links between Listen at and similar projects that might be running in the country?
DR: I have this vision, and I don’t think I’m the only one: that there would be a number of Listen at events each month across the country, in different cities and towns. This would mean that, as a collective of curators, we could offer artists the option of traveling between events and help in some way to build an audience for that artist and offer audiences artists they wouldn’t have been able to or thought of listening to before. I think this would be amazing and maybe one day it will become a reality.
SK: I have read that your musical and compositional interests are the melodic and rhythmical elements of speech. Is Listen at an exploration of these interests, and do you see a resurgence of the often forgotten art of spoken word?
DR: We certainly have included a lot of poets, speakers and spoken word artists at Listen at, but aside from my own Fuzzy Logic Ensemble performing at the event, it has not been an exploration of my work with speech melody. There are in fact a huge amount of spoken word nights, but very few events include spoken word acts in them and I think that’s a huge shame. It’s such a captivating thing to be spoken to as an audience and I’ve really enjoyed curating this as part of a larger music night.
The next Listen at event will be held at Arthur’s on Thomas St. on Saturday March the 12th from 8pm. The line-up has yet to be confirmed but it promises to include music and performances from Ireland’s creative pioneers. Listen at is an ambitious project but one that seeks to achieve greater collaboration between artists, audiences, and of course the community.
For more information on the Listen at project check out the listen at website at http://www.listen.ie/