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Michael Gallen appointed as Trinity Long Room Hub Artist in Residence

Michael Gallen at his desk in the Trinity Long Room HubComposer Michael Gallen has been named Artist in Residence at the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute as part of a progamme being piloted during 2015-16.

The Creative Arts Practitioner in Residence programme is a new initiative by the Trinity Long Room Hub to bring together artists and researchers to help interrogate, showcase and communicate Arts and Humanities research in novel and imaginative ways. Michael explains: ‘I think that the value of this residency, from the university’s perspective, is that it gives an opportunity to show how artistic work can engage people in ideas in diverse and unique ways.’

Michael’s background as a composer, musician, PhD student and graduate in philosophy and English make him well-placed to engage with the interdisciplinary environment at Trinity Long Room Hub. He has been a PhD student in Music with the School of Drama, Film and Music at Trinity College Dublin and based in the Hub for the past three years.

Crossing disciplinary boundaries

During the period of the residency Michael will produce two works stemming from the Hub’s interdisciplinary environment, drawing inspiration from a community of over 50 research scholars nominated to the Hub by Trinity’s nine Arts and Humanities Schools. ‘The idea is that the first piece will respond to research being worked on within the Hub while the second piece will be a larger, more university-wide project’. As Michael explains: ‘the aim is that my creative work will be inspired or informed by research that’s happening in the university and involve other researchers in the creative process. The work that I produce will act as a type of portal, introducing the audience to fields of research that they might not normally encounter, and also introducing these fields of research to each other in a novel way.’

He is particularly interested in how unexpected links between different research topics can provide the most interesting material. ‘For the first piece, I will be working with researchers from linguistics, theology and psychoanalysis, and the idea is to follow the threads between their highly specific topics and to see where they might lead creatively. I like the idea that the performance event can also have several dimensions; you’ll have a piece of music or an installation, but you’ll also have several paths that you can trace back out of it that might lead you to the Jung/White letters, or to language politics on the Spanish-Basque border, or to some strange point in between the two. My collaborators will be as much a part of the eventual piece as I will, and it will hopefully be a lovely opportunity for them to explain their work to a captive audience.”

Challenging live performance

Michael GallenAt the Hub, he has found inspiration in discussions and interactions with other researchers carrying out studies in very diverse fields; the composer believes music and live performance have the potential to draw a public audience in to discover this research.

Michael’s own research at Trinity is concerned with the strategies that enable new methods and forms of multidisciplinary collaboration, and focuses in particular on the temporalities of different art forms. He explains: “One of the challenges when working as a composer with contemporary dance, for example, relates specifically to time. Musical performers onstage can often seem less present than the dancers, trapped in musical time and seeming to inhabit a totally different world. Furthermore, there’s the issue of subtlety of musical composition vs. malleability; choreographers can often change a scene on the day of the performance, so either you’ve made music that can be easily transformed, or you run the risk of your most prized compositions getting cut. So the question becomes: ‘how then can I change the music composition process so that it maps the choreographical process a bit more?’’ Michael discusses how 2014’s TARDIGRADE, a critically-acclaimed collaboration with choreographer Philip Connaughton, gave him the opportunity to address some of these issues. “I’d compose a section and then start working backwards, seeing how I could get to the same point but using different components. In the end, every singer and performer would be given a rudimental language of their own - a series of simple phrases that in various combinations would produce diverse harmonies and soundworlds. It allowed me to get the musicians off-score much earlier in the rehearsal process, and to allow the music to grow in the rehearsal room in response to the development of Philip’s choreography”.

Below: Tardigrade, Michael Gallen’s collaboration with choreographer Philip Connaughton which was performed at the Trinity Museum in 2014

Michael considers his research as being centered around the experience of the audience and how this has changed, or is changing: ‘I think there are more demands in terms of how to engage an audience because culture has become so visual and so immediate – particularly for music, to get people to sit in a room and listen, is probably more difficult than before because of how attention spans have been affected by digital media. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a chance for musicians to rethink the traditional structures of performance.’

Public Dialogue

In terms of his role as Artist in Residence at the Trinity Long Room Hub, he feels his own research and practice can act as a bridge between the university and the public. ‘Particularly considering Trinity’s position in the center of the city, the potential for it to be fully engaged with what’s going on in the city and responding to that context is significant. For the university to be what universities were supposed to be when they were being founded hundreds of years ago, different disciplines should have an impact upon each other and that synergy should spill out into the society in which the university is based.’ Gallen is provocative when he asserts that more energy needs to be put into making the research visible, both across the university and to a public audience.

Trinity College Dublin Arts and Humanities Research Showcase on October 27th 2015Michael has been involved for the past two years in Discover Research Night, an annual event hosted by Trinity College Dublin as part of European Researchers Night. As part of this event, his composition ‘Difference in Clouds’ for Tardigrade was performed at Trinity Museum Building in 2014 and in 2015 Michael's band Ana Gog performed in the Trinity College Chapel. He also performed excerpts from his compositional work at the recent showcase of Trinity’s Arts and Humanities research themes, which are supported by the Hub. Of the experience he says: ‘I felt that the event showcased the incredible quality of research being done in Trinity. I would like to see more events directly stemming from these projects.’

The Trinity Long Room Hub has now launched an open call for its 2016-17 Creative Arts Practitioner in Residence programme, please click here for further information.

To visit Michael Gallen's website, please click here.