Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegan’s Wake – Cork Opera House, 03.11.12

Originally posted on

Words: Vicky Langan

Photography: Brid O’Donovan

Full photoset on here

It was great to come in out of the cold. Almost immediately, I struck up some conversation with an older woman who was also hovering next to the radiator by the front door. Asking her if she was aware that the seating arrangement for tonight was going to be a little unusual, she replied enthusiastically about a play she had seen in the Granary Theatre years ago where “we were all in it together”.
“How did that make you feel?” I asked her, “Were you self conscious or did it feel electric?”
“Oh no, I didn’t mind at all. It was fun. I was well able for any surprises.”

The back bar was full of excited faces and plastic pints. We downed our drinks and headed up the stairs to the stage where we entered an all-black rectangle, walled on one side and cordoned off with sheer black material on the other. In each of the four corners of the space were four medium-sized plinths, a spotlit chair on each of them. In the dead centre of the room sat a spotlit chair and a small desk (on which lay Cage’s score to Roaratorio, open on the second section of the piece).

The lightest of purplish mists hung in the air which added to the feeling of having collectively lost our bearings. I couldn’t tell where I was in relation to the main stage or the Half Moon Theatre. Where was backstage? What was behind the wall? There wasn’t time to figure it out. People quickly took up the seating along the edges of the space, others sat on the floor. A man sat in a meditative posture and bowed his head, quietly preparing for the performance. The four musicians emerged and took their seats. The tape recordings began. I looked up and noticed the rig above us, the speakers spread out and pointing downwards, with one suspended squarely above the empty chair in the middle of the space.

The room swelled with Cage’s sprechstimme, himself softly lilting the text, stretching out consonants, burring and enunciating syllables like soothing incantations. Recordings of water, women, men, carillon, birds, singing, laughing, dancing music, babies crying, gulls, wailing, rattles, explosions, shouts, cries, banging, barking, bleating, purrs, mewing, children singing, and motor engines lapped and curled through the haze.

People seemed a little too shy to be the first to break through the empty space and experience the fuller sound by walking around the room, but it didn’t take long before the space was filled with tranced listeners, brushing sleeves with strangers and winding their own path around the black box, occasionally stopping, with a bowed head or the opposite, shoulders back, head up, positively *receiving* the sound from above. At one point, an almost full circle had formed around Cage’s chair and desk, where the sound of the text was at its strongest.

Paddy Glackin’s warmth cut through the clamour like a hot knife through a lump of Kerrygold. Seamus Tansey on flute, his hornpipe tonguing bending around the corners of Liam O’Flynn’s slow air notes. Mel Mercier’s rhythms stopping everybody in their slow tracks… I was experiencing that manic feeling of being taken away when things were really pounding. There were moments of such intensity that it felt on par with some of the most affecting noise shows I’ve experienced. My skin crackled, I felt sound rush past me as though I were on the street. At times I was nowhere but my own head. A young couple lay on a bed of coats at Liam O’ Flynn’s feet. Life was all around us. Emotionally, I found it to beyond moving and joyous, other times completely ordinary, maybe surreal. I was fighting tears, trying to hold it together for a lot of the performance, especially when Peadar Mercier’s drumming or Joe Heaney’s voice would surface. We were all in it together, we were in a hundred different places.

The Wire - Global Ear - Cork - August 2011

The Wire's Global Ear visits Cork in their August 2011 issue. Daniel Spicer takes a look at the Quiet Club, Strange Attractor, Black Sun (Cork), Wölflinge, SAFE, Vomit Nest, The Guesthouse, National Sculpture Factory, Sonic Vigil and the Crawford Art Gallery.

The End of Black Sun. This Sat: With Lumps, Woven Skull & more.

Hullo all!

This will be the final Black Sun music-event in Cork, for the foreseeable future at least. Those keeping an eye on us last week will have seen the news that we're teaming up with the Triskel Arts Centreto continue our programming of experimental cinema. If you live in Ireland, please take a minute to check out our first programme! We're as proud as anything to be presenting day-long events devoted exclusively to experimental cinema at Triskel Christchurch.

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Black Sun Cinema: A Day of Experimental Film at Triskel Christchurch

Presented in association with Triskel Christchurch, Black Sun, Cork’s weirdo/outer limits music/film event, is presenting a day of unsettling experimental film, a host of rare cinematic shadows flickering mysteriously at the darker fringes of the mind. On a Sunday afternoon this August (date will be confirmed next week), adventurous souls seeking haven from the harsh summer light will find sanctuary in Triskel’s Christchurch Cinema as three programmes of hauntingly dreamlike avant-garde visions fall through the church’s muffled darkness to take possession of all present:

- American underground legend James Fotopoulos’ feature The Nest (2003) “offers up a bleak and cryptically funny assault on suburban anomie… Fotopoulos creeps around the edges of character and drama, conjuring moods of paranoia and dread that suggest the carefully ordered routines of daily life are a kind of opiate administered by sinister forces. Shooting in harsh 16mm color, Fotopoulos renders The Nest in a typically Spartan, forbidding style that makes it seem as though he is some extraterrestrial visitor photographing humans for the first time.” (Scott Foundas, Variety) Ideal mind-warping viewing for admirers of David Lynch who think they’ve seen everything...

- Frans Zwartjes is arguably Holland’s preeminent experimental filmmaker. His highly stylised, poetically claustrophobic films achieve a unique level of sensual intimacy in their renditions of sexual and domestic tension, and voyeurism. These wordless works draw on performance art but are equally distinguished by their oneiric visuals, disconcerting editing rhythms and hypnotically minimal sound design. Once Zwartjes has caressed the surface of your eyeballs, you will never see cinema in the same way again. Black Sun will present a mini-retrospective of five of his most accomplished short films from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

 - And three of Ireland’s most uncompromising contemporary experimental filmmakers, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Dean Kavanagh and Black Sun film programmer Maximilian Le Cain, will be on hand to present a series of their more disturbing short films. Strange atmospheres, tense self-portraits, troubled meditations on the ghostly power of cinema itself… Filmmaking at its most eerie and obliquely personal.

 Although best known as an experimental music event, Black Sun is also Cork’s only year-round platform for screening experimental film. For over two years, Black Sun’s film programmes have given Cork an all-too-rare taste of the more far-out side of cinema. It has established an impressive track record of world-class film programming, introducing Irish audiences to the work of several major underground filmmakers for the first time. This is the first of what will become regular Black Sun events devoted exclusively to film.