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Photo by Mickey Rooney

Map designed by Lisa Gildea

Composition by: Sarah Duffy 

Site-Specific Audio Work


Cill Ard is a musical composition that brings to life the hidden archaeological and geological world of the long-neglected historical, monastic site of Cill Ard. In 2021, I was an International artist-in-residence at Artlink, Fort Dunree. I was keen to investigate how we can detect and reveal the hidden and layered histories of the spaces we inhabit, leading her to a fortuitous meeting with local artist and historian, John McCarron.


As a member of The West Inishowen History and Heritage Society, John McCarron works alongside Archaeologist and society chairman, John Hegarty. In 2021, Hegarty engaged geophysics organisation, Earthsound, to undertake an electromagnetic survey of a field he believed to be the historical site, Cill Ard. For decades, the site’s true identity has remained obscure, but this survey established that it contains the foundations of a significant medieval monastery that was likely attacked by Viking invaders.


I took the electromagnetic data and converted it into musical notes using a process called Data Sonification. This technique is used as an alternative to data imaging, allowing scientists to pick out nuances in the data that cannot reveal themselves in an image. The stark differences in low and high notes throughout the composition represent the changes in soil resistivity as the geophysical instrument moves across the field - the high notes indicating areas of dense soil and stone, and the low notes revealing ditches and loosely packed soil.


For both the 2021 and 2022 Inishowen Walking Festival, I led a group on a trail to listen to the music in situ, from Artlink, Fort Dunree, to a viewing point/listening point overlooking the field of Cill Ard. In 2022, Duffy also launched a map/postcard publication that allows visitors to Fort Dunree to follow the trail to the viewing/listening point in their own time. The music can be downloaded via a QR code on the postcard and then visitors can follow the map to experience this site-specific musical piece for themselves. There is also now a sign located at this viewing/listening point that allows passers-by to learn about the project and download the music directly via QR code.

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