On the first, third and fourth Sunday this June, Robert Coleman brings us on a soundwalk of the River Dodder. He previews the series here
The idea for the River Dodder Soundwalk came about during the Covid lockdowns. In the summer of 2020, I moved back home to Rathfarnham in South Dublin after living in The Hague for 3 years.
Like many other locals in the area, my walks along the Dodder became part of my daily routine. It helped me to disconnect from the stresses of the news and connect to something which felt much deeper. Walking the river brought me a solace, but also a curiosity about the river and everything around it - its wildlife, all these places it flows through and their histories.
In my work as a composer leading up to this, I had been developing more ideas around outdoor site-specific work and sound art and so I felt the seed of something germinating. Luckily around this time South Dublin Arts Office had put out a special call to support specific lockdown projects and this was the push I needed in putting the River Dodder Soundwalk into motion.
The process was quite different for me compared to a lot of my other work, as it involved less time writing music and more time reading and learning about the area and getting out and doing field-recording. This was an approach I really enjoyed and since then has become central to my practice. It's impossible for me now to think about a project without thinking about its context - the place in which it happens, the people that are involved and crucially the ecology and our relationship with the wildlife in the area. I explore all of this through sound as everything here leaves its traces in the soundscape for us to hear if we take the time to listen.
I was fascinated to hear about the Mills of the Dodder that were a mark of a once thriving industry. In 1844 there were 28 mills relying on the water from the Dodder beginning at Oldbawn with many more on other rivers in the area too such as the Owendoher. These days only remnants remain, such as the many weirs you encounter along the Dodder’s course. One of the most interesting facts for me was to learn how the flow of the Dodder was controlled up at the Bohernabreena reservoir. On Sundays when the mills were closed the river’s flow would be reduced to allow water reserves to collect. This highlights the human relationship with nature and how in many cases it has become impossible to distinguish where our manmade world ends, and nature begins.
For me this dichotomy is everywhere and a constant subject of my work. When we start to learn more about the biodiversity crisis, we can see how human activity has shaped it all and has led us to our current situation.
I hope the River Dodder Soundwalk can be a small reminder to listen to our surroundings when we are out and about. Listening brings an understanding, and that’s where a more responsible relationship with nature begins.
The River Dodder Soundwalk will be broadcast on the Lyric Feature on Sunday 4th, 18th and 25th of June at 6 pm.