Más an Tiompáin
by Cormac Begley
Since lockdown, I've spent over 6 months at home in Paróiste Mórdhach, West Kerry. This time has been invaluable. It has allowed me not only to reconnect with my family, neighbours and friends, but also with the Irish language, nature and the landscape.
I've spent much of my time walking the hills and mountains that surround me. These mountains give me the impression that they have witnessed, remember and contain within them the history of this area. In many ways they hold an authority, and shape how we have evolved and live. When commissioned to compose an original piece of music based on the pandemic, it seemed fitting that I look towards the mountains for inspiration. If they could speak to us, what would they say and what advice would they give to us about this period of our history?
Paróiste Mordhach is in the heart of the Gaeltacht of West Kerry. It is a parish rich in history, language, music, singing and spirit. It is situated to the west and directly below Mount Brandon. Every section of this mountain has a placename, and one particular section takes its name from one of the world's oldest musical instruments. ’Más an Tiompáin’; ’An Tiompáin' is the Irish word for 'Jews Harp' (or jaw/mouth harp) and 'Más' is an Irish word meaning 'hind or cheek' and it describes the curvature of the jews harp. Whomever named this section of Mount Brandon was certainly familiar with the instrument and nowadays in this parish, direct descendants of the jews harp - the concertina and accordion - are regularly heard played.
While on my walks I began to imagine how the outline of the mountains and cliffs would sound if they could be captured in a piece of music, their peaks, ridge slope and base. So, I decided to trace the outline of 'Más an Tiompáin’, its curvature and place that drawing onto a music score, a staff notation, and I used it to generate the starting phrase of notes for this composition. Using this technique, the shape of our landscape is given voice and I imagine it could be an interesting tool for anyone to use to engage with their surroundings and musical composition.
Shine, August 2020
Shine, August 2020