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#4 Editing and the 8th amendment event

The financial life of a freelancer in any field can be precarious. That goes double for anyone working in the arts. I’m more of an engineer/craftman than an artist, at least that’s how I consider myself. I eschew the limelight, I play bass, I mean c’mon….I am part artist, but definitely at the reticent introverted end of the performer spectrum . That said, I do enjoy my time onstage. Al long as I get to retreat home shortly thereafter. So, rock and, invariably, swiss roll. That said, I don’t get stagefright (usually). So, in order to have a more regular income, part of my strategy was to cultivate “regular” gigs to keep my financial ship steady. I’m very fortunate that for the last year, one of my regular gigs (in between music, webseries, audiobooks, podcast, scores and other audio short films) is that of audio video technician in Dublin’s Science Gallery. You can find out more about it here

At these events I do sound, lighting and video for various events, most of the time in the Paccar theatre, which seats 144. The sound is routed through a very nice Midas Venice 32 channel analogue desk. Lights and external audio is controlled via AMX, the microphones are shure radio handhelds and DPA headsets, lecturn omni mics, D&B PA. All very nicely maintained. I also set up cameras for live streaming of events to Facebook.

This evening (Wednesday 16/May/2018 at the time of writing), I am here at one such event. I’m all set up, and I’m taking a moment to update you, gentle reader, on my goings on. Holy Father, it has been more than one month since my last blog update. I’ve been very busy you see. I’ve been recording lots of music, I’ve been booked to produce audio mixes for an online charity campaign, and a short film for which I’ve done score, sound design and dialogue editing (ADR session next week). Of course there’s been the live work and gallery work a few times a week. There’s also been the extra work on the house. Now that it is May, our climate seems to have given up on spring altogether and is attempting, with shaky results, to stage a nascent summer. It’s very sunny today but there’s white tops on the water and a chill breeze coming in off it. My car temperature reads 11 C (barely into the 50’s Fahrenheit). So far, somewhat uncertain, but we have made something of the nice weather, even though I’ve had to spent a fair chunk of it indoors in order to meet deadlines. As I told my latest client, “I have a mouth to feed”. Anyway, blog time has been tight, so it must be snatched at moments such as these, in the the long dark tea-time of the soul in between set-up and showtime.

One of my duties over the last month was to compose a score for a short film, about which I hope to tell you more later this year. It’s been a challenge, in the absolute best sense of the word. As well as music, and sound design, I also had to do clean up and restoration of the dialogue. It was fine tooth-comb work. I spent a day on composing the score having previously decided what instruments I was going to use. The score was ambient electronic, with solina strings and arpeggiated delays….more than a nod to early 80’s Vangelis. I also produced some rather delightfully cheesy and fun 90’s style techno, which was actually featured as diagetic music inside a car. It was fun adding filters and equalisation as the techno, supposedly playing on the car radio, was subjected to interior and exterior POVs and doors opening and closing. However, as the project went through a few revisions, most of the score I had composed was lost. Even though we (client and I ) both loved it. In the end, the audio playing over the credit sequence was of wind , waves lapping against a shore and car indicators (the latter two recorded by me in the early hours at the shore on a windless Skerries night). Various referring to the process of excising beloved material from the final cut of a production, whatever the medium, have been coined. Something may have “ended up on the cutting room floor” but this applies also to material that has been deemed unworthy or surplus to requirement. However, one phrase that resonates with me at this time, to describe to deletion of beloved material is “killing the babies” - the babies in this case being beloved scenes, moments, music cues, full songs etc. that, with a wrench of the heart, one realises must go, or no longer fits. Perhaps the material will be recycled for something else one day, or merely used in portfolio.

(inset - early morning (3am) recording of car engine and sea shore sounds for a short film)

Perceptive readers may see where this is going. (This is where I finished last week, and now, almost a week later, I’m grabbing a few minutes to finish this blog). You see, in Ireland later this week, the nation votes in a constitutional referendum to retain or repeal the 8th amendment to our constitution, which was voted for in 1983. This effectively made abortion illegal in Ireland. This has been an emotive topic and a “hot potato” issue politically - so much so that even with the 8th amendment added to the constitution, the Irish executive has been historically loath to pass, or even propose supporting legislation until women have actually died, and the resulting public pressure leaves them with no choice but to be seen to do something. The amendment, as I understand it, equates the rights to the unborn to the rights of the mother. Such a simple statement but with wide ranging effects. Now, I don’t have much skin in this game. I’m a straight married white male, father to 3 and a half cats, child-free (as we like to say) and...really, I think I’m about as much insulated from the horrific reality of what some women have to go through as is possible. But I have a vote, and I intend to use it. I’ve checked that I’m on the register, and I’m locked and loaded for Friday. I have friends who will vote no, and friends that will vote yes. I’m not in a position really to advocate one side or the other, all I’ll advocate is tolerance of differences of opinion, futile though that may be. I remember the viciousness of the 1983 campaign, even though I was just 8 years old with scant understanding of the issue. I think this time it’s been more reasonable, but in the closing stages of the campaign, tempers are beginning to fray, as was apparently evident on the debate “Claire Byrne Live”. I didn’t see it but there was much coverage and discussion about how chaotic and rancorous it became.

So, it was with some trepidation that I did sound for a public presentation on the 8th amendment by Dr. Rhona Mahony, master of the Irish National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street. I was concerned about what protocols were in place should tempers boil over (or even physical assaults take place). If a disruptive protest took place, when should the police be called - should they be on alert and pre-warned about the event. Such is the worry. It was whilst waiting for this event to begin, that I started this blog entry.

(Inset: Dr Rhona Mahony gives a lecture on the 8th Amendment at Dublin’s Science Gallery 16 May 2018).

Looking back to almost a week ago, I needn’t have worried. The audience was impeccably behaved. Some even complained that they were “dead”, but I perceived that they were totally engaged in listening to this woman in a uniquely authoritative position to comment. Which was nice. The lecture wasn’t as well attended as I thought it would, given the interest and online registration. Nevertheless, I think members of the public from both sides were present. Some people left early, some complained that both sides of the argument weren’t represented. However, this was never the intention off the event. It was never going to be a debate, just the viewpoint of a highly qualified individual. I think some people treat the whole thing like a spectator sport and want to see two warring factions thrash it out for their own entertainment. But this event was solely about the master of our national maternity hospital, who has more personal, professional academic and legal experience of this issue, giving her view on the matter. She unequivocally advocated a yes vote. With a few days to go to the vote, many people are still turning over thoughts in their head, still unsure. Regardless of your position regarding this vote, if you wish to be more informed, I would advise you to watch the first 30 minutes of this video (link below) , and perhaps the following interview. Well, it cleared some things up for me.

I just get the feeling that we are not doing enough to listen to, or safeguard the physical and mental well-being of women in Ireland. Between the cervical-cancer scandal, the Belfast rape trial, the 8th amendment and the recent death of Jastine Valdez, I really am, probably far too late, realising that life for the average Irish woman is far more precarious than it is for the likes of me. I mean, I’ve known this, but in this last year, especially in the wake of’s really being brought home.

Let’s talk about the weather, shall we? It’s mid-May and I’m wearing a fleece jacket.

Get out and vote.