Web Site:www.prehistoricmusic.com ____________________________________________________________________
My work is the culmination of fifteen years reproducing and musically exploring Irish instruments from prehistory. They range from Late Bronze Age horns to the great Celtic trumpas of the Middle Iron Age and on to wood wind instruments of early Christianity. As no written or oral music survives from these times we can never be sure what was played by the musicians or the circumstances in which instruments were used. My research has however indicated strong possibilities as to the reasons why horns and trumpas were designed and how they may have been played. We have established beyond doubt that these instruments were made as a result of a hitherto unrealized level of expertise and sophistication. It is remarkable that a bronze horn cast 3,000 years ago retains its integrity as a professional instrument and continues to function as a means to evoke the human emotions which are the essence of the universal timeless language that is music. It is interesting to note that musical instruments, which have their origins in prehistory, can evoke such live excitement today.
In the latter half of the 20th Century worldwide interest in pre-historical musical instruments has steadily increased. Surviving instruments are seen as a way to enlarge our knowledge of early peoples who made and played them. Insights can be had into ancient ways of life and living. Ireland’s extensive collection of surviving pre-historic trumpets, horns, bells and others make us unique in the world. These instruments span at least 3,000 years from 2,000 B.C. to 1,000 A.D. and are the product of several distinct cultural ages. Until the mid 1980s only strictly archaeological studies had been carried out on the Bronze Age horns and Iron Age trumpets. Then in 1986 Prehistoric Music Ireland was set up and the first accurate reproductions were made of a pair of bronze horns from Co. Antrim. Almost immediately new and exciting discoveries came to light about how to make and play these instruments. It became clear that a very high level of craftsmanship and intellect would have been required to develop them. Since then Prehistoric Music Ireland has been reproducing and studying Bronze Age horns and Iron Age trumpas including An Trumpa Créda, (loughnashade original), the Ard Brinn (trumpa fada), the Mayophone (Early Medieval free reed horn) from Co. Mayo, crothalls (Bronze Age bells), the Wicklow Pipes (4,000 year old wooden pipes), stone and bone flutes and instruments from abroad including English and Scottish horns and the silver pipes of Ur (Mesopotamia).
The illustration below shows a selection of the instruments.
Adharc – Bronze Age horn (Co. Antrim)
Mayophone – Early Medieval free reed horn. (Co. Mayo)
Crothall – Bronze Age bell (Co. Offlay)
Dord Ard – Bronze Age horn (Co. Antrim)
Loch Erne horn – Early Medieval wooden horn (Co.Fermanagh)
Dord íseal – Bronze Age horn (Co. Kerry)
Adharc – Bronze Age horn (Co. Kerry)
Bodhrán – Irish drum
Trumpa fada – Iron Age Trumpa (Co. Down)
Trumpa Créda – Iron Age trumpa (Co. Armagh)
I have been employed as a heritage specialist by the INTO and The Heritage Council for the past 5 years. This work involves visits to National schools around the country presenting the prehistoric instruments of Ireland. Since my membership began I have visited over 160 schools.
Achievements in soundtrack, composition, performance and recording.
Soundtrack for R.T.E. of ‘A Snail in my Prime’ a poem by Paul Durcan. This was a colabration between composer Michael Holohan and poet Paul Durcan. Music performed by Prehistoric Music Ireland. This composition went on to win the ‘Celtic Music Prize’ at ‘The Celtic Music and Film Festival’ in Quampers, Brittany in France. March 2002
In Search of Ancient Ireland – Documentary with R.T.E. and P.B.S. in America.
Featuring soundtrack of Bronze Age horns. Aired in Ireland, Europe, America and Australia. July 2001
B.B.C. 2 Television - ‘Horizon’ documentary. Featured on and composed music for total soundtrack. December 1994
Film soundtrack for ‘Bogland Exhibition’ in Co. Longford – featuring the Iron Age road. Music composed and played on Bronze Age Irish horns by Simon O’Dwyer. September 1991
R.T.E. Radio 1 – ‘Rattlebag’ – Interview at National Museum of Ireland during Cd launch of ‘Old to New’. November 2002.
2 FM – ‘The Night Train’ – played tracks from new cd ‘Old to New’. November 2002.
Radio na Gaeltachta – played tracks from new cd ‘Old to New’. November 2002.
Lyric F.M. – ‘The Green Room’ – World Music Programme.
Interview and music played by Prehistoric Music Ireland. August 2001.
R.T.E. Radio 1 – ‘Just the Job’ with Mícheál Holmes.
Interview about the work of Prehistoric Music Ireland. June 2001.
R.T.E. Irish Radio Archives – Tony McMahon, interviewed and recorded music of Prehistoric Music Ireland for archival purposes. July 2000.
Music performed by Prehistoric Music Ireland – composed by Michael Holohan for the Paul Durkin poem ‘A Snail in My Prime’. (recited by Paul Durcan). December 2000.
Repeat of above performance. March 2001.
Late Late Show – R.T.E. Irish Television. Launching ‘Prehistoric Music of Ireland’ publication. December 2004.
Euro News – Featured the prehistoric musical instruments as part of the opening of European Heritage Day in Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. September 2003.
Late Late Show – R.T.E. Irish Television. Featuring the Trumpa Créda, Bronze Age horn, Scottish Carnyx and Bodhrán. February 1998.
UTV – Ulster Television News. Featuring the launch of the first reproduction of the Trumpa Créda – Iron Age trumpet from Loughnashade, Co. Armagh. February 1998.
B.B.C. 1 Northern Ireland Television – performance of ‘Interaction’ composed by O’Dwyer/Conyngham/Cullen, featuring the Bronze Age horns of Ireland. October 1994
R.T.E. 1 Irish Television appearance of An Dord Íseal- Bronze Age horn for the May 5000 Celebrations with the National Symphony Orchestra composed by Bill Whelan. June 1993
Late Late Show, R.T.E. 1 Irish Television. Composed and performed ‘Late Late Reel’, featuring original Bronze Age horn, given with kind permission from The National Museum, also featured bouzouki and flute. O’Dwyer/O’Shea/Corey. October 1992.
Special pieces composed for the Bronze Age horns, Iron Age trumpa and Wicklow pipes. ‘What the Yew Tree told me’ – Composed by Michael Holohan. First classical piece composed for the Wicklow pipes (4,000 year old pipes found in Wicklow). Performed at St. Peter’s Church in Drogheda. February 2005.
‘Walking into Eternity’ – Composed by Michael Holohan. Classical piece - performed on trumpa creda at the Botanic Gardens Glasnevin, Dublin. December 2004.
Ard Fearta - Music composed by Fergus Johnston, album entitled Ard Fearta. Featuring Bronze Age horns. Written for the opening of the newly refurbished Ardfert Cathedral, Co.Kerry. April 2001.
Composition by Michael Holohan for the Paul Durkin poem, ‘A Snail in My Prime’, featuring Bronze Age horns and bells, Iron Age trumpa créda, bodhrán, cello, uillean pipes, marimba, flute and voice. December 2000.
Special piece composed by Simon O’Dwyer for the launch of An Trumpa Créda, Iron Age trumpa from Loughnashade, Co. Armagh. Performed at The National Museum of Ireland. February 1999.
Knowth (Spring Equinox) – classical piece dedicated to Prof. George Eoghan by Michael Holohan . Performed at the launch of the first reproduction of An Trumpa Créda, Iron Age trumpa from Loughnashade, Co. Armagh. February 1999.
‘The Purple Mountain’ – classical piece by Michael Holohan, for Bronze Age horns and bells and performed at The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin. December 1998.
‘Dreams of Angus’ – classical composition for Bronze Age horns, violin, flute and voice by Michael Holohan. Performed at the opening of the Newgrange Interpretive Centre, Co. Louth. June 1997.
Music sound track written for film by Kaos Films, Kiel Germany. Featuring Bronze Age horns. Won first prize in it’s category at Hamburg Film Festival. December 1995.
‘Macehead’ – composition for Bronze Age horns by Michael Holohan. Performed at Dominican Church, Drogheda and the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin. December 1994.
Recordings - Albums to date
Most recent album – ‘Sounds of Prehistoric Ireland’. Released alongside my new book ‘Prehistoric Music of Ireland’. Tempus Publishing, Stroud, England. March 2005.
‘Old to New’ – album featuring the musical instruments from Ireland’s prehistory from the Bronze Age through the Iron Age and into Medieval times. Section one features studio recordings. Section two features live concert at the Sound Symposium, Newfoundland, Canada – July 2002. Released in November 2003.
Recorded on –‘Sounds of the Ancient World’- in conjunction with Kilmartin House Trust in Scotland and KPM Music in London. November 1998
Recorded on – The Kilmartin Sessions –‘Sounds of Ancient Scotland’. – Featuring Bronze Age horns and bells of Ireland, England and Scotland. Harmonic singing. October 1997
Released Live Album in Germany – Reconciliation –‘Live One’, featuring Bronze Age horns and bells of Ireland, Scotland and England. April 1996
Released album ‘Interaction’ with Solid Records in Dublin. Featuring Bronze Age horns and bells of Ireland, England and Scotland. October 1994
Released album ‘Coirn na hEireann’ – ‘Horns of Ancient Ireland’. Recorded and composed by Simon O’Dwyer on original Bronze Age instruments at the National Museum of Ireland. June 1994
Released album with Australian Record Company – Natural Symphonies - called ‘Two Stories in One’, featuring the Bronze Age horns and bells of Ireland. April 1993
Released - Dord – 1st Album featuring the Bronze Age horns of Ireland. December 1990
Recordings that prehistoric instruments feature on -
Bronze Age horn – an dord íseal played on album for the opening of the newly refurbished Ardfert Cathedral, Co. Kerry. Music composed by Fergus Johnston, album entitled Ard Fearta. April 2001
Recorded sample sounds of the Bronze Age horns and bells and An Trumpa Créda for the display area at the Sounds of History Exhibition, Brú Ború Centre in Cashel, Co. Tipperary. February 2001
Recordings of Bronze Age horns used on the album ‘Spirit of the Boyne’ by Colin Blakey. April 2000
Recorded on album ‘Ériu’s Child’ by Michael Morris. March 1998
The National Museum of Ireland – Opened Irish Heritage Week
September 2003, 2000, 1999 and 1998.
Irish Arms – Historic Reproductions – Living History.
Opened European Heritage Day in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. September 2003.
Kilmartin House Trust, Argyll, Scotland.
Bronze Age horns played at the opening of the Kilmartin House. April 1997.
Played An trumpa Créda at book launch of Marion Campbell on Alexander 111 – King of Scots at Kilmartin House, Argyll, Scotland. March 1999.
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands
Played An Trumpa Créda for the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands at the opening of The Sounds of Prehistory at the Brú Ború Centre in Cashel, Co. Tipperary. July 2001.
Played An Trumpa Créda and an Dord Ard, Bronze Age horn for the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands at the opening of the newly refurbished Ardfert Cathedral, Co. Kerry. May 2001.
Played Iron Age trumpa and Bronze Age horns for the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands for the Time Quest trail to the new Millennium in conjunction with the Historic Buildings Council at The Waterfront Hall in Belfast. January 2001.
Played An Trumpa Créda and Bronze Age horn for the Minister for Arts at the launch of the Irish Music Handbook 2nd Edition at Dublin Castle. May 2000
Bronze Age horns played at the opening of the Newgrange Interpretive Centre. Official opening by Michael D. Higgins, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. June 1997.
Sabhal Mor Ostaig – Gaelic University – Isle of Skye – Scotland.
Played An Trumpa Créda – Iron Age trumpa at the opening of Sabhal Mor Ostaig. March 1999
Publications through the Symposium of the International Study Group on Music-Archaeology
The Mayophone Study and Reproduction, 3rd Symposium of the International Study Group on Music-Archaeology, June 2002.
An Trumpa Créda – Construction and Exploration, 2nd Symposium of the International Study Group on Music-Archaeology, September 2000.
Four Voices of the Bronze Age Horns of Ireland, 1st Symposium of the International Study Group on Music-Archaeology, May 1998.
The Encyclopedia of Ireland - contribution by Prehistoric Music Ireland on the prehistoric musical instruments. Published by Gill and Macmillan. September 2003.
In Search of Ancient Ireland – Documentary series publication.
Publication of book from the documentary series ‘In Search of Ancient Ireland’, (R.T.E. and PBS Television America). Chapter featuring the research by Prehistoric Music Ireland on the Bronze Age horns. Spring 2002.
Book review of ‘Prehistoric Muisc of Ireland. Spring 2005.
Preliminary studies into the Mayophone, Early Medieval reed instrument – Article published, Spring 2002.
Archaeology Ireland – Article published on musical qualities of an trumpa créda from Loughnashade, Co. Armagh. Winter 2000
Archaeology Ireland – Article published on first research on playing technique of Iron Age trumpa créda from Loughnashade, Co. Armagh. Summer 1998
Article published on first reproductions of Bronze Age Irish horns by Simon O’Dwyer. Winter 1988.
Scotland’s Music – A History of Classical Music of Scotland from Early Times to the present day by Dr. John Purser.
Large section of first chapter is dedicated to the research of Simon O’Dwyer on the Bronze Age horns and bells of Ireland, Scotland and England. October 1992
The Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland by Prof. John Waddell.
Simon O’Dwyer is listed in the bibliography as his research on the Bronze Age horns discussed in the text. December 1998.
University lecture presentations
University of Limerick, World Music Centre, February 2005.
Municipal University of Newfounland, Canada – 1994, 2002.
University of Warsaw, Poland – 2002.
University College Cork – 1998 (forthcoming Sep. 2005).