“The lines are so incredibly blurred between performance art and visual art, installations and contemporary music — it just all starts to become the same thing after a certain point. So that was really exciting for me to realise that was maybe a way for me to marry all of my interests.”

Yseult Cooper Stockdale, Kirkos

Kirkos are a new music ensemble and organisation based in Dublin, focused on threading the line between experimental and contemporary classical music. Regarded as Ireland’s most forward thinking and innovative ensemble, the group is made up of composers and performers Sebastian Adams, Robert Coleman, Yseult Cooper Stockdale, Jane Hackett, Miriam Kaczor, Hannah Miller, Tom Roseingrave, Paul Scully, and Joan Somers Donnelly

Since 2012, they have been creating and putting on a wide array of events across Ireland, particularly at their DIY space Unit 44. The group have premiered over 200 works, with highlights including Fluxfest an intermedia happening that explored the Fluxus movement – and Biosphere; a free, outdoor festival full of experimental encounters that showcased radical works exploring the relationship with Dublin’s natural and built environment.

Currently, Kirkos are preparing for the premiere of Beginner’s Guide To Slow Travel their debut UK performance at this year’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Patrick Ellis gave Kirkos a call to speak to them about the group’s history, slow travel, napping as collaboration, singing to cows, and more…

Sebastian Adams, ‘Tide Quartet’ (2020), performed by Kirkos in Dublin, Ireland.

Patrick/PRXLUDES: Hi all, hope each of you are doing well! I wanted to start by asking how, when and most importantly, why Kirkos formed? Am I correct in thinking that it started off during your studies at the Royal Irish Academy of Music

Sebastian Adams: We started as a student group in the Academy. We were always supposed to do multiple concerts, but there wasn’t any idea that we were going to keep it going after we were students. So what happened after about a year, we had done quite a lot of concerts and had a really good group. We then started to feel it would be a shame to have other people and not keep going when we had got a nucleus together. 

Robert Coleman: I suppose at the very first concert, Sebastian led the way and I was involved, I think we were the only two from the very beginning that are here currently right? Yseult [Cooper Stockdale] joined very quickly and Hannah [Miller] you joined very soon… 

Hannah Miller: I was still in school when the first concert happened, so I joined the year after when I started studying in the Academy.

Robert: Off the top of my head we had four or five concerts within the first two or three months, so it was definitely at a rate of more than one concert a month at the beginning. We had some very good players who had repertoire already that would work well in a concert. So we did a couple of solo concerts early on; we did [a] John Cage Centenary concert a month after the launch of Kirkos as well, so a lot of things came along very quickly.

Patrick: And were those first members involved, were they fixed or were they a pool of people that you just call upon? Obviously over time, Hannah and Yseult were core-collaborators and then stuck around…

Sebastian: At the very beginning there were a few people that were really committed and did everything, who also contributed a lot of ideas. We also used a much broader pool of people. Probably for the first three years we just drew from all the Academy students that we could find, so there were a lot more people playing. I’d say in the first two years, about twenty people played in the group, but there were five or six core people who were really into it in that period. I guess after both Rob and I graduated, we would have been more fixed. 

Robert: By that stage, I guess we were turning semi-professional, in the sense that we were no longer able to do gigs with no pay. So we had to get funding and through that process you begin to solidify who is on that application, and who were the core people that we would want to run with that project.

Patrick: When you all started to graduate and move onto freelancing and postgraduate degrees, what else did you have to change and adapt when moving from a conservatoire environment to the wider new music scene in Dublin and Ireland?

Robert: We definitely hung onto aspects of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, they were very supportive after we graduated. We still had use of the spaces there and were still in touch with them constantly, so that was a nice thing that eased the transition from being a student to a graduate. 

The common thing with people when you graduate is they don’t know what to be doing with themselves and they’re not sure how to get a foot in somewhere with anything. So the fact we had Kirkos going and it had momentum… it felt natural to push that a bit and do different series with it. It was very nice for us to have that. Socially, as well; because when you leave the Academy where it’s a close community, it was a way of still keeping in touch with and working with the people that you had been around for the past four years. 

Patrick: Did having access to the conservatoire help with other things for the group, or was it just having a space to rehearse and meet up?

Robert: Around that time we also met with Rob Farhat, who was developing a company for supporting new music groups and talents. Rob was very connected with the music scene in general and he supported what we were doing. He had a lot of faith in Kirkos that we were on the right track, to encourage us to do more and more gigs and push it out. So they were really part of the team for Blackout which was our first big event that got a lot of attention around Kirkos. 

Sebastian: We also had a lot of help in the Academy specifically from Jonathan Nangle, who was the main music tech teacher; he would have taught pretty much everybody who was in the ensemble at that stage, either for short modules or as a main teacher. For a long time he did our sound engineering and I would often meet up with him and get him to figure out technical problems that were beyond us at the time. There were a couple of other staff members that were very supportive of us like that as well. To be honest the transition into being more professional was very gradual. We were doing things, finding out if we were doing them wrong and then doing them differently the next time. And we still are. -laughs-

Kirkos performing for their Blackout Event in 2015. Photo credit: Miriam Kaczor

Patrick: Was there anything when you got into the freelancing and professional world that you didn’t really expect which really shaped or informed the trajectory that you went on as an ensemble?

Sebastian: One thing that was very complicated and difficult for years was trying to get the balance right between paying people properly and doing enough rehearsals. The right thing to do is to pay fully professional rates for rehearsals, but that means often you can’t afford to do any rehearsals; and we often ended up being too ambitious with the programme for the amount of rehearsals we could do. That was basically frustrating for the performers. 

Yseult Cooper Stockdale: I thought I’d just contribute as a player. That’s an interesting thing that I think is just constantly an issue in your professional life: very often your work is balanced between projects where you are getting paid in pretty much every area that you are doing, and then there’s other projects where you are doing hundreds of hours unpaid on the side. 

I think that transition between being a student and a professional was a difficult time to manoeuvre — because all of us were trying to figure out how that was going to work going forward — and you don’t know what your priorities work-wise are yet, because you have to take on every [gig] that is offered to you. I think now I’m approaching a point in my life where I can accept that there’re several gigs that will require all of this unpaid time, but thankfully I’m doing other gigs where I’m getting paid well.

The thing is with contemporary music — when we were beginning there were insane levels of preparation, because you don’t really get taught in undergraduate degrees how to play brand new music. It takes a long time to get accustomed to how to rehearse, how to prepare, so all of that was really difficult when we were starting out.

And now of course, a lot of the time, we’re actually often writing our own works, and it’s like collaborative creations, or they’re things that can only be rehearsed and workshopped together. So often there’s not as many hours of preparation being done at home, it’s just the nature of the workload has changed a little bit. 

Patrick: I guess also to add with these challenges when you graduated: I know that Rob’s work (when I knew him in The Hague) shifted from one thing to another, and I think the same with Sebastian at a similar time. And Yseult, you started making your own compositions as well. I’d imagine all of those changes would have affected what you did as an ensemble…

Sebastian: I feel for me the stuff we were doing in Kirkos ended up changing what I did as a composer; and that happened in my own work more slowly than it did with Kirkos. Right from the beginning we were doing experimental music, as well as contemporary classical music. We started off with this John Cage concert, where we had these workshops from John Godfrey. We had a cactus that we’d brought for one of the pieces, and he tried out the cactus and said, “No no, that won’t do” — and sent Rob out to go find a more resonant cactus on the day of the concert. Rob was gone for an hour looking for a better cactus. So I think we all got a little bit seduced by that kind of thing; we were doing more and more experimental performances and things that had non-musical influences. 

In 2016, we did the Fluxfest – which was a huge happening – and I think that was the first time everyone who was involved really had to start thinking more like a composer or visual artist, rather than a classical music performer, because of the nature of the pieces that we were doing. The transition in my own work came from what I was doing with Kirkos and realising, “Oh, actually I find that a lot more fun than writing pieces for classical instruments”. That’s just my own craic though. 

Yseult: It’s so funny because I never anticipated that Kirkos might come around and meet my other interests. For a long time I was quite resistant to marrying what I was doing in college with my other interests. I’ve always been really interested in contemporary art and both of my parents were involved in theatre; all of that was always there as a huge part of my life, but I didn’t anticipate when they were going to meet, and that nicely happened through Kirkos. The lines are so incredibly blurred between performance art and visual art, installations and contemporary music — it just all starts to become the same thing after a certain point. So that was really exciting for me to realise that was maybe a way for me to marry all of my interests.

Patrick: So Fluxfest was the first instance of that where you as an ensemble did more performance art, and that (Sebastian) informed your work afterward?

Sebastian: I wouldn’t say it was the first. We did the John Cage event right at the beginning, and a prototype of the Blackout project a few weeks after we did our first concert — where we were already thinking, “What if we have the audience sitting in the dark for the whole concert and then things are happening around them in the room?” Right from the start we were thinking about space and light; all of [the] things that are part of the concert that aren’t music. Fluxfest was the first time it became more of a primary preoccupation. 

Robert: I do remember considering this sort of direction Kirkos have gone in terms of how we have collectively devised works together. I remember Fluxfest being the first time where we got together and workshopped ideas and pieces, and they weren’t necessarily pieces we were going to perform. It was to develop a kind of process and approach to this event as such, and so that was something that was quite new which came along with Fluxfest. I remember we were just chatting and going through text scores, performing with each other just to get experience with this world in that sense. 

Yseult: That really stands out to me as a project which was back when we hadn’t quite managed the timetabling and the pay… -laughs-  But I do remember whoever had the stamina for it would stay late after the rehearsals and help make these little boxes that the audience were getting — with a gift of little Fluxus pieces on paper.

I remember folding all of the programmes on the floor in the KBH in the Academy — a lot of late nights that now (thankfully!) we have the budget to pay other people to do it — but then we were all in it together and that was kind of nice. I love projects where it feels like it’s my project, not just me turning up and executing someone else’s piece. So for me, that was when it became clear to me why I would continue to do Kirkos; I felt like it was a space for me to have an active voice and role. I felt like I was a part of a more equal team rather than being part of an ensemble where I was just being employed for a project. 

Robert: And Fluxfest was the first time we worked with Tom Roseingrave.I suppose it was the first time we worked with someone from a different background and they really had the chance to impart their own experiences within it. We had worked with Tom once previously, but for [Frederic] Rzewski’s Coming Together where he was the narrator for that piece — but of course his role was just fitting into an ensemble for that kind of work. Whereas with Fluxfest, and working with Tom on that, those roles were broken open for sure. People began to think of ownership and impart their own ideas from their experience as well. 

Sebastian: We also did a big open call and it was a really successful one. What happened was we had a bunch of our own ideas with what we wanted to do already, but we also ended up getting a representative sample of what composers and artists in Ireland wanted to contribute. I guess that’s something we pursued a lot, where rather than us being, “We’re brilliant and we’re going to come up with our own idea and it’s going to be amazing”, our approach shifted to being much more, “What’s in the air? What are people doing?”

Speaking of Music: Final Sequence (2019), featuring music by Wilson Leywantono, Florence Peake, Anna Murray/Jamie McHugh, Andy Ingamells, Lucie Vitkova, Alison Knowles, and Kirkos.

Patrick: On that thread also, you invited composer-performer Andy Ingamells to be your guest curator for your Speaking of Music event in 2019. I know that he moved to Ireland around that time, so could you please tell me what that was like? 

Yseult: I wouldn’t have been aware of Andy at the time, but I think Robert and Sebastian would have known him and it was just amazing to have somebody like him move to Ireland. Especially since I’m from Cork, I love that Andy lives in Cork — it’s amazing for the scene down there! I think it was just amazing to collaborate with someone like that, and probably not many people would have known him at that stage in the performance circles in Ireland, you know?

Andy is completely remarkable in that he’s just absolutely brilliant — a bit of a genius — but he’s also the nicest person, incredibly easy to collaborate with. I think he has a knack for making everybody feel like they’re being heard and important, but at the same time, he himself has a very clear and specific creative vision — and in some ways is uncompromising with the quality of that — but it always feels like there’s space for other people’s ideas. So he’s always really inspiring to collaborate with, I think he’s a big inspiration for the group. 

Patrick: In the following year [2020], Covid-19 happened, but despite that, you had two quite ambitious projects in that time — the first of which was Biosphere — and that was following on from previous things you had done, where you were integrating international composers. How did the idea for Biosphere come about? Was there a need to curate despite the national lockdown?

Sebastian: It was nothing to do with Covid-19 actually. It was just dumb luck that it ended up kind of being the only type of concert [outdoor] that you could do at the time. We wanted to do an outdoor thing for six or seven years. I think originally Rob had an idea that he wanted to do a concert in the forest, but for some reason we never got around to doing it. By then we had really solidified our way of working, of like “Well, we have a few key things that we really want to do and then we see what people want to contribute” — so again we asked loads of people if they would like to contribute for a project like this and then see if we could do all of the pieces, or as many as we could do.

Patrick: Regarding the environmental theme: was that something you were as curators and artists trying to tap into for a while or was it something that came about in your creative minds fairly recently when leading up to Biosphere

Sebastian: For me, it was recent; for Rob I think it was much more of an integral part of his practice earlier right?

Robert: Yeah, I suppose I was coming into it around then. I suppose I was not [in] earlier days as an artist; I was less inclined to be political in a sense with those sort of elements, but I was definitely fascinated with doing outdoor works. With Fluxfest, we did some little works dotted around the week that were outdoors, but I was also fascinated with the ideas around that and what it could suggest. I suppose maybe later, I began to bring the more political aspects around climate change and biodiversity into my own work. But I think that’s what we’ve always done as a group — being aware of the social and political ideas that are around at the time — going back into the idea of an open call, you are trying to tap into ideas that are going on within the current generation of artists.

So there’s always that aspect of connecting with the ideas that are always there; doing this outdoor festival in these sorts of areas, you just have to bring that conversation around climate change. It’s sort of an impossible and irresponsible thing to not bring that conversation in when you are working in these places.

Hannah Miller performing at Biosphere, 2020.

Patrick: What were some of the challenges and surprises with doing Biosphere? 

Joan Somers Donnelly: There were a lot of pieces that were in the sea…

-a few laughs-

Joan (continued): That was practically difficult. Sebastian, you were talking about the one where you were lying on your backs with the flute…

Sebastian: Oh my god…

Robert: That was Andy Ingamells’ piece. Typically for a gig you are almost rooted to one spot, but we just had a lot of moving from place to place. In one day you could be in three different locations. A lot of us were on our bicycles, we would do a rehearsal in this place and then we would have a performance scheduled somewhere else in the city later on in the evening, but then we were like, “Maybe we need to stop here just to get in a rehearsal of that piece” because there’s a place that might suit the rehearsal…

Joan: Kind of like guerrilla rehearsals. 

Robert: This sort of bohemian lifestyle of just shifting around for the week, finding places to suit our needs as we went along.

Hannah: I remember one day, there were two rehearsals taking place in the sea and then we also had an evening performance in the water. We were all in and out of the sea the whole time, and cycling between all the different locations – everyone was so exhausted because so much energy was being expended…

Joan: It was kind of like a triathlon, except all the parts were swimming. -laughs- A musical triathlon. 

Sebastian: Yeah, that was an intense day… and then at the very end of it we did your piece [Around the Clocks] where we had to stay up all night going to clocks…

Hannah: That nearly killed us Patrick! -laughs-

Patrick: I can vaguely remember having a meeting with Rob about the scheduling, and I remember seeing this spreadsheet that was so tightly packed with lots of events going on. When you were planning it all, was it just down to practicality by location?

Sebastian: It was all a complicated mix, more so with this than any other project we’ve done. I would say [that] artistic considerations were quite low on the pecking order in a way; for example, there was only one day in the whole week where we could have done my Tide Quartet because the tide had to be in a particular place. There were things like that. 

Joan: Choosing to have the decision led by the tide is an artistic decision itself. You said, “Oh, artistic decisions were not part of it”, but I think it is. I would see it as an artistic decision to decide, we are doing something that is dependent on that environment — and not on the convenience [of] when someone would come to a performance…

Sebastian: I can’t remember that much about it, which means that it must have been traumatic. -laughs- 

Patrick: But it all worked out eventually, everything all had its place and fitted in the schedule, as you said you all must have been absolutely exhausted by the end of it all…

Joan: Because it was covid, you couldn’t invite people to come to gather at that point. So there were these accidental audiences that you had from just being on location. I love that kind of thing. It was really not a specific new music or theatre audience, but this kind of blurring with the reality that’s going on around. When we did my piece — which was at the swimming spot by the Vico Baths by the sea — there were other people who were there to swim, but we were doing strange things and making sounds. It kind of blurred who the audience was, there were people standing around who were there for a swim looking a bit confused, being like, “What is going on?” — and then they’re jumping into the sea and screaming at the end of the piece and that became a big part of it in a way. So there was an interesting blurring between the reality and the performance, with one thing blending into other and vice-versa. 

Robert: I think that’s definitely one of the things I enjoy the most about outdoor works; it doesn’t specify an audience, so you’ve got a very general pool of people. So when you are thinking about ideas around climate change, I think personally that’s the audience you want to be thinking towards. Because there’s lots of people who are already aware of the conversation or people into niche New Music, or are engaged in environmental work and so it becomes a normal thing among the public, and it’s nice to have happy instances like that. 

Sebastian: Essentially, [for] anyone who came, we said to them, “If you just walk past at 3pm, it will probably be ok, but we didn’t tell you that”, you know? People had to pretend they didn’t intentionally attend if they were going to show up.

Joan Somers Donnelly, ‘Swim Piece’ (2020), performed at Biosphere 2020.

Patrick: Moving onto what you are going to do for Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival with this upcoming project, Beginner’s Guide To Slow Travel; the piece is unfinished as we are speaking now, but what have you done so far in terms of meetings and rehearsals to help generate ideas? 

Sebastian: We’ve met up for three days at a time on three separate occasions. For the first two [sessions] we were just workshopping and trying things out, doing a lot of exercises and talking because we didn’t know what we were going to do, you know? So we had to figure that out together. You can’t really do that unless you are in person for an extended time. 

So for the first two weeks we did that, and [then] in the last weekend, we really got into putting shape on it and being more specific about what will actually go into the piece. We did longer improvisations together, so some of the ideas [just] arose out of “every single time we seem to have this kind of lament section near the end, maybe we should decide we’re hearing this” – stuff like that.

Joan: We had big discussions on thematic things, but also our own personal interests connecting things from our lives. It seemed without discussing it, we would be like “Let’s do an improv now”, and that they would come into the improv somehow. Somehow the combination of those things did work without having to try too hard to build a bridge of discussing how it’s going to become part of the piece – things we talked about that were not necessarily artistic and were about a lot of other things, the personal [and] political did come into it as we played, so that was nice.

Patrick: The idea of “slow travelling” is a central theme around this new piece. Could you please elaborate on that? And how does slow travelling inform the performance? 

Robert: There’s a number of ways. The plan is to take the ferry and [then] the train, which will be a part of the piece. So personally I’m thinking of this idea of a sound walk almost, recording aspects of this journey – and then those recordings are documentation in some sort of way [that] come back in the performance. So these sorts of memories and journeys are re-emerging again, that we’re sort of engaging with in the space.

Joan: I did a project as part of a festival in Belgium called Kunst & Zwalm – which is like [an] art parcours in the countryside – and [with a collective of artists called the pKp] we ended up camping there for several weekends before and during the festival. The idea was to do something that was more in connection with inhabitants of the place, and so there were a lot of cows. So I thought, what would an art parcours festival for the cows or other non-human inhabitants of the place look like? I tried to talk to some local farmers about that and also organised with people – locally in the area – a choir for cows. Humans singing for cows that is… -laughs-

To come back around to it, I thought “maybe I can revive this singing-for-cows practice” in relation to this project. Something that I’ve been interested in recent years [is] trying to put yourself in the perspective of another creature, in terms of how they see and sense the world. I still hope with each place we go to – like Huddersfield – to go and hang out with some cows in those different locations and that material. I sometimes make videos while I’m singing, like in Connemara on the West of Ireland; I had a really nice evening singing with some cows. I’m sceptical about how to use that as material for a performance in a venue, but I think that’s an interesting thing; it’s brought up a lot of ideas in the process, that in ways relate more to our lives.

Robert: I think the idea of rest is also very important, and how that brings us into our performance area. So the ideas of rest are big themes within our main performance and also our whole Huddersfield short. We know one of the challenges of modern life is slowing down – that we don’t always have to be productive – and we want to try and combat those inclinations society seems to push towards. 

Joan: For example, incorporating collective napping into our rehearsals is something from the first few sessions we did, because some of us in the group needed to for health reasons or needed to take things at a different pace. We talked about whether we could just incorporate that into something for everybody. Like one day, we said, “Ok, we’re taking a nap and then will go into an improvisation coming out of the nap”, and that was interesting to see how it influenced the improvisation. 

Robert: I’m sure Sebastian doesn’t mind me saying this, but myself and him aren’t usually nappers. I think when we’ve been having these conversations, we’re the people who don’t typically take naps. I really enjoy these sorts of conversations, because it comes back to the natural cycle of your body and just listening to it. We live in a society where those things are overlooked, and thankfully we’ve had the opportunity [with this project] to pay attention to those – and hopefully that will come through in the performance. 

Joan: And also think about how we can make conditions that make it more accessible for different people as makers to make work and work together. Often in some fast paced, competitive conditions like the arts it’s very hard to engage with people who have caring responsibilities, kids or health concerns. Not being able to [do] these long and intense rehearsals, or travel and perform every night. So I really think it’s about trying out and practising different conditions for performing. Which is challenging in a wider context, where people are asking you to be somewhere or do something at certain times. I think it’s a worthwhile thing to do, because you have to practise it rather than say it.

Sebastian: We are also thinking about how travelling can be a part of the piece. So we are thinking of different ways where we either document the travel and use it in the piece, or have it as something that sits on a website. But also things like playing some music while we are travelling, all of these different ways of extending the performance – blurring the line between how we get there and what we’re doing when we are getting there. In a way integrating the logistics [of travel] into the piece, which I think is an important starting point for us, managing ourselves, making sure we’re okay. -laughs-

Kirkos performing at Unit 44, Dublin, 2022.

Patrick: On an experience level, what do you already have set?

Robert: There’s this idea of individual ideas within it and responses to this [theme]. So I guess there’s this beginning with that in mind. You have different things going on and then there’s very much a coming together, collective moments where we really begin to work together and pay attention [to] each other; and then we have this idea of collective rest in the heart of the piece. And so that in a way provides these two sides of the performance. We were thinking about characters before and after the rest. 

Yseult: Rest is an essential element of it, rest and care are the two focuses. I guess when we are approaching it, it’s such a massive topic – climate change – and certainly I can feel very disingenuous if I make anything that had some sort of moral message, or was trying to somehow portray the magnitude of the disaster that we are facing. Instead, we try to focus on what we need as we face this. When you start to engage with what it is you need, you discover it is also how we need to behave when facing this disaster. If everyone was to live with more care, more slowly and with more rest, the world would be a very different place. 

Patrick: I also wanted to know how this project came about originally. How did HCMF get in touch with you? Was it through knowing what you have done over the years? How did it come about?

Sebastian: They approached us after the performance of our piece For Private Use which was featured in New Music Dublin. That was about making pieces for the audience to perform themselves, and so they approached us with this attitude of, “We know you think outside the box, is there anything you would like to do?”

So we proposed a project related to climate change. I think part of why we chose the slow travel idea was because we found out that a lot of festivals were really into that idea. It would have been part of the piece anyway, but it seemed to really grab them. It’s quite a big deal if hundreds of artists are flying to a festival — it has a very big carbon footprint — but if everybody is getting there other ways, then it is rather expensive. So they are in this interesting kind of battleground where the systems and structures around arts funding need to change completely for the way that we are doing this to allow it to be feasible. 

In this case we are being paid for our travel days, and they are paying much more for travel than they need to because we are going by ferry and train. They are doing that themselves to prove a political point, and to act as research for new models with how the arts can actually work in a more climate-sensitive world.

Joan: I do think coming from a non-musical background, it’s something that is specifically a big problem in music. I know at least in Belgium, we are on the continent — so there are no ferries having to be involved — but it’s much more standard practice in the visual arts, not to fly for a festival or performance. But it’s a different kind of work where you know you have to be onstage every night performing. It’s a problem that exists across all of the arts sectors, but I think it’s specifically bad in music — because of the schedules and how the work is that you have to be there in person on multiple nights, etc.

Sebastian: If you’re a freelance musician and you are saying, “Out of principle, I want to do slow travel all of the time” — realistically, you’re going to have to say no to half the gigs you are offered, because it’s not actually possible to be doing a performance in a different city every night if you don’t take planes. At the moment, it’s very difficult for musicians and music festivals to actually uphold those kinds of principles. Which I think is why it was interesting for HCMF, New Music Dublin and Sound [Scotland], and also for us.

Patrick: You also mentioned New Music Dublin and Sound Scotland. You will be doing this piece at those festivals also next year, so will the piece be a thing that grows overtime? Will you add things in and the piece gets bigger and bigger, or will it be reset each time you slow travel to a new location?

Sebastian: I don’t think it will be bigger and bigger, but I think it will be different each time. 

Yseult: It has a definite framework, but also it’s very free. I think a lot of what we did with each improvisation was informed by how we had been interacting with each other directly before — which is kind of where the napping thing came into play. How you play when you’ve just had a nap with them is so profoundly different to how you do when you’ve just entered a room with them to work. It’s really intimate and lovely.

So, I would imagine in each different venue — depending on how the whole journey was and before that — an integral part of it is that it will always change for each performance. I wouldn’t be surprised that it will be entirely different by the third time we perform it… I don’t know, we will see. -laughs-

Patrick: Will each rendition be documented, or you don’t know yet? 

Sebastian: I’d say so. We’re also making documentation ourselves in a kind of non-traditional way with the website [for the piece], that will certainly change with each performance. I think we had a discussion at one point on whether we should even allow it to be recorded.

We had this idea of: the piece is this one hour performance in Huddersfield, but it’s also this website. Both of those things in a way stand alone as a version of the piece, but also some kind of mixture of the two [is] a piece. Seeing a one hour recording isn’t a very good way of experiencing the piece, so having this website where we have some kind of recontextualisation of the same work is the way that we document it. 

Joan: I think we see all of the travel, the website, and the live performance at the festivals as being part of the piece. It’s all connected to this idea of being slow, or what it is to be an artist or to live slower. Working in theatre, I got very frustrated with project based work; so there’s this idea of how we can stretch this out to have more sustainable practices. Where it’s not just one performance encapsulated in one hour — but there’s elements to the piece that are already starting and going beyond the hour. Using it at Huddersfield and then taking it to the next time. There will be some things on the website that people can engage with, some of the ideas or kinds of experiences that we can engage in, that goes beyond that one hour.

Kirkos’ performance of Beginner’s Guide To Slow Travel takes place on 21 November at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival – you can book tickets at:

You can also join Kirkos for a nap at HCMF on 20 November – more information:

Learn more about Kirkos and their members at:

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About Author

Patrick Ellis (b. 1994, London) is a composer, performer and curator based in Oxfordshire, UK, who has had his music presented across Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia.

Since February 2023, he has served as the Co-director of the online Contemporary Music Blog, Prxludes, where he contributes interviews with Sylvia Lim, Lise Morrison and Christian Drew, as well as features on Ivan Vukosavljević's debut album, 'The Burning;, Avenue Azure's self-title record and Ireland's most forward thinking ensemble, Kirkos.