“My favourite space to create music in is hard to define. It can be one of many spaces, but the most important space is the space that is my own head. If that space is furnished properly then I’d be happy to work on the roof of Clery’s. I get a lot of my ideas in mid conversation, or while walking, or travelling, so my copy books and mobile phone are always close at hand so that I can jot words and musical ideas down in tonic solfa.
So the space could be on the road, or on a train or plane or while having a coffee with someone or watching a film. I’m quite a shifty geezer when it comes to the next stage of composition and I need to move spaces a lot during the different parts of the process. I probably exude the composure of someone who’s carrying a bomb or who’s about to initiate a catastrophe.
Firstly I always work everything out on paper and manuscript. I then work with studio gear in my bedroom but sometimes I get cabin fever and move out to the sofa. I work in the kitchen when I’m doing work on the piano. I do my orchestration work on my laptop on the sofa or on my bed and then sometimes transfer the files to the desktop in the bedroom so I can work there for a change of scene. Once I went away to Annamakerrig and I found it really brilliant because I was taken out of my environment in a focused way and I got a massive amount of work done.
My bedroom is very clean but very cluttered until I get a fit of tidying every six months or so. I have often shared my bed with a keyboard and hard disk recorder or bundles of cables for months, and you are as likely to find yourself poked by some kind of charger or memory stick as you are to find the pillow. I am also a hoarder. When I was seven they found the end of a burger in my wardrobe 6 months after we’d been on a day trip to Dublin as I was feeling nostalgic about the first burger I’d ever eaten. So I never throw out anything of sentimental value, even a cable. Curiously enough I keep the living room and kitchen extremely tidy. It’s some kind of weird contradictory cleansing complex I have.
The most important things for me to have in my creative space are plenty of scope for silence and ideally an opportunity to have a glance at the nice view or the world outside from time to time. During the day, inspecting the shenanigans of the odd-ball neighbour can work very well, or some poor dog who’s tormenting himself trying to do something impossible.
I love the sound of the squeaky gate the goes every time someone drives into the car park across the road. I really love the sound of the night at about 3am and the way things echo in such an unusual way. I love the smell of the rainy night when you stick your head out the window for a glance, and the old drips of rain from a more glorious earlier rainfall that stagger from a drain and sound like they’re drunk. I really love the time when the birds start to sing at about 4am in those last few hours before the traffic starts again. Those last few lingering pregnant hours have a sense of peaceful magic and seem like they’re longer. It feels like nobody else in the world is awake. All the music always comes together then.
I often go for extremely long periods of time without even moving when I’m working. I could stay seated and working for 10 to 12 hours without even getting up. It’s probably very unhealthy to do that but it really works for me. After trying for years I just can’t get into this regular day of working that many artists talk about where they do a proper moderate day’s work. I’d love to get there eventually but I’m still someone who needs some kind of deadline, even if it’s something motivated by anxiety of an external deadline, and I do love going with momentum. I probably live my life that way. I love variety in life and while working on a specific project I do very intensive stints. Then I like being able to have the freedom of working somewhere else for a while.
My schedule is nondefinable and includes grabbing time when inspiration hits and sometimes I have to wait until I’m up to date on all of the admin stuff which really drains my will to live sometimes! In creative terms, isolation is hugely important to me. I spend all of the creative process working alone, and then only when that stage is over and I have my soundworld together do I feel comfortable having others listen.
What I like most about my space is the fact that it is always so present and always plentiful in wonderful surprises. It is a huge personal resource in that I know that amazing comfort can come from there.”
Julie Feeney’s self-produced debut album 13 Songs amassed rave reviews on its release in 2005 and won the inaugural Choice Music Prize. In recent months she has been the subject of an RTE MyTunes programme. Feeney, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, performed a self-orchestrated version of 13 songs with the Ulster Orchestra, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster. Julie also conducted the strings of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in concert with Moya Brennan and orchestrated nine songs especially for the performance. Her composition ‘Sleeping’ was performed by the Crash Ensemble at SHINDIG in Dublin. She is currently working on her second album. For more information, gig dates and tracks, visit www.myspace.com/juliefeeney.