Take me to the River: Audio-visual Evocation of Expeditions Along the River Tolka, Ireland

Dr Matt Green (Leeds Beckett, UK)

This paper regards Tolka Nights (http://tolkanights.com), a series of public events that took place in three distinct sites along the river Tolka, Ireland over three consecutive nights in September of 2015. The events comprised sound, film, performance and discussion, and explored the river’s significance as an ecosystem, to communities, to diverse histories, and to regional and national current affairs. Tolka Nights emerged through a process of site-specific engagement and practice over the months prior to the events.

The paper focuses upon four short audio-visual compositions devised by the author that were first screened at the second Tolka Nights event (http://tolkanights.com/event_films/#matt-green-four-expeditions-16min). The compositions account a series of expeditions along the Tolka in search of the river’s rarer and more elusive wildlife, namely the bat, kingfisher, otter and trout. A local river enthusiast knowledgeable of the animal sought guided each expedition. Each of the four compositions include recordings of the conversations shared as the river and its parklands were explored, and focused recordings of the sights and sounds both encountered on these journeys and evoked by them.

The paper attests the importance of sound and listening to the project and the author’s particular contribution; and assesses this contribution against the concepts of ‘experience’ and ‘emplacement’ as they are regarded by disciplines such as critical urban theory (e.g. Benjamin, 2006), contemporary geography (e.g. Tuan, 1977) and ethnography. For the latter, the importance of the writings of Sarah Pink (e.g. Pink, 2015) to the author’s practice as part of Tolka Nights is expressed.


Benjamin, W. (2006b), The Writer of Modern Life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire,
Belknap Press. Translation: M.W. Jennings.
Tuan, Y. (1977), Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, University of Minnesota Press.
Pink, S. (2015), Doing Sensory Ethnography, Sage Publications.

Dr Matt Green is a practice-based researcher concerned with the application of sound and music practices in site-specific endeavour. Matt has collaborated and worked as a solo artist equally. The form of Matt’s practice has varied: Lyre Bird (2005) is a permanent interactive sound installation in the entrance space of Perth Concert Hall, Scotland; whilst Tolka Nights (2015) was event-based and included unconventional art modes such as a pub quiz. The subject, form and content of each work is the outcome of an extensive programme of situated activity that includes field recording; social practice; and onsite research, design and development.