University of Limerick
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Sonic deep mapping: sounding a Shannon Estuary community

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posted on 2024-01-15, 11:49 authored by Niamh O’Brien

I am a composer, musician and radio producer, and my PhD brings my artistic practice into dialogue with a cartographic approach called deep mapping. Deep mapping encompasses the discursive and ideological dimensions of a place, such as memories, imaginations and the multiple realities that exist in our surroundings (Bodenhamer et al. 2015; Roberts 2016; Biggs and Modeen 2020). Deep mapping has spatial considerations and adheres to locations and boundaries, but what is added is a reflexive narrativity that includes the complexity of human stories and identities that exist in a place. Deep mapping has the capacity to bring together histories, mythologies, facts and fictions, and weave them together in expressing a place. In this research I develop a sonic deep mapping approach that involves recording the music, sounds and stories of place, and re-imaging them through my composition and performance practice.

I carry this sonic deep mapping approach to my homeplace, Kildimo-Pallaskenry, a commuter village on the banks of the Shannon Estuary in Ireland. I focus my research on reintroducing music, story, sound and imagination to representations of this place which has been heavily industrialised, rapidly suburbanised and under-poeticised over the past 50 years. My research employs an innovative, multidisciplinary, practice-led approach. Emerging from my creative process of listening, composing, performing and deep mapping are two artworks which synthesise environmental recordings from the locality, audio interviews gathered in the community, my own original music and recordings of local musicians. These artworks are shared performatively with the public as a sound installation called ECOTONE and a live FM and online broadcast called Old Road Radio. Their design allows for the stories and sounds of the parish to be heard, celebrated and experienced in new ways, and for a renewed connection with all the human, non-human, real and imagined life that exists in Kildimo-Pallaskenry.

This research explores a new approach to understanding and representing place, and adds new perspectives to fields such as soundscape composition, radio art and deep mapping. I propose that my sonic deep mapping approach forges connections between creative process, people and place. It invites us to listen to our surroundings, to value the local soundscape and find the beauty within it. It is a creative practice which goes beyond representation of place to bring us into the realm of emplacement, place-making and connection



  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Mel Mercier

Second supervisor

Aileen Dillane

Department or School

  • Irish World Academy of Music & Dance

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