Judith Ring in Paris

Composer Judith Ring is spending a three-month residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris where she is working on a number of new works. She has sent us the following account of her first month.

When I applied for a three-month residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais (CCI) in Paris I really didn’t know what to expect. The prospect of spending any amount of time in Paris was an exciting thought, and although at the time of applying I had never been to Paris before, I knew that it was renowned for its potential to inspire almost every artistic soul that lived there. Naturally, I wanted to be part of that magic.

I’ve been in Paris a month now and it has been quite a surreal and special time. It took a while to settle in and the language barrier has proven to be more difficult then I had expected (after all, I did do six years of French in school!). I’m going to lessons at the Alliance Francais now so hopefully that will build my confidence a little bit.

Musically, I have been very busy. The first weekend I arrived I accompanied composer Peter Moran on a couple of pieces at the Paris conservatoire and met an Ondes Martenot player, Nathalie Forget, who I am now writing a piece for. The Ondes Martenot is an incredible electronic instrument invented in 1928 by Maurice Martenot, and anyone who has an obsession with glissandi, reverb and spatialisation will love this instrument! Needless to say there are not very many of them in the world, or indeed professional players. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to work closely with Nathalie on this piece while I’m here in Paris.

I’m writing a number of pieces for voice (for Irish mezzo-soprano Michelle O’Rourke) and string quartet. I am using poems by Roderick Ford, a poet who is staying at the CCI at the moment. His poetry is quite strange and dreamlike and it has been great getting to know him over the past few weeks. There is also a painter here at the moment called Donald Teskey, and the three of us have really hit it off. We have long discussions about all sorts of topics over dinner and drinks on a regular basis. It would be quite lonely here without them so our outings have become something to look forward to.

The CCI is right in the thick of Parisian life in the Latin Quarter and I have been covering a lot of ground on foot. It seems a waste to spend time traveling underground and you can really wander quite far and wide if you have some time on your hands (and a decent pair of walking shoes). On a good day it is quite special to walk the streets as the sun sets over the city. You can really feel the history of the place on such days. There is an energy floating in the air that is quite hard to describe in words.

I now have the use of a bike, which I fixed up the other day. On Sunday’s they close the quays to traffic so that you can cycle, walk or rollerblade your way along the Seine. This is really quite wonderful and yesterday I cycled up and down a number of times taking in the sights and occasionally veering off into side streets to find hidden treasures and a bite to eat.

Let’s hope the next two months are as inspirational as this one has been!

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