The encounters between the Irish Gamelan Orchestra and guest collaborators begin in the gamelan rooms at UCC and UL where new compositions are forged as distinct musical worlds push into each other and shared musical space is discovered. Reflecting on his experience of collaborating with the ensemble to make the title track on The Three Forges CD, singer Iarla Ó Lionáird describes his discovery of a musical space ‘in-between’ sound worlds:
Approaching a musical encounter with the gamelan, it was natural to feel both pull and quail in the face of the unknown. An alien language in every sense, with sonorities and textures that usually gave the sense of spaces and tones of the in-between; but so beguiling too, so inviting, like a dark forest – bells tinkling in the hidden distance, a music of charms and prayers, of meditation and dream. I searched therefore for a bridge, a metaphor that would translate it for me and me for it. And, recalling Mel’s story to me of how he had travelled to Java to witness the great resonant bowls cast and forged in fire as an intrinsic part of their coming into existence with a sacred naming ceremony, I remembered the three tests that our ancient bards undertook to forge their craft and bring their worded mastery into being. They called these tests “the three forges.” And so our song, drawn from the early 17th century poem “Aonar Dhomsa Eidir Dhaoinibh,” one of the very last bardic texts, forms the heart of our coming together.
Three sanctuaries wherein we took rank,
three forges that sustained
the loving company of artists,
houses that bound comrades together.
The three forges wherein
I was wont to find mental delight,
Embers red and shining
A universe of art