Over the last 10 years I have had the honour of working with an artist who has quite literally taken away my breath.
Raven (1965-2019) was a performance poet, writer, playwright, documentary film maker, and master of words. We improvised together, hung out on stage, worked with words and sounded the spirit.
I first met Raven at Naked Lunch, a long-since expired Spoken Word Open Mic, on Camden St, Dublin, in 2009. He and Cliff Horseman invited me over to Tongue Box, another open mic, performance poetry night they co-hosted at The Cobblestone, Dublin. During that winter of 2009/2010 we were immersed in performance poetry at its very best. Beats and rhymes blended in sonic magic. The sheer brilliance of Ravens delivery inspired the electronic voice of my cello. I have no recordings of these early days, we simply offered up our improvisations to the gods of the ephemeral sonic wave. The magic is held in the ether, in our memories, and sparks the inspiration of future paths.
In summer 2010 I remember gigging with Fight Like Apes, and as Ambiencellist in Global Green at the Electric Picnic. During the set he appeared in the audience, dressed in a floor-length black cape, complete with crow feathers, a top hat and long boots. He cut the look, did our Raven. He stood up, and stood out. Raven invited me over to Natasha’s Living Food Tent, where we jammed, improvising with a fresh, pure freedom. The rawness and excitement was the breath of artistic essence.
In 2011 James Mackin and myself were coming to the end of our Masters studies at Dublin Institute of Technology. We had a group called I Ate Mercury, improvising using Drums, Cello and inviting other artists to join the fun. We did gigs in Kilkenny Arts Festival, at ATRL @ Trinity, in Whelans, and at The Spirit Store. Our last gig was in 2012, at The Joinery in Stoneybatter. We invited Raven and CAH 44 to join us.
This was the first time I had a portable recorder in my performance pack, and to this day I regret not turning it on for the first half of the gig!! But thankfully, I have the 2nd part. Raven and CAH 44 started off by performing Dublin Onion.
Raven, James and I continue on with God Bless The Child.
and finally Cah44 and Raven perform In Bed W/O You and Pomegranate with James and Claire performing Mr PC.
These five tracks are now integral to my memories of Raven. Thank you, Raven, Cliff and James. It was an incredible evening.
This space at The Joinery was like a triumph for our post boom soundings. We had all previously worked within the spoken word and improvisation scene in Dublin, and were grateful that, like many other venues since the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, The Joinery was witness to a change in use. It had previously been an empty storehouse.
The event was inclusive, it was an artistic infrastructure spanning genres, generations and styles. The audience was a factor, the building was a factor, the state of the economy was a factor. The excitement came from entering the sonic space and interacting with it. Raven was one who dared.
After this time and in the years that continued, Raven inspired many other creative journeys. One day I booked Raven to record a set of haikus which I’d created from Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I knew it had to be Raven to record them because of the ravens and writing desks in Chapter 7
Rrrrrrraven and the Wrrrrrrriting desk …
The work was submitted as part of my portfolio in a Sonic Art Ph.D. at Queen’s University Belfast. Working with Raven has been integral to my creative practice throughout the entire process. His performances were part of the inspiration to work more intensively with text and his voice features in three of the works. Murdering the Time would not be the same without his distinctive sound.
Raven and The Crone
In 2018 Raven approached me to work with himself and Nicole Rourke in a new show they were creating with Deirdre Molloy. The three nights in January 2019 were part of the First Fortnight Festival at The New Theatre Dublin, January 2019. We created magic, with Raven, Nicole and Deirdre spending hours developing the script, myself spending hours honing music and sound effects, and together in hours of rehearsal and performance. The experience was incredible.
Raven died suddenly this summer. His absence blasts a crater in the side of the spoken word, performance poetry and improvisation circuit here in Dublin. He leaves a whole legacy of artistic work to inspire us for all time. Thank you, Raven, for your beats, your voice, your captivating performances and your soul inspiring words. R.I.P.