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The Crossings (aka The Backstop C19) (music - work in phased outcomes)
Shipsides and Beggs Projects
Electronic and live recorded music


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As part of Another Fine Mess (see below), this work - an audio composition - was launched as an initial outcome in July 2020, entitled The Backstop C19, and working towards a vinyl record proiductionlater in early 2021 (with support from Solas Nua).

Now titled The Crossings, this audio work explores the topography of the Irish/UK border using mapping, computer programming and musical composition to create an audio work which transposes elevation data of the border into music, in a poetic sense, as though a record needle was dragged across the surface of the terrain - but in reality a process where the music is distilled, crafted and gerrymandered from the data.

The audio research develops, expands and deepens field-work and computer programming methodology established in Decimation in A-flat and D-minor (2018) which explores audio composition derived from topological elevation data of frontiers. The Crossings focuses on the geopolitical construct of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Since its official Boundary Commission drawing in 1924 (in part due to the same post-war political dynamics of re-inscribing borders throughout Europe) this border has always been contentious and is brought into sharper relief and prominence by Britain’s exit from the European Union (and the emergence of The Backstop). Here, the French and English meanings of 'partition' has a poetic and conceptual role - where in French partition also refers to musical harmonic structure.

The audio composition takes the data set, (which runs roughly from southeast to northwest or from northwest to southeast), from both a north and south perspective – so it plays a bipartisan perspective. The initial phase involved a complex set of calculations with a massive data set (where each data point marks a distance of 30m along the border) but progressively the work structures and modifies the material into a musical composition that is pata-perceptually faithful to both the landscape and to the artists' responses to the subject matter.

The extensive process of this research involves intensive work “in the field” gathering contextual source material followed in the studio composing predominantly within the computer programming environment and finalised with compositional and editing processes. Taking the Pure Data system developed for Decimation, this research developed a new series of complex 16 bar patches. This allows greater rhythmic and polytonal structuring of the data in order to reflect the cultural (traditional music structures) and topological terrain (drumlins, water systems, loughs and patterned fields) where rhythm and pattern play a strong part. Water is a major feature of this border and so this research explores a system patch to allow a fluidity bearing a semblance to drone techniques present in traditional folk music. This research is not a direct reaction to the current political situation as such, but rather an experimental topological exploration of the actual landscape as a rich resonating cultural and migration source which feeds into American folk music and culture, connecting with the Wabash Cannonball research output.


This is a work in progress. Now that the data is in one whole "package" (as is used in The Backstop iterations) The Crossings now addresses the border in nine county sections:

1 : Armagh Louth 2 : Monaghan Armagh 3 : Tyrone Monaghan 4 : Monaghan Fermanagh 5 : Fermanagh Cavan 6 : Leitrim Fermanagh 7 : Fermanagh Donegal 8 : Donegal Tyrone 9 : Derry/Londonderry Donegal

The process and data of The Crossings is explored and early iterations (as the Backstop C19) of the music is employed throughout the Where the Lines End video work - but especially within Part 2 and the final sequence of Part 3 - see below.


The Crossings - Armagh to Louth by guitar (part of a work in progress)
Guitar Neal Beggs.
Western Electrique / Shipsides and Beggs Projects
2min excerpt.



The Crossings (aka Backstop C19) - 2min excerpt.
Experimental electronic rendering.
Western Electrique / Shipsides and Beggs Projects.
2min excerpt (of 27min)




Where the Lines End: Part 2: NUMERICAL INTEGRATION ERROR: Time and Space.
HD video with animation



THE BACKSTOP C19: (Excerpt from Where the Lines End: Part 3)
HD video with animation


This excerpt presents and example of how The Backstop C19 iteration of the data music has been utilised within Where the Lines End.



Another Fine Mess
Exhibition at the Katzen Art Centre, American University Museum
Washington DC, April - August 2020 (physical show cancelled due to the COVID19 crisis - consequently developed online)
Shipsides and Beggs Projects

Another Fine Mess is the latest chapter within a series of fictional narratives and themes which are explored through Shipsides and Beggs’ work. It follows on from Still Not Out of The Woods and fits alongside other narratives; The Iron Way and The Lament of the Accolade Tree.

Another Fine Mess was to be a new Shipsides and Beggs Projects exhibition - video, painting, interactive sculpture and audio work - deriving from their leftfield† explorations of the terrains around the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with a wider extrapolation exploring the messiness of connections and migrations of culture, people and textures, with particular interest in the reciprocity of Irish migration in respect to a foundling America. In this respect, it drew on previous work which was an exploration of the Wabash Cannonball – an esoterically named rock-climbing route in the Mourne Mountains which led through granite, quartz and iron to a tale of migration, railroad history, exploited labour, freedom, death coach mythology and to the musicology of the landscape.

The exhibition fell foul to Covid-19 and perhaps therefore in absence marks a time where everything changed. The crated physical work made it only as far as Dublin Airport whilst the video ‘Where the Lines End’ and audio work ‘The Crossings’ have moved on to absorb the new realties.

The audio work explores the topography of the Irish border using mapping, computer programming and musical composition to create an audio work, as a vinyl disc, which transposes elevation data of the border into music, in a poetic sense, as though a record needle was dragged across the surface of the terrain. The video artwork captures much of the strangeness of the subject matter and the changing world thereafter. It initially draws from a road-trip where the artists explored the borderlands by foot, van and canoe re-treading the landscapes, mythologies and geologies of both a fluid place of imagination and a concrete place of fact. Completed during the lockdown era both of these works absorb and display the context and the rapidly changing effects of a global crisis.

The other physical works included; a series of thirteen painted star-maps of the Irish border ‘Tear in the Fabric - Dálriata’; two hand-made painted canoes, ‘Fingers grow gnarled in the watery pass’ and ‘Icy hands hold us afloat’, which both draw on geological, folkloric and historical sources; and ‘The Gatherings’ a series of amplified flatfooting dance-decks, whose design derives from overlays and combinations of the land borders of the UK, Ireland, Mexico and USA.

Shipsides and Beggs Projects are an artistic duo of Dan Shipsides and Neal Beggs based across Ireland, UK and France.

† Here, Dan would prefer to use the term ‘pata-perceptual’ as way to describe their approach, whereas Neal would not be so inclined to add any adjective, preferring the assumption that it is ‘just what artists do’ anyway. Dan agrees with that, but feels in an era of instrumentalised art making, that there is cognitive mileage to gain from evoking and asserting the imaginative, playfulness of methodological anarchy. Either way ‘leftfield’ is no less a complicated alternative.


The project was partnered by Solas Nua
The projects was awarded the Artist International Developmemt Fund by the ACNI and British Council

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