Bring Your Own Hammer is a new project in which historians and composers collaborate to create original song cycles that offer novel interpretations of historical sources. The collaboration aims to explore the boundaries of historical and artistic interpretation by reflecting upon and reimagining primary sources and the people who left them behind, as well as re-interpreting song material from nineteenth-century Ireland. It allows both the composers and the historians to engage with historical themes in innovative ways and to recover, or carefully imagine, the inner lives of people who appear only in snippets in the archive, who are often left in the margins in history books because their lives are not well documented. The project aims to generate questions and reflections around the process of historical interpretation, the authority of the archive, and the limits it might set on who/what can be written about. How is the interpretative process different for historians and composers, if at all? How do we view the songs created as a form of historical interpretation? Should they remain distinct from the analyses of historians? Do the songs themselves become a type of document or artifact? The songs aim to contribute to public history and a re-invigoration of traditional forms of presenting the past, connecting the audience with important historical themes in ways perhaps not possible in writing. It is our hope that Bring Your Own Hammer will be of benefit to the historian, the composer and the wider public.
A History and Music Project