Idle Hands- A 31 - Part Exploration Of Irish Unemployment From 1983 - 2014 In G Major. by Stephen Roddy (Line-In) published on 2014/01/14 19:48:09 +0000 Available at: http://line-in.bandcamp.com/album/line-in-r ￼Idle Hands: A 31-part exploration of Irish Unemployment ￼from 1983-2014 in G major. There is a strong historical tradition of artists tackling social themes in their work from Picasso’s Guernica to the politically charged folk songs of Woodie Gutherie. Art often serves a regulatory function in society not only reflecting back popular values and concerns, but also drawing attention to the overlooked and sidelined issues. This marriage between art and social activism can be both a blessing and a curse. The lines between socially inspired art and politically inspired art can be blurry. Where art of a purely social agenda can seek to raise awareness about range of social issues regardless of ideological concerns, politically driven art is -practically by definition- focused on the promotion of some specific ideology over another. The line between political art and propaganda can be ambiguous. How can the artist serve as both mirror and searchlight for social issues without forcing a political ideology? Data-driven art -when powered by social statistics- allows for the expression and exploration data pertaining to social issues independent of any political standpoint. It offers the artist the opportunity to serve social issues directly without wading onto the political battlefield. “ Idle Hands: A 31-part exploration of Irish Unemployment from 1983-2014 in G major.” is a data driven musical composition based on the Central Statistics Office’s Standardised Unemployment Rate for period from 1983 to 2014 -the total span of the CSO unemployment record. It is a gently evolving piece in G major that expresses the unemployment contour as a function of pitch and timbre. A leading tone rises and falls in time with the unemployment statistics over a small accompanying set of evolving timbral motifs -the harmonic complexity of which reference future gradients of the data contour. There are two complimentary elements to the composition, the data and the baseline. Evolving timbre and pitch represent the data. Sustained harmonics centered on G major provide a baseline against which to contextualise the data material. The piece uses granular synthesis, frequency modulation and reverb modeling methodologies and is presented in 31 parts. Each 22s part correlates to a single year in the data and is separated from the next by a rapid instance of rest in the sonification material. The piece offers a depoliticised view of a critical social issue in modern Ireland: the mass unemployment that has come in the wake of the Celtic Tiger’s demise. It reflects our national unemployment crisis back upon the audience through an exploration of the relevant CSO data contour. This current social crisis is contextualized against the similar -and admittedly worse- crisis of the mid 1980’s. This opens a new space that stands independently of politics, media interpretation or public opinion allowing the audience to engage with the statistical profile of Irish unemployment through shared musical experience. Audience members can then decide whether or not to reformulate their opinions based on their experience of the piece.