Maija Sofia’s 2020/2021 residency at SIRIUS involved research around “digital intimacy, female experience and how the figure of the witch has found a renewed interest in online spaces”. In addition to composing new songs for her upcoming second album, she engaged in research and experimentation that pushes her practice into new territories. As a result, and in the context of a new series of Cobh commissions by SIRIUS, she created Not of Longing, but of Light, a long form, ambient sound piece and text inspired by ‘Heartbreak Pier’, the departure point for passengers boarding the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
“I have been thinking about remembrance and haunting, as an invisible practice of memorial, as well as processes of transformation and the lineage and overlapping of histories in the built landscape. The title, Not of Longing, but of Light, is a quote from author Maggie Nelson’s 2009 book Bluets, taken from a passage exploring overcoming loss and grief and imagining a form of renewal. I was drawn to ‘Heartbreak Pier’ as I found something poetic in witnessing a site of loss and grief become a site of decay. Drawing on the custom of holding a minute of silence as a mark of respect, I recorded a minute of silence – but with the air ‘full’ of background noises (birds, water, and so on) – at ‘Heartbreak Pier’ every day for five days and combined those recordings with improvised drones and my voice. I am interested in how listening can be an imperceptible way of bearing witness/holding space to acknowledge what has occurred without commodifying tragedy.”
Maija Sofia is an artist working across text and sound, mostly known as a singer/songwriter – her debut album, Bath Time, was released in 2019 to critical acclaim and she is a recipient of the Next Generation Award from the Arts Council (2020 edition). Her compositions – delicate tunes with an ethereal quality – and performances comprise voice, guitar, harp and harmonium, sometimes merging acoustic and electronic instruments.
She mixes the storytelling aspect of traditional folk songs with lyrics exploring contemporary political and personal concerns, using music to excavate hidden or forgotten histories. According to the writer Andrea Cleary, her “subject matter is seldom trivial – abuse, mythological stories, feminism and loss are considered with a confident serenity” (The Irish Times, 50 people to watch in 2019: Ireland’s hottest young talent, 8 January 2019).