Track of the Day: ‘Meáchan Rudaí’ by The Gloaming

Released last Friday, The Gloaming's third album opens with 'Meáchan Rudaí (The Weight of Things)', a song based on the poem of the same name by Irish language poet Liam Ó Muirthile.

Meachan Rudaí was a poem I first encountered when its writer Liam Ó Muirthile came to my home studio to record recitations for inclusion on a CD of his last collection of poems,” said Iarla. “When I heard him read that poem I remember being quite shocked by it. The lyric was incredibly powerful. When he was reading it he became visibly emotional and had to sit down. He was writing about his mother, and he starts off talking about him being in her arms and in her womb and the weight of that, the weight of all her mannerisms, and then eventually the weightlessness of her absence. It is very beautiful.”

Iarla reads an extract from Gabriel Rosenstock's translation of 'Meáchan Rudaí'

Read the lyrics and translation of ‘Meáchan Rudaí’ below

“I’d never intended to record it, but I happened to have it with me in New York when I was working with Thomas Bartlett on songs for The Gloaming’s new album. It crept into my mind and I dug it out of the bag and mentioned it to him. He started working on ideas at the piano, and within twenty minutes the basis of the track was done! It just came out.”

“I can respond to what is being conveyed emotionally pretty easily,” Bartlett says. “Iarla does talk me through things eventually, and the words of ‘Meáchan Rudaí’ are just extraordinary. Iarla had recorded that vocal with very minimal accompaniment, then he went away and I built the whole song around that vocal, and when he came back he was astonished because again and again I had picked harmonic things that seemed to be responding very directly to things in the text, but I didn’t know what the text was: there’s a certain amount of intuiting what’s going on. Its like Sigur Rós before: you can tell what Jónsi is getting at even if the words are gibberish.”

The Gloaming's Iarla Ó Lionáird talks about the inspiration behind 'Meáchan Rudaí'
The late Liam Ó Muirthile, recording his poetry at Iarla Ó Lionáird's home studio in Kilkenny, Ireland.

Liam Ó Muirthile

Liam Ó Muirthile (1950-2018) was an Irish language poet from Cork city. His first collection of poetry, Tine Chnámh, written in 1984, received the Irish-American Cultural Institute’s literary award and the Oireachtas prize for poetry. He belonged to the Innti movement of the late 20th Century which is widely credited with introducing modern cultural influences to Gaeilge poetry.

Film-maker Tom Kalin describes the experience of creating a video to accompany the track:

“When I heard The Gloaming’s ‘Meáchan Rudaí  (The Weight of Things)’ my body understood before my brain did. I don’t speak Irish and while reading the translation to Liam Ó Muirthile’s remarkable poem, the song unfolded, again. I knew I had to find imagery to convey the hidden —sometimes harsh— beauty of the every day.

“These unpopulated, high-resolution landscapes were photographed in the meadows near my Catskills home and high above Manhattan, using a motorized “slider”, the moving image stitched together from thousands of photographs to convey an incremental journey through space and time.

“For my “actors”, I turned to the past. In 1938 and 1939, a man named Ivan Besse photographed several hours of home movies in Britton, South Dakota, a small town of a few thousand people that served as a cross-country railway stop.  He captures little scraps of happiness: a chuckling farmer petting his pig trophy; a Stetson-wearing boy staring down the camera; a woman recoiling in shy surprise as she discovers the lens. Finally, a series of ghostly visitations layers rural, Depression-era South Dakota school kids over the gleaming twilight of New York City: “The weight of the music of your country voice in the city.”

The official video for 'Meáchan Rudaí', created by Tom Kalin.

Meáchan Rudaí (The Weight of Things)

The lyrics of ‘Meáchan Rudaí (The Weight Of Things)’ come from an Irish language poem of the same name by the Irish poet Liam Ó Muirthile. The English translations of these lyrics come from a poem translation by the Irish poet Gabriel Rosenstock.

© Liam Ó Muirthile. Cóiriú ar an dán ‘Meáchan Rudaí’ ón gcnuasach An Fuíoll Feá, Cois Life (2013)

© Liam Ó Muirthile. An arrangement of the poem ‘Meáchan Rudaí’ from the collection An Full Feá, Cois Life (2013) 

Mo mheáchan i do bhaclainn sa phictiúr dínn beirt i Fitzgerald’s Park, agus mise in aois a trí. Ár meáchan araon. Ár gcómheáchan. Meáchan do hata anuas ar do gháirí. Mo mheáchan is tú dom iompar ar feadh naoi mí. Meáchan suí agus luí agus éirí. Do mheáchan féin nár ardaíos riamh ó thalamh ach chun tú a chur i dtalamh. Do mheáchan beo. Do mheáchan marbh. Meáchan na bhfocal ag éirí is ag titim eadrainn mar a bheadh sciatháin scuaine ealaí. Trom-mheáchan urnaí. Cleitemheáchan daidh-didil-dí. Meáchanlár fáinne fí na gcuimhní.

Meáchan cheol do ghutha ón tuath sa chathair. Meáchan do bheoldatha ag luí ar do liopaí ag aeráil ghutaí. Meáchan do chumhrachta i seomra na hiarbhreithe. Meáchan do thuirse máthartha á rá liom bheith amuigh go cneasta.

Meáchan do ghaolta. Meáchan muinteartha. Meáchan sinseartha. Meáchan comharsan. Meáchan seanchais. Meáchan an tsaoil mhóir. Meáchan sagart. Meáchan bráithre. Meáchan óil. Meáchan staire. Meáchan do ghrinn. Meáchan na ndaoine a thug na cosa leo. Meáchan an tsaoil eile. Meáchan do chreidimh. Meáchan duairc do chuid sceoin. Meáchan do náire.

Ár meáchan araon ag bualadh le chéile sa chathair chun lóin. Meáchan m’fhoighne ag fanacht leat ag doras séipéil. Meáchan d’fhoighnese ag fanacht liom chun teacht isteach. Meáchan do chuid paidreoireachta. Meáchan chrosa an tsaoil. Meáchan do ghoile. Meáchan do chuid moille i mbun bia.. Meáchan aerach an chailín á thabhairt do na boinn chuig rincí. Meáchan an bhosca cheoil ar do ghuailní. Meáchan do dhá ghlúin ag coimeád tionlacan le rincí.

Do mheáchan coirp agus tú ag luí os cionn cláir trí oíche agus trí lá.

Meáchan an sceimhle i do shúile agus iad ag glaoch ort ón taobh thall. Meáchan an diúltaithe dul ann. Meáchan an ancaire agus é ag greamú go docht ionat ón mbruach thall. Meáchan na rún nach raibh aon cheilt orthu níos mó. Meáchan an ghrá gan rá a d’fhuascail glaoch an bháis ionat. Meáchan an mhearbhaill a d’fhág do cheann ina roithleagán ró. Meáchan na beatha ag dul as. Meáchan mo chuairt dheireanach ort.

Meáchan mhuintir na tuaithe ag triall ar an dtigh cathrach. Meáchan a monabhair. Meáchan do chomhrá linn féin ón dtaobh thall. Meáchan na rudaí a bhíodh á rá agat led bheo agus a bhí fós led mharbh. Fós do mheáchan teanga. Meáchan an cheatha nár lig dúinn seasamh fada a dhéanamh ag béal na huaighe.

Éadroime d’anama a luigh orainn ar nós braillín síoda i do leaba tar éis tú a adhlacadh.

Tar éis tú a adhlacadh. Tar éis.

 

The Weight of Things (extract) translation by Gabriel Rosenstock

The weight of me in your arms. A photo of the two of us in Fitzgerald’s Park. Three years of age I was. The weight of the pair of us. Our weight together. The weight of your hat shading your laughter. My weight as you bore me for nine months. The weight of sitting, getting up, lying down. Your weight that I never lifted from the ground – before burying you in the ground. Your living weight. Your dead weight. The weight of words rising and falling between us, the wingbeat of swans. The heavy weight of prayers. The feather weight of lilting. The middle weight of memory, ancient spiral.

The weight of the music of your country voice in the city. The weight of the lipstick on your lips airing vowels. The weight of your fragrance in the bedroom after giving birth. The weight of your maternal weariness asking me kindly to go outside.

The weight of your relations. The weight of intimacy. The weight of ancestry. The weight of neighbours. The weight of tribal lore. The weight of the great world. The weight of priests. The weight of brothers. The weight of drink. The weight of history. The weight of humour. The weight of those who got away. The weight of the otherworld. The weight of your faith. The sorrowful weight of your fear. The weight of your shame.

The weight of the two of us as we met for lunch in the city. The weight of my patience waiting for you at the chapel door. The weight of your patience waiting for me to enter. The weight of your praying. The weight of the crosses of the world. The weight of your appetite. The weight of your lingering over food. The airy weight of a girl stepping it out at a dance. The weight of the accordion on your shoulders. The weight of your two knees keeping time with the dances.

The weight of your corpse as we waked you three nights and three days

The weight of the terror in your eyes as they called to you from the other side. The weight of your refusal to go. The weight of the anchor from yonder as it took a firm hold of you. The weight of secrets that had nowhere now to hide. The weight of unspoken love that death’s call freed in you. The weight of confusion that had your head in a merry-go-round. The weight of life draining away. The weight of my last visit.

The weight of country folk making their way to the city. The weight of their murmurings. The weight of your conversation with us from beyond. The weight of things you said when alive and continued to say in death. The weight of your language, still. The weight of the shower that didn’t allow us to stand very long at the mouth of the grave.

The lightness of your soul that covered us like the silk sheet on your bed after we buried you.

After we buried you. After.

Featured Release

  • The Gloaming 3

    The Gloaming

    Released 22 February 2019

    World renowned Irish American supergroup The Gloaming return with their highly anticipated third album. Produced by Thomas Bartlett, the album was recorded in New York City at Reservoir Studios. Like its predecessors, it richly reimagines the vernacular of traditional Irish music through a modern prism via elements of post-rock, jazz, contemporary classical, chamber and minimalism.

By Oran Mullan

Published on Tue, 26 February 19

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