Do You Speak Bell? #53 #cong19


The Curly Organ travels around Ireland communicating with people only through musical sounds.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Everybody has an innate ability to communicate through music.
  2. The connection between people is often deeper when talking is removed.
  3. Participation in this kind of interaction can be at once nerve-wracking, exhilarating, sophisticated, primal and profound.

About Donal McConnon:

T h e C u r l y O r g a n (AKA Donal McConnon) is a special kind of artist/composer/producer who has for one month successfully merged his everyday experiences with record production (4 EPs(2017)), who regularly has conversations with strangers through a non-verbal musical binary (Do You Speak Bell? (2018/2019)) and has developed an all-encompassing live performance making use of hand-drawn visuals and guided meditations.

Contacting Donal McConnon:

You can contact Donal via email or listen to some of his music 

By Donal McConnon

It is true that Ireland is a nation of talkers. The “gift of the gab” is considered the highest virtue and anyone with a talent for storytelling, competitive banter or clever word-play is bound to be very popular indeed. In fact, those who refuse to participate in the never-ending conversation are often accused of being eccentric or anti-social.

If conversation is the number one sport in Ireland, then the Irish pub is the official playing field. However, in any traditional Irish pub, you will find a wonderful opportunity for people who are introverted to participate in the craic and enhance the atmosphere for everyone there. This opportunity is, of course, the traditional Irish music session. Within these sessions, often extremely shy individuals are communicating in ways which most of us, who aren’t familiar with the nuanced vernacular of the tunes, will never fully understand. They are connecting on a level which is beyond language. What’s more, they are accepted and welcomed by the other extroverts in the room for the exotic and emotive vibrance the music adds to their conversations. Unfortunately, however, not everyone has the technical skill to participate in this wonderful tradition of musical conversation. Musicians are often trained from a very young age and those struggling to make a sweet sound on their instrument will only be tolerated for a short time within a session. So what can we do?

One of our primary objectives as language learners is increase our connectivity to a new community and hopefully the wider world. There’s no doubt that gaining an appropriate level of proficiency at speaking a language can open up a vast universe of experiences and insights which would not have been possible if you hadn’t been able to converse with native speakers.

Having said this, I am always fascinated to observe how some students with only a few words of English manage to achieve a higher level of connectivity with their fellow students and their teachers than others who possess an impressively wide vocabulary. Some even manage to cross cultural and linguistic boundaries in bold and creative ways and establish deeper connections than perhaps two native speakers. As an English teacher, it is very necessary that I have a love of language. But I am equally fascinated by effective communication which is non-verbal, or communication which skillfully incorporates a mixture of words, movement and music.