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Úna Monaghan

Úna Monaghan

Rosamund Harding Research Fellow in Music, Newnham College


Dr. Úna Monaghan is a harper, composer, and sound artist from Belfast. Úna read Natural Sciences at Cambridge University before earning an MA and PhD in Sonic Arts at Queen’s University Belfast.

Úna’s research examines the intersections between Irish traditional music, experimental music practices, improvisation and interactive technologies. Her creative practice as musician, composer and sound engineer are reflected in a layered methodology that combines ethnography, composition, historical and musicological research, software and interface design, and performance. Her work investigates the creative, social, political and cultural challenges and opportunities that arise when a folk music tradition confronts new tools such as digital technologies and improvisatory techniques.

In 2013, Úna was a Future Music Performance Fellow at the Atlantic Music Festival, Maine, directed by violinist Mari Kimura. In 2015 she was Artist in Residence at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, and in 2016 at the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (IPLAI) at McGill University, Montréal.  Other awards include the James M. Flaherty Research Scholarship, awarded by the Ireland Canada University Foundation; Individual Artist and Residency awards from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and postgraduate research awards from Queen’s University Belfast. In 2012, she organised and chaired a symposium on Technology in Traditional Music Performance at the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Belfast.

Úna’s work has combined traditional music with bronze sculpture, sound art and movement sensors. Her compositions have been featured on BBC and RTÉ television and radio, in theatre productions, and at international festivals and conferences, including the International Computer Music Conference, Sound Music Computing, New York Electroacoustic Music Festival, Sonorities Festival of Contemporary Music, Live Interfaces, York Festival of Ideas, and Belfast Festival at Queen’s. She has led the creation and performance of a new, multimedia realisation of John Cage’s ‘Circus On’ score, in collaboration with poet Ciaran Carson and fiddle player Dr Martin Dowling.

In addition to her work as a musician and scholar, Úna is a live sound engineer specialising in Irish traditional music and experimental computer music, a role in which she travels worldwide. She is co-founder of Quiet Music Night, an evening dedicated to performing quiet music of all genres, especially new and experimental music, and she curates the JamJar series of contemporary music for Moving On Music in Belfast.

On Twitter: @una_music

Departments and Institutes

Newnham College:

Research Interests

  • New technologies and experimental practices in contemporary Irish traditional music;
  • interfaces for live performance;
  • improvisation;
  • human computer interaction;
  • performance as creative practice;
  • John Cage’s ‘Circus On’ scores, particularly realisations featuring Irish and Scottish traditional music;
  • solo performance contexts for Irish traditional music;
  • the role of the audience, and the presentation of sound art and music outside of the concert-hall / typical performance spaces;
  • the sociology and anthropology of contemporary music communities;
  • cultural studies of new media technologies.

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