nterview With David Nelligan of Hundred Years Later – first published in Downtown/The Evening Echo 2014-4-10

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David Nelligan, a songwriter and musician who has played with a variety of bands over the last 15 years and currently leads The David Nelligan Thing, has taken a step away from his own music to pursue ‘Hundred Years Late’, a fascinating new project which encourages people to upload their own interpretations of songs recorded in 1914.

He met with Ronan Leonard to discuss the concept, “ ‘Hundred Years Late’ is a music archive revival project focused on the music of 1914. There’s so much archived music online that has been digitised from old wax cylinders and records, at first it’s hard to listen to due to the poor sound quality and the stiff formal style of the time, but you come across some amazing songs. Since I’m a musician, I naturally started singing these songs myself, I enjoyed it so much, I thought it might be interesting idea to try and get musicians from all over the world involved.”

However it is also borne from an academic angle as well, “I started this project as part of my masters in Digital Arts & Humanities in UCC. Digital Humanities is the emerging field concerned with how scholarship can utilise new digital technologies, in the academic fields of history, literature, sociology, music and art, this is the new frontier, the Internet age brings about a world of possibilities.”

This concept of accessibility is the cornerstone of ‘Hundred Years Late’ as David reiterated, “people are encouraged to dive in and see what’s out there, to find a song that really speaks to them and reinterpret it in their own style. Even a few years ago this wouldn’t have been possible, most musicians now have their own recording software, and the digital era has brought with it a democratisation of creativity.”

Contribution to ‘Hundred Years Late’ only has one restriction, the song HAS to be from 1914; David explained the reasoning behind setting just defined terms, “if the remit was simply to record any archived songs from any era, it would be too broad and vague. The narrow timeframe gives the project focus, in 1914 the music industry was very young but absolutely booming, there is a lot to be rediscovered from this time. 100 is also a nice round number!”

David stressed how easy taking part in the process is “they just have to find a song, there are lots of archive resources at http://www.hundredyearslate.com, once they’ve found a song they like from 1914, they can record it or just sing it to their webcam and upload it on YouTube, Bandcamp or Soundcloud and I embed it on the website. In this way we build a complete picture of what people still find relevant and inspiring from 1914, it becomes a resource on music from this era, and gives musicians a chance to showcase their talents and do something interesting with some of these old forgotten gems.”

David gave two examples of artists who have captured his imagination, “there was Canadian tenor Henry Burr, he could be referred to as ‘the Elvis of his day’, he recorded more than 12,000 songs in his career, including ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ in 1927. Another fascinating figure was James Reese Europe, a black bandleader, jazz pioneer, and founder of a union for black musicians in New York. Though I had never heard of him, his influence on his contemporaries was inestimable; a bandmate later called him ‘the Martin Luther King of music.’ Discovering these stories is very exciting and hearing the music these people made is inspiring, I hope other musicians will feel inspired to get involved as well.”

Many musicians have already working on contributions to ‘Hundred Years Late’ and David is intrigued by what is being created, “it’s shaping up to be an interesting summer, I can’t wait to hear some of the submissions that are on the way, people will be able to get it as it happens when they follow us on Facebook or Twitter. People are generally encouraged to do their own thing, take an orchestral ballad and make it into a synth-rock-waltz; take a jazz song and make it country. Music is so malleable, people can do anything with it.”

For more information go to http://www.hundredyearslate.com, facebook.com/hundredyearslate or follow twitter.com/HYL_music

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