Amhrán na mBeach (Song of the Bees) Home

Amhrán na mBeach
(Song of the Bees)


Field studies | Microphone array | Tonality | Workshops [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Field studies

We have visisted a number of bee keepers in Ireland and carefully listened to their thoughts about the bees, the environment and the world.



Jack Ryan's Honey Farm

Entrance to Jack Ryan's Honey Farm

Every tree, shrub and plant on Jack Ryan's farm has been selected for biodiversity, ecology and the well-being of bees.

Insect hotel

Jack also provides accommodation for other insects.

Jack showing his garden

Jack showing some of his garden.

Water lily

Mikael recording bee sounds

Recording bee sounds

Galtee Honey Farm

Video and audio recording of bees at Galtee Honey Farm


Micheal Mac Giolla Coda opening up a hive to show us the bees at work.

Jenny Haughton

Glenstal Abbey

Bee hives at Glenstal Abbey

Bees on triangular honey comb


Designing a hive microphone array

We built a special frame for recording sounds inside a hive structure. Specially selected electret microphone capsules were inserted in the corners of the frame. WIth two microphone frames inserted, we get an 8-channel recording from a hive.

Bee hive microphone array

installing microphone array in live beehive

Installing the microphone arays into a live beehive at Glenstal Abbey Apiary

installing microphone array in live beehive

installing microphone array in live beehive

Capturing the Song of the Bees, inside a beehive at Glenstal Abbey Apiary


Honeycomb looks hexagonal. Each "cell" is round, but somehow the bees have it figured out and the most optimal use of space makes what to the human eye looks like a grid of hexagonals. We have been looking at a number of different musical scales to work with, for being "in tune" with the sound of bees (buzzing, and queen bees also do "piping" - with sounds that could be described as "quacking" or "tooting", normally around a G# note. This has led us to explore hexatonic scales and at present we are leaning towards a scale known as the Promethean scale.


We held our first workshop with our Apiary Ensemble the 1st of December 2012, in Glenstal Abbey. Three beekeepers participated and we discussed how to do field recordings to gather individual site collections of bee-related sounds of interest that can be used in the performance. We also introduced the participants to our SamplePlayer, an interactive software tool for live sound art performance, developed by Softday in PD.

hands and computers

It was a very pleasant early-winter day and Glenstal Abbey was very peaceful and inviting for us all to work on the project.

Our second workshop was held the 26th of January 2013 in Glenstal Abbey. Four beekeepers participated and we listened to some of the recordings they had made and discussed issues such as field recording and the interesting soundscapes that have captured.

2nd workshop at Glenstal

While it's currently winter, the bees are in their hives. They keep the hive warm by disengaging their wings and vibrating their flight muscles. If it's a nice sunny day, they send out a scout to check out the environment, waiting for spring to start. Amazing!

The Third workshop was held the day before St Patrick's Day 2013. This included review of new sounds collected by our apiarists and initial rehearsals. We also checked how the bees were doing.

bees at Glenstal Abbey

Bees at Glenstall Abbey.

 As you can hear, the bees were full of energy and eager to explore their immediate environment. There was no need to wear any protective clothing.

Mikael recording bees

Mikael recording the sounds of some happy spring bees.

Bee conversation

Ciaran and Simon discussing optimal hive location and orientation.

Here is a clip from our rehearsal

part of the Softday Apiary Ensemble


In the fourth workshop we started to shape the electroacoustic elements towards the final shape of the performance.


Lunch break

Lunch break

Choir stalls

Choir stalls

Detail of the church organ

Detail of the church organ

In our fifth and final workshop, more field recordings had been made and we auditioned the recordings and tried some different arrangements. At the end of the workshop, we had arrived at a final score.

Softday Apiary Ensemble workshop