top of page



SacrumProfanum is an hour-long multimedia work for amplified viola, flutes (alto, C, piccolo, and tin whistle), medieval Irish harp, bowed guitar, and tape. It was composed especially for violist Garth Knox, flautist Emma Coulthard, harpist Siobhán Armstrong with the composer on bowed guitar. SacrumProfanum explores the enigmatic stone carvings found in Ireland and parts of Britain known as Sheela-na-gigs. Dwyer spent ten years travelling across the country studying, photographing and sketching these mysterious figures. Responding artistically through the Sheela ‘as witness’, Dwyer has created a unique work exploring themes such as feminism, colonialism, dispossession, identity, religion, rite, sexuality and the disintegration of Gaelic culture. In a score that combines contemporary music interfacing with traditional Irish materials, instruments and sean-nós singing, SacrumProfanum offers perceptive critiques of contemporary exploitations of Irish culture. HAG, for amplified flute and bowed guitar, is the 7th of eleven movements in SacrumProfanum, and is perhaps the most explicit and abject—the flautist embodies the Sheela, expressing her anger and defiance through a visceral dramatic narrative performed through the instrument, which is echoed and amplified by the (mostly) improvised bowed-guitar playing.

SacrumProfanum ICC .jpeg

Q&A following the English premiere of SacrumProfanum at the Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith.         (photo: Franco Chen)                                    

SacrumProfanum trailer

HAG from SacrumProfanum
Emma Coulthard (flute) & Benjamin Dwyer (bowed guitar)
A film by Jonathan C. Creasy                Password: sacrum                             
HAG from SacrumProfanum
Heliä Mailiis Viirakivi (flute) & Viktória Šinkorová (bowed guitar)
live at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, Tallinn
bottom of page