Irish pieces at What?…Wow festival

This weekend, the third New Music Dublin Festival takes place at the National Concert Hall. This year’s festival, titled What?…Wow, is curated by the American composer David Lang, and features a number of visiting US performers and composers. As part of the festival, Bang on a Can All-Stars present their famous ‘marathon’, with Crash Ensemble, So Percussion, RTÉ Contempo Quartet, Andrew Zolinsky, and Choir Choir Ireland performing a programme full of Irish and American works.

The Irish composers talked to us about their pieces:

Irene Buckley – Storr: RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra
8.00pm, 6 March – National Concert Hall

Linda Buckley – Torann (world premiere): Crash Ensemble*

This piece has gone through many forms and inspirations. It began its life as an almost sonic poem to my childhood, recording sounds of milking machines and the ebb and flow of the tide at home in the Old Head of Kinsale – these sounds are embedded and transformed throughout the electronic aspect of the piece. The title connects to this – torann being Gaelic for ‘noise’.

The next phase emerged during a month stay in the wilds of Iceland last August, where news broke of an impending volcanic eruption.The expansive landscape of my surroundings already had seeped into the music, but now there was something new, imagining the movement of magma within a volcano, its breathing, pulsating, tectonic plates shifting.

On the second day of this new year, I was told the sad news that our dear friend Bob Gilmore had passed away. The piece became about something else, part of the grieving process, but also somehow a celebration of his spirit, resonating through the harmonies and microtones. Torann is dedicted to the memory of Bob, who I feel blessed to have known

Sean Clancy – Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Greeting Cards: Crash Ensemble*

Commissioned by the Little Missenden Festival with support from the Britten-Pears Foundation and Friends of the Festival, Fourteen Minutes of Music on the Subject of Greeting Cards  is an artistic intervention on Deepest Sympathy by the video artist David Theobald, which I had the fortune of experiencing sometime in August 2012 at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. Similarly to Theobald’s piece, my work here offers a biography of an unnamed protagonist from the cradle to the grave with all of life’s trials and tribulations neatly summarised in a collection of pithy phrases found on greeting cards. As I am becoming increasing interested in my pieces having no more than one overt action over an extended period of time, rather than revealing the narrative to the audience (although it is revealed to the performers), what I offer the listener in this instance is a musical representation of my own experience of Theobald’s piece. By so doing, I hope to have provided enough time and space to really listen to, and contemplate each sound’s existence and their relationship (or lack of) to every other sound around them.

Donnacha Dennehy – Streetwalker: Bang On A Can All-Stars*

I wrote Streetwalker back in 2003 for Bang On A Can.  It was commissioned by WNYC Radio in New York. It’s the closest that anything of mine comes to being a protest piece, as I was feeling fairly exercised by all the unnecessary wars popping up at that time.  The piece has a kind of edgy rhythmic energy which comes about in large part from my taking a volatile, elastic approach to various looping entities, which keep contracting and expanding in unexpected ways.

Andrew Hamilton – music for people who like art: Crash Ensemble*

Music for people who like art all rests on a stretched out song and text by the painter Ad Reinhardt who relentlessly challenged the art world around him in 1950/60s New York, his vision of art relates closely to that of the universalism of Mondrian which I find inspiring

Garrett Sholdice – Das Blaue Licht: RTÉ Contempo Quartet*

The piece is my third work for string quartet. But it has felt like a first in some respects. I have never before approached this perfectly balanced instrumentation without road-maps, grids and plans. This time, I have tried to remain firmly in the physical experience of the music – the “grain” of the sound, and a tactile sense of the material.

The title – which means “the blue light” in German – refers to the bright, clear, luminous blue light of the sky above Berlin in the scorching hot July weeks in which I completed the piece. For me, there is a kind of synaesthetic connection between this sense of colour and this music.

There are two movements. There is no dialectical relationship. Just a change in breathing.

*All performances take place at 2.30pm, 7 March during the Bang on a Can marathon in the National Concert Hall

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