Composer, Performer, Musical Director National Concert Hall Gamelan and UCD Gamelan Orchestra
I am delighted to be participating this year in two fantastic initiatives organised by Ireland's Contemporary Music Centre.
The Choral Sketches project is an exclusive opportunity for three selected composers to develop their choral writing skills by working with Paul Hillier and Chamber Choir Ireland. For my participation, I am currently composing new settings of sacred texts from the world's great spiritual traditions, which will be workshopped and performed by Chamber Choir Ireland in due course.
The CMC Colleagues Programme is a new collaboration initiative in which 40 Irish composers have been teamed up with 40 performers to create new music. I will be working with renowned violinist Cora Venus Lunny on a new work for violin and tape, using samples of string harmonics which Cora will record especially for the work.
This year I will be launching a new microtonal music ensemble with Mike Nielsen (microtonal guitar), Ellen Demos (voice) and Shane O'Donovan (percussion, electronics).
Combining elements of Javanese gamelan music with free jazz and electro-acoustic composition, the ensemble will collaborate together over the next few months to produce a programme of all original music which will be showcased in the autumn.
As part of this project we will also be producing a documentary film with videographer Kris Manulak. This film will chart the creation of the new work, and tell the story of our instruments, from Mike's custom-made microtonal guitar, to the National Concert Hall gamelan instruments, which were received as a gift from His Royal Highness the Sultan of Yogyakarta.
The NCH Gamelan Orchestra has released its debut single online. I composed Embat in 2014 to commemorate the gift of the NCH gamelan instruments from the Sultan of Yogyakarta. The piece was premiered in Ireland's National Concert Hall for the gamelan's inaugural naming ceremony during the sultan's royal visit in September of that year. Over the years it has been performed at music festivals across Ireland and Java.
The composition was inspired by the sounds of gamelan craftsmen forging a new gong. The word "embat" is a Javanese word referring to the characteristic tuning differences which make each gamelan unique. The composition uses traditional Yogykarta playing techniques to highlight the key features of the gamelan's tuning.
In March 2019, I began a series of songwriting workshops with the Dublin Simon Community. After visiting numerous homeless services around the city, bringing together poets, musicians and singers, we organised weekly sessions where all the participants met to write, rehearse and record their original songs.
Over the course of the project, a core group came together to form a band, calling themselves The Social Misfits, and the series culminated in a CD launch and a concert performance of all the songs in Dublin Castle. You can read our story in this article from the Irish Sun newspaper, featuring interviews with some of the band members, or click on the picture below.
Two of my compositions for guitar and electronics are featured on the new CD/DVD release Knowing/Unknowing from Ben Dwyer on Farpoint Recordings.
Anois 's Aris (2009), which was originally written, in collaboration with Judith Ring, for the delicate medieval psaltery, has been tranformed in Ben's hands into a dramatic performance piece.
My more recent work Enharmonic Harmonics (2016), written especially for Ben, is an exploration of the "enharmonic genus", the remarkable microtonal tuning system of ancient Greece.
The Dublin Miniatures are now available as a collection of 22 unique postcards.
Each postcard features an original composition (including a short programme note) and a photograph of the location where the music was composed.
Taken together, the cards can also be read as a piano book which can be performed in concert or played at home.
These compositions are aimed at all levels and abilities, from amateurs to professionals.
The complete set includes a specially-designed cover card which features a map of the city pointing to the locations where each composition was written. The full set is available now for the special launch price of E20 (includes P&P to anywhere in the world).
In August 2018, the NCH Gamelan represented Ireland at the International Gamelan Festival in Indonesia. The week-long festival took place in venues all across the city of Surakarta in Central Java. We put together a specially-prepared programme for the festival to showcase the different gamelan styles and techniques we have developed in the five years since we began playing together. The programme included a selection of popular Javanese folk songs and original compositions, including my own work Embat, alongside several core works from the classical Javanese repertoire.
We performed before a huge audience in the festival's outdoor arena, and the whole performance was extremely well received. The event was covered by national media, including BBC Indonesia. Indonesia's national weekly magazine, Tempo, described how the group "truly captured the audience's attention", while one festival organiser cited this ensemble as a great example of how the foreign gamelan orchestras at the festival were able to "mesmerise" audiences with their "competent and holistic understanding of gamelan". But the greatest appreciation was reserved for our rendition of the popular Javanese song Prau Layar, which closed the set with the festival audience enthusiastically cheering and singing
At the festival's closing ceremony I was delighted to be presented with the surprise gift of a specially-designed lamp bearing the image of Javanese deity Wuku Sungsang, who is symbolically associated with the date of my birth.
New Work for Chamber Choir Ireland
Event Info: TBC
New Work for Cora Venus Lunny
Event Info: TBC
New Work for UCD Philharmonic Choir
Event Info: TBC