by / December 2nd, 2011 /

Top Story: The Score: Contemporary and Classical news

This week The Score has reviews, CD launches, reports on arts as industry, and a few upcoming gigs, and a shot of controversy to boot. If the immense – and humbly appreciated – response to the launch of this column two weeks ago has shown anything, it is that though the contemporary world in Ireland is a small and close-knit one, its fans are both numerous and passionate. Spreading the news of contemporary music is The Score’s goal, so join in and help get conversation flowing, and help make people aware of the issues that continue to hold back recognition of Irish music.

A letter sent by Irish composer Kevin Nolan to the Irish Times regarding the use of Irish composers’ music in RTÉ programming has sparked a fierce – and important – debate among TV-types and musicians alike. Should our national broadcasting agencies make a point to support Irish arts by using more music by Irish composers? Our homegrown art seems to suffer when placed against the convenience of the ready-made roster of Hans Zimmers of the world, but it appears not to be, as proposed by the letter, a matter of money, but of exposure: editors and producers simply don’t know Irish composers’ work. It certainly is not a matter of money for the majority of Irish composers who would be glad to have their music (existing or commissioned) used in nationally broadcast shows regardless of money received from it. Perhaps the answer is for musicians and composers here in Ireland to create our own easily accessible database of music, making their music more visible to those they want to hear it. How else should Irish artists go about having their work recognised by the industry? Have your say on Twitter or Thumped.

The Severed Head in Dublin will on the 9th of December play host to a unique meeting of Japanese and Irish traditions in Patterns of Plants, an exciting “micro-opera” collaboration between Mamoru Fujieda and Irelands own Yurodny Ensemble. This collaborative work is part of a series of works by the Japanese composer, in which electrical impulses from plants are translated into musical material via software such as Max/MSP. Yurodny, an ensemble known for its unique mix of contemporary classical and traditional music, will also be joined by guest musicians such as vocalist Olesya Zdorovetskaya and pianist Izumi Kimura, while the text, ‘Kwaidan’ by Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, fuses elements of Irish, Japanese and Chinese mythology. More information can be found on Yurodny’s website.

On the 7th of December, the Contemporary Music Centre will be releasing Contemporary Music in Ireland, Volume 10. This latest in a series of CDs, first launched in 1995, does exactly what it says on the cover, showcasing new contemporary music from Ireland, with the works on this volume composed exclusively by Irish composers over the past five years. The CD is a rich mix of music styles, featuring a number of composers who have become stalwarts on the contemporary scene and who deserve the recognition the release gives them, including Amanda Feery, Enda Bates, Ann Cleare and Neil O’Conner. Garrett Sholdice’s Sonate for baroque violin and double bass, released earlier this year on the Ergodos label, is a standout piece on an album which promises more. There’s an interview with Garrett below.

Kaleidoscope, a fortnightly “salon-style” concert series, celebrates its 2nd birthday this year with a big bash in the Button Factory on the 11th of December. The curators Kate Ellis and Cliodhna Ryan have once again put on a eclectic mix of musical styles. The programme includes Steve Reich, the Irish Saxophone Quartet playing Gershwin, Brahms, Tavener, and the New Dublin Voices playing early music such as Palestrina and Monteverdi. If that wasn’t enough, the New Dublin Voices will also be opening the after show party, followed by I Draw Slow and Prison Love. It’s a speeding train ride through musical history both popular and classical, from the choral music of Palestrina to the newest in new music, a commissioned work by David Fennessy. Tickets cost E22.50, and more information can be found here.

November saw the publication of the Indecon report, detailing the economic impact of the arts in Ireland. The report, helpfully summarised by the Arts Council, shows that the arts industry continues to be a significant force in the Irish economy. The arts has not been immune to job losses either though, with 400 lost since the publication of the last report in 2009. For the summary, and a link to the full report, click here.

The Dublin Laptop Orchestra, a recently-established electronic music ensemble, continues its campaign to change the way we experience electronic music. The ensemble uses their laptops like physical instruments, moving and performing in ways far removed from the expected hunched shoulders and expressionless staring a screen. This concert, featuring Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and other guest musicians, will take it one step farther, fusing the laptop performance with that of acoustic instruments. The concert features entirely new music, and takes place in Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre on the 11th of December.

Review – Young Americans, The Crash Ensemble
Last week’s main event, the Crash Ensemble’s Young Americans concert, lived well up to its hype. It was a concert of some refreshingly subtle and beautiful contemporary music. While the Irish scene remains fixated – though not detrimentally – on its own brand of wandering atonality and obsession with texture and timbre, the works performed at Liberty Hall were for the most part perfect examples of the post-minimalist love of crunching harmonies and sweet and delicate melodies. Yet each piece was seemingly also preoccupied with the idea of the beauty of destruction, whether through Missy Mazzoli’s “beauty in chaos”, the balance of rock’s aggression and classical’s self-awareness of Sean Friars work and Ken Ueno’s search for “beauty in…potential power and destruction”.

The music of Nico Muhly, the featured composer of the evening, found the equilibrium between beauty and destruction through balancing carefully constructed and delicate structures on top of agitated harmonies and timbres. His Drones, Variations, Ornaments, a commission for this concert, was evocative of nothing so much as the similarly finely wrought yet racked music of Owen Pallet, but given great scope through the ensemble’s restricted but expressive instrumentation. In this work, plaintive and sweet are made, through subtle interpolations with down-played aggression, anything but hackneyed.

With other memorable pieces such as Missy Mazzoli’s Still Life with Avalanche or Timothy Andres odd but endearing work for piccolo and glockenspiel Crashing Through Fences, the concert as a whole was an event that inspired and excited, with music that was at once appealing and clever.

Contemporary Music from Ireland, Vol. 10: Interview with Garrett Sholdice from Contemporary Music Centre on Vimeo.