Sunday 25 February 2018

Project start a Crash course in new music

When Cian O'Brien was appointed Artistic Director of Dublin's Project Arts Centre a year ago, one of his key priorities was to develop its music programme and to find a way of engaging with contemporary composers and musicians.

There was great excitement when it was announced that Crash Ensemble, the country's best-known contemporary music group, would be their ensemble in residence.

"The incredible quality of their work plus their sense of play and experimentation with form is a perfect fit for us," says O'Brien (right). "Our association with Crash Ensemble is mutually beneficial as we both bring our own audiences together to experience their wonderful concerts."

As part of this residency, Crash Ensemble will perform a series of concerts and events at Project Arts Centre over the next two years, bringing new music to Irish audiences.

When I spoke this week to Donnacha Dennehy, Crash Ensemble's founder, he was in New York, having recently taken up the 18-month post of Global Scholar at Princeton University.

He remains co-Artistic Director of Crash Ensemble and is delighted with the residency.

"We like to be associated with Project because it's the bastion of experimentalism in Dublin," he says.

Cian O'Brien hopes this collaboration will allow Crash Ensemble to experiment with the way they stage and present their events.

"A performance space like Project's Space Upstairs is perfect for that," he says.

A big part of the collaboration for Crash Ensemble is the opportunity of performing in a venue of this size -- Space Upstairs can seat between 180 and 220.

Over the years, in terms of Dublin venues (Project aside), Crash Ensemble has performed in The Samuel Beckett Centre and had a good relationship with IMMA before their move to Earlsfort Terrace.

"Dublin just has a dearth of good halls," says Dennehy. "It has no good medium-sized hall with a good acoustic, so The Project is a good fit."

Crash Ensemble's first major concert of the residency will be on November 2 and features works by some of the most distinctive creative voices in American and Irish contemporary music in the past 30 years. Entitled 'Thought', it is named after a piece by Glenn Branca, his first commission for Crash.

Young composer Nico Muhly, who has written a piece called 'Drones, Variations, Ornaments' for Crash Ensemble, is another exciting composer to have on board as he has written opera, choral works and film scores while also producing and writing arrangements for Antony and the Johnsons and Björk.

'Looping Point' has been specially written for Crash Ensemble by Kevin Volans and Dennehy himself has created a unique arrangement of his 2010 piece 'Disposable Dissonance'.

Crash Ensemble presents 'Thought' at Project Arts Centre on November 2.

Aedín Gormley presents Movies and Musicals (Sat, 1-4pm) and Sunday Matinée (Sun, 12-2pm) on RTÉ lyric fm

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