Words: Dylan Murphy
Starting Friday 23 April, Irish contemporary music festival New Music Dublin is set to host 33 world premieres, including an original composition from GASH COLLECTIVE founder ELLLL in collaboration with Crash Ensemble. We caught up with the producer to talk about the new festival and the process of creating for live instruments.
New Music Dublin is set to showcase over 33 world premieres and six Irish premieres across their online festival. Kicking off on April 23 and going until 26 April, it’ll host live-streamed performances from the National Concert Hall and Smock Alley as well interviews with the performers and a number of workshops.
Committed to creating a platform that highlights the diversity of the contemporary Irish music scene, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra will be performing an all-female programme with 3 premieres from Irene Buckley, Anne-Marie O’Farrell and Caroline Shaw.
Elsewhere, in light of the ongoing climate crisis, Soprano Michelle O’Rourke and harpist Richard Allen will be premiering new works from Deirdre Gribbin and Ed Bennett in Grounded – a project inspired by the growing numbers of performers who, for ecological reasons, travel only by sea and land, and refuse to fly.
Additionally, on Saturday night the RTÉ Concert Orchestra will give the premiere of Atomic Hope by Natasa Paulberg, four movements “exploring the component parts of the atom as a metaphor of our current human experience”.
Another interesting component of the online festival, is a bespoke piece from Berlin-based GASH COLLECTIVE founder ELLLL. She composed original material for Crash Ensemble and we caught up with her to chat about how the collaboration came to fruition and the process of creating it.
District: Tell us a bit about your involvement with New Music Dublin
ELLLL: New Music Dublin and crash ensemble approached me to produce an original piece of music for Crash Ensemble to premiere at this festival. Originally, we had spoken about doing the piece and perhaps there’d be an afters afterwards, but obviously, the state of the world changed greatly [Laughs]. They extended the deadline for when I can do the piece, so I’ve had this for like a year.
District: Were there any criteria, themes, feelings or emotions that they told you to go in with or was it totally free reign for you?
ELLLL: It was totally free reign. Usually, in my experience when I get a brief for a commission or installation there is usually a brief of quite a few things they want you to fulfil. This was really open-ended, they knew that I do a lot of experimental music and electronics and that appealed to them. I am also very familiar with Crash Ensemble and I know they are big supporters of experimental music as a whole. It was cool that I knew they would be up for loads of stuff and wouldn’t be reserved.
District: How would you describe the piece and what is it called?
ELLLL: The piece is called Images and Sensations and I came up with the theme in spring last year. I came up with it and I was using this theme and was doing a mix for C-. They do mostly ambient and not club mixes. So I started exploring the theme for that mix and called that mix Images and Sensations.
The idea for the mix was things that felt nostalgic, that I listened to that evoked a memory or a feeling, that was the starting point. I knew there was so much more I wanted to do with it. If someone listened to the mix and the piece you probably won’t see any correlation at all [laughs]. For me, it was a starting point where I was thinking about these sounds and I knew I wanted to expand on them more. Then I basically over the last year was listening to a ton of things and wrote a lot of notes. I write a lot of things by hand and sketch a lot of ideas. I have lots of ideas but had no idea what it was going to sound like.
It was a big challenge to try and hone in on that and shape that. I only really kind of defined it in the last couple of months there were so many ideas I had to decide if they were worth keeping or not.
District: Do you enjoy exposing people to electronic music that perhaps would listen to it otherwise?
ELLLL: Definitely. It’s a great opportunity for people to hear music that wouldn’t be so open to. So in terms of getting people into something different it’s really interesting. As well, for me, I love being really outside of my comfort zone. Even though sometimes I agree to things and I’m like ‘why did I say I would do this, I have no idea what I’m doing’ [laughs].
I love a good challenge and it’s definitely worth it when it comes to fruition. For this, it took me a while to get my head around writing for it. I have written for instrumentalists before, but it was like ten years ago in college, so I was a long long time out of practice and when I sat down to write this it felt wrong to sit down and write notes on a piece of paper cause that’s not how I write music.
So what I decided to do was work backwards and do it the same way i’d write an electronic track or write a remix. I basically filled Ableton with sounds of things I thought were cool. Whether that was samples of instruments I ripped from youtube or VSTs and did the notation last. Most people in contemporary music will do it the other way around… but for me, I knew what I wanted it to sound like first, then I broke it down into something that resembled a score.
Once I started to not get caught up with the fact im writing for instruments – it’s just music. So I just approach it the same way I’d write any music it kind of made it a bit easier.
ELLLL’s composition and all the other premieres and performances are available for free on www.newmusicdublin.ie, RTE Culture, Lyric FM & NCH YouTube.