2013 – a look back on the year that was

2013 – the year that was

The year of Our Lord 2013 is almost over and at least 2013 things have happened to me this year, but rather than list them all here is an abridged summary. Lots of travelling, meeting new people and hearing interesting things in interesting places with interesting people. 


This year was a pretty hectic  in terms of education. I’m out of my masters a little over 18 months and I’ve been trying to continue to learn as much I can. I’ve been luck enough to get the opportunity to study on a number of courses, both in Ireland and internationally. The first was the Young Composers’ Meeting in Apeldoorn. This was a pretty terrifying experience as I got to write for a 16 piece ensemble with voice. Most of the instruments were ones which I had never written for before, and I wrote the piece as we drift softly (into the fog) for the course. Read more

Leap into the void – embracing my uncertain fate

I’ve just finished reading Stewart Lee’s  How I Escaped My Certain Fate. As anyone who has ever heard me talk about Lee will know I’m a huge fan, often going into lengthy monologues about his use of repetition, structure and recurring themes within his work. I was recently watching a video of a talk he gave at Oxford about the process of writing–or as he now does of not writing–and decided to get his book. Read more

Soundplane – multitouch wooden controller

The Soundplane from Madrona Labs is one of the prettiest electronic controllers I’ve ever seen. It might just be a superficial thing , just looking at the Soundplane it’s beautifully simple and made from one of my favourite materials, wood.

There are a few things missing from electronic instruments which can make them less satisfying than traditional instruments. The first is resonance  Resonance is one of my favourite musical phenomenons  I could get lost in it for days. And, as I have quite a deep voice, sometimes I am even able to excite the resonant frequencies of small rooms. This can make for a strange moment when I veer off mid sentence to sing a note. Read more

Drumtop v1.0 – physical sampler

Man, I love novel ways to make music, particularly if that music also happens to sound good. A while ago I came across just such a little project, the Drumtop v1.0 by Akito van Troyer. The Drumtop is an instrument with 8 speaker and transducer pairs that allow you to program sounds from anything you can fit on a speaker. It uses the speakers to create sound in an unconventional way, simply by moving up and down to cause whatever is on top to shake.

It’s a really simple idea, but I’m particularly impressed by the way that you interact with the instrument. By pressing down on the speaker the movement is sensed by the transducer underneath. When you press down a number of times to create a pattern it is recorded. The speaker then moves in this pattern causing whatever is on top of it to make a sound. By placing different objects on top of the speakers and sequencing different patterns with them you could create lots of interesting combinations. Read more

MusicTechFest 2013 – My experience

I’m just back from presenting at MusicTechFest. It was my first chance to talk to people outside Ireland about In Your Own Time and  was a pretty daunting and exhilerating experience. But I loved every minute of it. As well as presenting about my work I was also able to take it some of the other talks. Chat to people and immerse myself in the festival. I’m now very taken with MusicTechFest, it’s an excellent event.

In my day to day life I like meeting with entrepreneurs. Talking with them and hearing what motivates them can be a really energising experience. They’re always really interesting people, full of energy, optimism and a ‘Lets do it!’ attitude. But there’s always a difference what we’re ultimately interested in. What you get at MusicTechFest is that same kind of enthusiasm, passion and excitement singularly focused on music. Read more

West Cork Chamber Music Festival String Quartet Workshop

I’m just home from the convolutedly titled West Cork Chamber Music Festival String Quartet Workshop, a workshop of string quartets in progress with 5 other composers. Our venue for the day was the jaw droppingly beautiful Cork School of Music, full of cavernous hallways and generously proportioned rooms and most importantly very reasonably tasting coffee. We were also luck enough to have the company of the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet to play through our pieces, with the composer Deirdre Gribbin leading the workshop.

The workshop opened with Vanbrugh playing through examples from Beethoven, Britten and Janáček with Deirdre point out important features of the music and talking us through how these ideas could be applied when writing for the quartet. Pulling out phrases from different pieces and having them played using different string techniques, such as sul pont, as harmonics or pizzicato, showed the variety of sounds that can be achieved and how these sounds can be combined to create interesting textures. Read more

First post of 2013

The year of our lord 2013 is upon us and in spite of the people’s misunderstanding of the Mayan calendar we’re still here. There’s some exciting stuff happening this year and I’ve decided to start the year as I mean to continue, with a to-do list–masquerading as a blog post. A couple of website announcements first, you might have noticed that my domain name has changed. No longer am I, 2013 means the shiny new domain of (I felt the ‘b’ was holding me back) and a little update to the look of the site. Any links to the old site will redirect to this one, so no worries there. As well as that I want to announce that the website for the app In Your Own Time–which I’ve been working on over the last year–is now live! The app isn’t out yet but the website is there to give an idea of what to expect when it is released in March. You can stay up to date with it’s progress on Facebook and Twitter. Read more

The Relay Project

The Relay ProjectThe Relay Project is an ongoing project initiated and curated by John Lambert. The premise of the project is that composers and sound artists produce a piece of audio taking the inspiration from the previous work created. It’s an interesting idea, kind of like a musical version of Chinese Whispers, with each person putting their own unique spin on the work that has been passed onto them. Some really interesting music has been created for the project, but I’ve included my two favourites below, haunt by Linda Buckley and A Beard of Mercury Switches by Sunken Foal. It’s great to see so many interesting Irish artists taking part in this kind cycle of inspiration, long may it continue.

A joyful slog

A joyful slog  is a film about the DIY/indie music scene in Ireland, packed full of interviews and footage of musician and people active within the scene. It tracks the genesis of the scene in Ireland, from early exponents like Fugazi, and how the forerunners inspired and effected the current wave of DIY musicians. How the choices they made created a model for those who came after them to use to go indie. It’s a really motivational film and echos a lot of the sentiment that I heard in May at Music 3.0, ‘Just go and do it’. It’s also great to hear from the musicians and bands themselves, to hear about the process and what being independent means to them. If you’re interested in getting your own music out into the world it might give you some ideas or the kick you need to get started. Last, but certainly not least, the film is packed from beginning to end with excellent music. Well worth a watch.