Interview : Fergal Dowling, Music Current Festival

Izumi Kimura

Q & A with Fergal Dowling of Dublin Sound Lab who curates Music Current Festival 2018

Q. Why did you set up Dublin Sound Lab & Music Current?

 Dublin Sound Lab started with two guys, Michael Quinn and myself. I am a composer – mostly of electronic music – and Michael is an organist and harpsichordist. We met when we were music undergrads at TCD and we performed together there in student ensembles, often playing new student works. Years later we met up again and wanted to play music together again in a group where we could both be involved in all aspects of composing and performing – rather like we had done in our student days. So we set up Dublin Sound Lab in 2008 with the idea that we would programme and perform contemporary works, but also so we could include new works that we could develop together. Gradually, we began inviting other composers, performers and artists to join us in different projects and Dublin Sound Lab evolved into a 'music project group', so now it's no longer an ensemble in the conventional sense. 

Fergal Dowling

Q. How does this annual music festival work? 

 Over the years we have organised a number of events for younger composers and performers, where we would invite internationally recognised musicians to lead masterclasses with musicians in Dublin and then we would produce a related concert. This started with a lecture and recital by Garth Know in 2009, then a two-day workshop and concerts with Karlheinz Essl in 2011, and a masterclasses and concert with Peter Ablinger in 2014. There seemed to be a lot of interest in these exchanges so we decided to formalise this plan to combine concerts and masterclasses in the Music Current festival in 2016. Now, each year we have a portrait concert with a guest composer, who gives masterclasses with younger composers (who apply to participate), plus other concerts and public discussions. Each year we commission one of the participating composers to write a new work for the following year’s festival. 

Q. What's been or is the most exciting part for you to date? 

 For Music Current 2018 we had 65 applications from composers from all over the world, for only six places! So it was personally exciting and rewarding to see that there is so much interest in Music Current and that it has such a wide international reach. But from a musical point of view, the most exciting show we have had was definitely KLANK, a German group who gave their first Irish performance at Music Current 2017. Their shows are clever, visceral, unpredictable and witty – and great fun. 

Q. Who are your favourite electronic musicians?

Each year we invite a guest composer who uses electronics in some way in his or her own work. Often they have very different approaches, techniques and aesthetics. The first guest composer was Jennifer Walshe and last year Christopher Fox joined us. This year the guest composer is Stefan Prins, who is widely performed on the continent, but has never been performed in Dublin. We are presenting his Piano Hero series of works, which is an immersive cycle for midi-keyboard, grand piano, live-cameras, video and live-electronics. So I am looking forward to hearing this piece live. 

Xenia Pestova

Q. What can we expect from Music Current 2018? 

Well, this year the theme is keyboards, so you should expect pianos, prepared pianos, toy pianos, midi keyboards, and lots of electronics besides. As well as Stefan Prins' Piano Hero series, which is the opening concert, Yarn|Wire – a piano and percussion ensemble from USA – are playing three new works specially written for them, including a piece by Catherine Lamb and another by Ann Cleare. On the last day of the festival, Izumi Kimura, who is well-known to Irish audiences as an improviser, will be performing extracts from John Cages famous work for prepared piano, Sonatas and Interludes, as well as two new commissions for prepared-piano and live electronics by two Irish composers, Elis Czerniak and Francis Heery – that will be a very unusual concert. This year six new works for piano and electronics were submitted by the participant composers. These, as well as new commissions by the Italian composer, Silvia Rosani, and the Spanish composer, Helga Arias Para, will be performed by Xenia Pestova in the closing concert. 

Music Current 2018 runs at Smock Alley Theatre from April 12 -14 - for further details on this years programme -

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