Interview : Siobhan Cleary, musician and composer

Déshabillé talks to avant garde composer/musician Dubliner Siobhan Cleary, who has been wowing audiences with her creative compositions, both here and abroad.

Q. How were you prompted to get interested in music?

I can’t remember a time when music hasn’t been part of my life in some shape or form. My earliest memories were listening to the radio in the cot and I also remember been fascinated by the records my older brother brought home. My grandfather played the fiddle and  I started playing tin whistle and piano at an early age. 

Q. Did you find it difficult composing at first?

I started to compose around the same time as I started to learn the piano... without realising that’s what I was doing. It was more like a game or a pastime at that stage, and I hadn’t yet learned to write things down. Learning music theory later on came easily to me and something I enjoyed a lot

Q. Who are/were your influences?

From the early years people like Bowie, Kate Bush, Blondie and the Velvet Underground (Heroin was the basis for my piece Diamorphine ). Traditional music also was a big influence. The first classical composers I was into were Mozart, Monteverdi and Ravel. Later on I became quite influenced by contemporary composers such as Xenakis, Ustovolskya, Berio, Gubaidalina, Ligeti and Kaija Saariaho. 

Q. What are your latest recitals?

This year has all been about the piano. Music Network commissioned a piece by me “ An Cailleach “ which was toured by the Russian pianist Anna Tsybuleva. I’ve just finished a piece entitled “Dahud” for the Irish pianist Thérèse Fahy which will be performed at the National Concert Hall on June 14th and again at the Culturel Irlandais on October 26th as part of her Tombeau de Debussy programme.

Q. What has been the highlight of your career so far?

It’s hard to choose... anytime a piece gets performed it is a highlight! The biggest project was probably my opera Vampirella which was a collaboration with RIAM Opera Briefs and produced in Smock Alley last March.

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