There’s something uniquely sensual and physical about string music that attracts me as a composer. […] It’s not just about pitches and rhythms – there’s also something in the quality of the sound, something about the effort it takes to produce the note that gives us clues as to the musical meaning. It’s the massive difference between an up-bow with its build up of tension and a down-bow - the release, the out-breath. This piece is all about the right arm – the bowing arm. (David Fennessy on his string quartet bow your head)
The RTÉ Contempo Quartet will perform David Fennessy’s bow your head as part of their “Bartók Project” on 1 Dec at the Limerick City Gallery of Art, on 3 Dec at the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork and on 4 Dec at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
David Fennessy’s choir work Letter to Michael will be performed today at “Composing the Island: Choirland | 100 years of Irish Choral Music”.
David Fennessy on the piece:
”A few years ago I came across an extraordinary piece of art by a woman named Emma Hauck. She was admitted to a German psychiatric ward about a hundred years ago diagnosed with schizophrenia. Whilst a patient there she produced pages and pages of text – thousands of lines in pencil which were addressed to her husband who had ceased to visit her. She simply wrote the words ‘Sweetheart Come’ [Herzensschatzi komm] over and over again or sometimes just the word ‘come’. Every page is thick with overlapping text and some are so condensed as to be illegible.
I was deeply moved by these repeated pleas and feel strongly that the desperate passion that can be seen on these pages could only really be expressed with voices. I imagine a dense layering of a simple line; each voice adding to the power of the plea…”
“It seems like the further one sinks inside the text, the further one becomes removed from the particulars of the story and instead gets involved with something deeper and more ambiguous to do with the inner experiences of a protagonist who is searching for … something.”
Rehearsals for David Fennessy’s Sweat Of the Sun are underway – the music theatre, which is based on German director Werner Herzog’s Conquest of the Useless, will be premièred by the Münchener Kammerorchester on 28 May at the Münchener Biennale.
You get a piece that is always in climax. […] It’s a piece about obsession. Or maybe it is actually just obsessive. (David Fennessy, Herald Scotland, 28 October 2015)
The Herald Scotland recently interviewed David Fennessy, who will be performing his 20-minute piece Caruso (Gold is the sweat of the sun) at the Sonica festival in Glasgow on 7 November.
In the interview, Fennessy talks about the Werner Herzog diaries Conquest of the Useless, which inspired him for composing the piece, and his beginnings as composer.
Komponist und Musiker agieren auf Augenhöhe. (Rita Argauer, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 30 June 2015)
The Süddeutsche Zeitung has published a preview for tonight’s world première of Hirta Rounds by David Fennessy at the Prinzregententheater. The piece was written for the Münchener Kammerorchester with the stipulation that it be unconducted.
View the full score of Hirta Rounds:
Tonight sees the Irish première of David Fennessy’s Prologue (Silver are the tears of the moon) at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. The work is part of a trilogy that was inspired by Werner Herzog’s Conquest of the Useless.
Watch an interview with the composer:
Happy Bloomsday everyone!
We’ve prepared a short interview with David Fennessy on James Joyce, sounds and serendipity. Watch it here:
PPP is a piece about pianos (or, the pianos in my life).
It’s a piece about tuning (or rather, being out of tune).
It’s about memory (or, more accurately, remembering).
It’s about personal connections with instruments (and the people who play them); their history (and mine) and their imperfections.
The Serbian première of David Fennessy’s PPP for ensemble and electronics will be performed tonight with the composer himself performing on electric guitar at Studio M in Novi Sad. Also on the programme: Palais de mari by Morton Feldman.
Bedford’s shortlisted single-movement work Renewal was premièred on 22 May at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Sian Edwards conducted the London Sinfonietta.
The composer on Renewal:
“Renewal is about creating something new from the rubble of each previous section. The piece is a celebration of renewal and regrowth, written in the full knowledge of its impermanence.”
Fennessy’s Hauptstimme for amplified solo viola and ensemble was first performed in Huddersfield by violist Garth Knox and the Red Note Ensemble (cond. Garry Walker).
I think each piece has its own individual technique but what people hear is something much deeper and profound and long lasting. It’s the thing they recognise as a composer’s voice. Of course it does manifest itself in technical things like intervals, but there’s some kind of bedrock on which your voice is built.
Happy Birthday David Fennessy!
Listen to an interview with David Fennessy on I’ll cadence when I die!
David Fennessy’s choral work Letter to Michael will be performed together with excerpts from Arvo Pärt’s Kanon Pokajanen on Friday 20 June at this year’s Pipeworks Festival in Dublin, which starts today and runs until 27 June. Paul Hillier conducts the Chamber Choir Ireland.
The composer about the work:
A few years ago I came across an extraordinary piece of art by a woman named Emma Hauck. She was admitted to a German psychiatric ward about a hundred years ago diagnosed with schizophrenia. Whilst a patient there she produced pages and pages of text – thousands of lines in pencil which were addressed to her husband who had ceased to visit her. She simply wrote the words “Sweetheart Come” over and over again or sometimes just the word “come”. Every page is thick with overlapping text and some are so condensed as to be illegible.
I was deeply moved by these repeated pleas and feel strongly that the desperate passion that can be seen on these pages could only really be expressed with voices. I imagine a dense layering of a simple line; each voice adding to the power of the plea…
David Fennessy: Letter to Michael
for choir (16 voices) a cappella | 7'
Arvo Pärt: Kanon Pokajanen
for mixed choir a cappella
20.06.2014, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin; Chamber Choir Ireland, Paul Hillier
The Pipeworks Festival on Vimeo:
David Fennessy’s The room is the resonator is the first track of Oliver Coates’ recently released album Towards the blessed islands, which features eight cello pieces that were recorded in “churches, tombs, disused oil rigs and […] railway stations at night.”
Listen to a complete recording of The room is the resonator on Fluid Radio.
Oliver Coates, who performed the world première of The room is the resonator in 2009, in an interview on Towards the blessed islands.
The recording is available here.
Photos from another (intensive) day of rehearsals for David Fennessy’s Hauptstimme, showing the composer, violist Garth Knox, conductor Garry Walker, and the Red Note Ensemble. The piece for amplified solo viola and ensemble will be premièred on 16 November at the huddersfield contemporary music festival.
David Fennessy on Hauptstimme:
The notion of the individual and how he/she contributes or functions in a group setting as well as how that group can meaningfully make a collective statement has been central to a number of my works over the years – starting with graft for string quartet (2000), through to 13 Factories for ensemble (2009). Once again, it seems to be at the core of this new piece for solo viola and ensemble.
For much of the time, the solo viola is buried in a thick ensemble texture with the primary goal merely to be heard. Once it has achieved this, a more complex question emerges – what to say?
Also on the programme: James Dillon's New York Triptych, the third and final instalment in a series of three-part pieces, and Bruno Mantovani's D'un rêve parti, a brief homage to the auld alliance.
Many, many thanks to Richard Greer for taking – and sending us – these photos!
Find a blog entry by John Harris, chief executive and artistic co-director of the Red Note Ensemble, in which he writes about the preparations for the ensemble’s concerts at the hcmf on the festival’s guest blog.