Music Current Artistic Director, Fergal Dowling talks to CMC about the upcoming new music festival, which takes
place in Dublin from 10–13 April 2019.
What is the main aim of Music Current?
Music Current is an annual festival of contemporary music which started in 2016 and grew out the work that Dublin Sound Lab had been doing since 2008. We had always organised our own concerts and produced our own music, as well as music by other composers. But in 2016 we wanted to distinguish between our own creative work and music of other people that we also wanted to produce. So the programming is similar in style to what Dublin Sound Lab has always been doing, but Music Current is our chance to showcase other people’s work.
How does the programming differ from other new music festivals?
The festival is called Music Current because we try to present music that is literally current. Most of the featured works are very recent. The main objective is to present music that has currency; that is current, contemporary, fluid and relevant to our time. Many of the works we present require electronic forces during performance, which is another play on the idea of ‘current’, but the use of electronic forces is not a central concern.
This year you are focusing on Irish composer Frank Corcoran with a concert of some of his electro-acoustic works. What was your motivation behind selecting these works?
We are presenting three of Frank Corcoran’s electro-acoustic works (Quasi una Missa – 1999, Tradurre Tradire – 2004, and Sweeney’s Vision – 1997) in the opening festival concert on Wednesday, 10 April at 7pm.
Dating from 1997–2004, these are amongst the oldest works we have ever presented. This slightly contradicts what I said about ‘current’ music, but I think Frank’s music has an earthy timeless quality. His music doesn’t concern itself with fashions or trends, and these three electro-acoustic works aren’t overly involved with displays of electronic technique that might make the work sound or feel dated.
In fact, they still sound very fresh and direct.
The Light Gleams: a portrait of Frank Corcoran
Historically, these are some of the most significant electronic works by any Irish composer, although they may not now be so well known to Dublin audiences.
So it is important to recognise their significance.
These works were originally written for radio, and by their nature are already relatively accessible – in fact they
are decidedly ‘radiophonic’, and very effective in this context.
Sometimes ‘tape’ music concerts can be seen as being rather stuffy and academic, and music programmers may be a little frightened to engage with the form. This is something I wanted to challenge directly.
But above all, I greatly admire the determined Irish-centred character of Frank’s work and his willingness to engage head-on with themes of myth and language. This subject matter may be somewhat unfashionable, but it is this disregard for trends that allow the works to maintain their freshness and directness of appeal. When they are heard together in a seamless concert presentation, these works take on a very forceful coherence and logic. They unfold in a slow deep rhythm, which makes a compelling concert experience outside the normal flow of time.