A multitude of Roger Doyles but only one composer
The 62-year-old pioneered Irish electronic music, and it returned the favour by saving his life
Roger Doyle in his home with a portrait of himself above his baby grand piano. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
It is not that acclaimed Irish electronic music composer Roger Doyle is anywhere close to throwing in the towel (he’s a youthful-looking 62) but thoughts on his early ambitions are filtering through.
We are talking provisionally about his forthcoming appearance at the Kilkenny Arts Festival, and his debut opera work, The Death by Fire of Giordano Bruno, but that conversational strand quickly ducks and dives into how, as a typically callow teenager, sleeping until lunchtime, lounging around his home village of Malahide (as it was in the 1960s), and being shouted at by his parents to get a job, Doyle was harbouring a secret: he knew he could write music.
“In an act of a desperation, I wrote a four-page piano piece and showed it to the professor of composition at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.” Duly impressed, the academic sanctioned weekly sessions for Doyle, who was required to deliver a composition every seven days. No more rut, no more wasting time in bed.
“When I look back at the music I have composed since then,” ponders Doyle, “it has been a non-stop torrent. If I had been forced into a job I didn’t like, then I know the music would never have happened. But the composing thing was there, waiting to be tapped. I was about 18 then . . . ”
From that point onwards, Doyle has continued to produce work of marked intellectual vigour across a breadth of musical disciplines, each one approached with a palpable sense of creative giddiness and a laudable modus operandi that always seems to ask why not, instead of why. He says with an impish grin on his face that his recorded work (which, to date, totals 21 albums) constitutes a “multitude of Rogers”. Technology, he infers, is what allows his explorations to take shape.
“There’s an invitation to me from technology to engage with different kinds of work. I think it’s saying to me, come on, come on, try it, try me. You jump in and you’re never quite sure what’s going to come out at the other end.
“When I was 25 I brought out my first album, Oizzo No, and there are nine completely different pieces on it; nine Doyles. People were saying then not to worry about the breadth of music, that I’d find the right Roger Doyle. But that never happened – there are now many more Doyles. Even in the opera for the Kilkenny Arts Festival, technology led to me to create fancy beat-based music; there’s almost pop music, dance music in it, and then it goes somewhere else. You hesitate for a second, and ask yourself should that go into an opera? And then you immediately say, yes, yes, put it in! Heavy beat music with a counter tenor over it? That’s going to be so bizarre . . . Wait till you hear it. Mad stuff . . . ”