New Sound Worlds

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NCH, Dublin

Over the years, composers have engaged in many professional pursuits other than music. Borodin was a doctor and a professor of chemistry.

Ives founded a hugely successful insurance agency. Berwald ran a glass factory for a time.

The New Sound Worlds concert at the NCH’s Kevin Barry Room was a “medico-musical” event, concentrating on electro-acoustic music by composers who are also doctors.

Coma(1999) by Frenchman Elie-Paul Cohen deals with the near-death experience of a friend, Antenatalwith experiences before and after birth. The narrative trajectory of the pieces is not by any means as sophisticated as the technical polish, with both works sounding rather like illustrative soundtracks for imaginary films, and both showing an excessive fondness for high-volume immersion. Cohen integrated real-life hospital and body sounds into his pieces.

Trimdom Twilightby Christopher Atton and Anthony Moffoot (Trimdom is a Co Durham village), is described as being recorded “live-to-digital”, with a list of specified instruments. But its sound world evoked something like a distorted natural soundscape, featuring snippets of birdsong, a distant village fair, and even a hint of human singing.

Derek Ball’s Xolotlis music for an Irish-language poem by Gabriel Rosenstock that was “scribbled in a trance state and unearthed years later”. Ball recommended listening to the words for the beauty of their sounds, as Rosenstock read them, rather than their meaning. His electronic music provided a strangely weaving accompaniment that veered in lines of drunken collusion between sounds of paper and comb and trombones on best behaviour.

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