Engines of Babel

Year: February 2019

Instrumentation: Large Chamber Ensemble (ten players)

Duration: 8:00”

Performance History: Commissioned by the CRASH Ensemble for the New Music Dublin Festival 2019. Premiere 02/03/19 at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Tickets available here. The concert will be recorded for broadcast on Lyric FM.

Journal of Music article about the festival.

About: Engines of Babel is inspired by the Biblical account found in Genesis 11 of the tower built by man to reach into the heavens, to contend with God. I wanted to explore the raucousness and chaos that can be achieved with a large chamber ensemble, and this seemed the appropriate topic. The work begins with the clanging and hissing sounds of industry as grunting, cantankerous gestures rumble in the low registers of the group. The ceaseless motor of the woodblock and toms drives the music on with a restless energy, until it overreaches itself and collapses in a confused heap. The rallying cry of the woodblock to take up tools again and unite is increasingly ignored until construction is abandoned. I’ve immensely enjoyed working with CRASH and Grainne Mulvey, the opportunity to hear the sounds I’m writing has been a key part of the composition process, as many of the textures are highly complex and I needed to hear them live to properly grasp their character and shape. Since I knew there would be a collaborative process, this dictated the materials as I wanted to avail of the opportunity to produce new combinations of sound that I haven’t tried before, with the chance to hear them and make changes before the completion of the work.

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