March began with the premiere of Engines of Babel at the New Music Dublin Festival on 2nd March, a large chamber ensemble work commissioned by the CRASH Ensemble.The piece received a positive review in the Journal of Music from Adrian Smith, and from Michael Lee at GoldenPlec, their comments are below.
“The standout piece was Anselm McDonnell’s Engines of Babel which wrapped up the concert. This positive assessment is no doubt due in part to base cravings for some element of drama which McDonnell managed to supply in an equally base fashion. After a barrage of percussion at the beginning, the air was literally let out of this composition from the mid-point onwards by having percussionist Alex Petcu manipulate a balloon producing a rubbery, hissing sound. At the point where the air was about to be depleted, Petcu suddenly popped a balloon with his feet, producing a momentarily disorientating effect as nobody could see where the bang came from. This trick may well be a one-off gimmick but it worked and fitted in with the overall sense of anarchic freedom which differentiated this piece from the other items on the programme.” Adrian Smith
“Unafraid of drama, the closing work by Anselm McDonnell, Engines of Babel, showed an emerging composer with a great deal of confidence and promise. With its monumental opening, this engaging piece bristles with energy, the playing interspersed with the hisses and cries of the musicians as the sonic textures build.” Michael Lee
Engines of Babel will be broadcast on Lyric FM at a future date.
On 20th of March I visited Dublin City University, where I had been invited to give a talk on my research at the new Practice as Research Symposium ‘Contemporary Approaches to Music Composition and Sonic Arts’. The conference was organised by my fellow PANIC musician Martin Devek, it was a wonderful day and a delight to hear papers from other composers reflecting on their own practice.
30th of March saw the premiere of my choral piece More than Gold, written for the Cappella Caeciliana choir. I was delighted with their performance, and that they kindly based the concert on my piece. This piece will receive several performances this year, including another one by Caecilana in June, when I hope to record it.
The Contemporary Music Centre has published a feature on their Choral Sketches project, which I am involved in this year. The feature is available here and includes an interview where I had the chance to reflect on the workshop experience with the Chamber Choir Ireland, and the project as a whole.
In other news, Hiraeth am Nefoedd received a trial performance by
Chris Roberts in Birmingham Conservatoire, he is currently finishing recording his debut album Adra, which will be released on July 25th in Cardiff. Crossing the Firth is scheduled for a performance at the HearSay International Audio Arts Festival 2019 in Kilfinane Ireland on April 6th. PANIC music ensemble presents a new concert of electroacoustic music in QUB on April 11th (including the premiere of Stutter, a new work I’ve written for voice, piano, live electronics and tape, and a second performance of Threads & Ribbons). I’m excited to have been selected for the Savellyspaja 2019 composition course, writing a new chamber orchestra piece for the Avanti Chamber Orchestra to accompany an art film, which will be premiered in Porvoo, Finland in June 2019.