ICC10 // Meet RTE ConTempo String Quartet

We're delighted to welcome the renowned RTE ConTempo String Quartet to perform 8 new works by ICC composers as part of our ten-year anniversary festival.

19:30 // 19th November 2014
Project Arts Centre // Space Upstairs

Tickets €10/7 (conc.)
Groups of 5+ €7
Groups of 10+ €5

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Ensemble ICC Recordings // Ben McHugh

Didn't get to our Ensemble ICC concert in the National Concert Hall on August 15th?

No fear! We have recordings of all pieces from the night.

Composer Ben McHugh's piece 'about...' was on the programme.

‘About…’ is the first piece of a larger series of five based on Lexical Concepts derived from nocturnal utterances, that is to say from sleep talking. Each word was given a harmonic spectrum of the first 16 partials and an idea fused with the word, this was also used to define the form and character of each section, five works split into five parts with spectra and lexicographically derived character divvied among each instrument, resulting in a full work of 25 sections. And each instrument inhabiting a specific character or spectral world. The interaction and differences highlight common partials between spectra and a spectral meeting was sought after in these sections. The full phrase is/was: ‘About, about, stay, something, something.’
— Ben McHugh 2014

Like what you hear and interested in getting in touch with Ben? Message him below.

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Ensemble ICC Recordings // Sebastian Adams

Didn't get to our Ensemble ICC concert in the National Concert Hall on August 15th?

No fear! We have recordings of all pieces from the night.

Composer Sebastian Adams' piece Mirrors and Reflections was on the programme.

Written when I was in sixth year in school, Mirrors and Reflections combines live viola with a tape part made of viola mangled with guitar pedals and post-processing. It is the earliest piece of mine that I still stand by - although perhaps that will change after today’s performance.
— Sebastian Adams 2014

Like what you hear and interested in getting in touch with Sebastian? Message him below.

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Ensemble ICC // Interview with Elis Czerniak

Composer Elis Czerniak talks to us about his new work Concentrate, which will be performed by Ensemble ICC on August 15th in the Kevin Barry Room of the National Concert Hall.

Hi Elis, tell us about the concept behind your piece which is being performed by Ensemble on August 15th and your approach to writing for this unique ensemble, timbres that are rarely placed together.

I chose writing for this Ensemble because of the interesting combination of sound obtainable from the group. It is a very thin group of instruments, which I really like, with very set pitch ranges. The wide range of timbres that you can choose from was also a driving force for me.

Have you written for sax, baritone, guitar or viola before? and if so, did your past instrumental writing for any one of those instruments influence your approach to writing this piece?

No I have never written for these instruments combined before. I have written for each one individually so that helped in knowing what was capable. It was then just a matter of sticking them all together and trying to compliment/contrast their stylistic qualities.

Did you workshop with the ensemble and if so how did the interaction with them influence your edits if you made any? 

Yes we had a few workshops and luckily very little edits had to be made. With music that is quite free and timbre based it is always necessary to speak with the performer(s) just to make sure they know what you are looking for. You have to be quite sure of the sound you want otherwise it can get quite messy. 

Has your experience working on this piece instilled a want to continue writing for this collection of instruments/timbres? 

There is always a want to write for new and exciting ensembles regardless of the instrumentation. If the group are up for trying different things and experimenting a little with their instruments, then I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to write for them.

Where does this piece sit in your repertoire? 

This is the first ensemble piece I have written in a while. At the moment I am mainly focusing on works for solo instruments, sometimes with electronics, so it is a nice break from that I suppose.

Do you find that you have a specific style or voice as a composer and if so how would you define it?

I don't think I can answer that with a yes or no. I'm always trying to find a voice, I think thats what being a composer is all about. 

Are you currently influenced by specific tutors or teachers from your time in academia and/or other contemporary active composers? Who are they?

Jonathan Cole, my teacher at the RCM London was a huge influence on me. He opened up a whole new thought process for me about music and introduced me to a lot of my major influences.

// recent works

Conversations II Recordings // Hugh Boyle's Sing No More

Didn't get to our Conversations II concert with New Dublin Voices on July 12th?

No fear! We have recordings of all the premieres of the night.

Composer Hugh Boyle's new piece Sing No More was on the programme.

A number of my works focus on the subject of mortality and
spirituality. The text in this work presents the lament of a deceased character. His soul still attached to his body, he can do nothing but mourn for the lost of earthly comforts.

The work opens with a long held note in the bass part accompanied by a three-note cell passed between the soprano and alto parts. The held note in the bass part is a feature of the work throughout. I wanted to have a drone-type sound in this work and initially I considered using electronics to create this by presenting a tape part to accompany the choir. However, after attending the first workshop with the choir and hearing them I felt that utilising the choir to create the drone would create a much richer sonority. The drone is mostly fixed on the notes A or G#. It is created by the bass singers breathing discreetly, in turn, to create the sound of an extended note. It is not an easy effect to perform, particularly as it causes them to continually expend a lot of breath which can be quite tiring, however, I felt that it would be an interesting effect and would add to the work.

The rest of the work features two different uses of the choir. The first, coming after the introductory passage, sees the tenor voices presenting the main material while the bass part repeats the text “sing no more” using the pitch employed for the drone and the soprano and alto parts presenting held chords as an accompaniment. The second use of the choir sees a monorhythmic texture where the each part presents a different note, or set of notes, and moves in time with the other parts. This short middle section is followed by a return or the drone in the bass part and a development of earlier material.
— Hugh Boyle 2014

Like what you hear and interested in getting in touch with Hugh? Message him below.

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Conversations II Recordings // Ryan Molloy's Salve Regina

Didn't get to our Conversations II concert with New Dublin Voices on July 12th?

No fear! We have recordings of all the premieres of the night.

Composer Ryan Molloy new piece Salve Regina was on the programme.

Salve Regina (2014) is a short work setting the text of the Latin plainchant ode to Mary, the Mother of God. Although it doesn’t draw directly on any plainchant melodies, the work is heavily infuenced by plainchant and its melodic relationship with certain vocal styles in traditional Irish music. This Salve Regina is written for Bernie Sherlock and the New Dublin Voices and is dedicated to the memory of my Grandmother, Mary Molloy, whose devotion to the Blessed Virgin was unshakeable.
— Ryan Molloy 2014

Like what you hear and interested in getting in touch with Ryan? Message him below.

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Conversations II Recordings // Richard Gill's The Wave

Didn't get to our Conversations II concert with New Dublin Voices on July 12th?

No fear! We have recordings of all the premieres of the night.

Composer Richard Gill's new piece The Wave was on the programme.

Wave is a setting of words by songwriter Stephen Coyle. I wanted to explore how the words would work in different settings and textures with soloists and ensemble singing exchanging lines as if the melody is shifting around the choir. Certain sections allow the performers to choose their own rhythm and melodic patterns in order to create a freer mood and to contrast with the stricter rhythmic sections.
— Richard Gill 2014

Like what you hear and interested in getting in touch with Richard? Message him below.

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Conversations II Recordings // Seán Doherty's Dreams

Didn't get to our Conversations II concert with New Dublin Voices on July 12th?

No fear! We have recordings of all the premieres of the night.

Composer Seán Doherty's new piece Dreams was on the programme.

Hooding a sacred rose under the ice cap of the world — Dreams will
to light.

– Lola Ridge (1873–1941)

Ridge was an early Modernist, political radical, and ardent feminist. She was born in Dublin, and grew up in Australia and New Zealand, before moving to San Francisco in 1907. Ridge published fve books of poetry, all of which were inspired by the urban landscape of her adoptive city of New York. This piece seeks to reclaim the vocal technique of ululation, pervasive in Middle Eastern culture as a signal celebration or lament, from its connotation in Western culture as a sinister war cry. The sentiment of Ridge’s poem speaks directly to the people of the Arab Spring, and their dreams for democracy and human rights — dreams that will not be cowed by censorship, oppression, or state-sponsored massacres.
— Seán Doherty 2014

Like what you hear and interested in getting in touch with Seán? Message him below.

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New Members

We're delighted to announce the following new members to the Irish Composers' Collective:

Aodhagan O'Flaherty
Adam McCartney
Aran O'Grady
Barry O'Halpin
Breffni O'Byrne
Chris M Pearson
Gemma Doherty
Kim V Porcelli
Luke Duffy
Siobhra Quinlan
Tom Lane

Interested in joining?
Read more about how to become a member here.


Conversations Blog #4: Daniel McDermott

Interview with Daniel McDermott

Trinity College Dublin 27/06/2014

Daniel McDermott
Daniel McDermott

Tell us a bit about yourself and the piece you've written for New Dublin Voices...

Hi my name is Daniel McDermott and I'm a composer and producer. I predominantly work with electronica and modern classical music. The piece that I've written for New Dublin Voice is called Obsessive Choral Disorder, OCD, and it's based on that actual obsessive compulsive disorder. I took a number of concepts or words that are associated with the actual disorder like an obsession with time and an obsession with numbers It is quite rhythmic, repetitive and quite fast, and you'll hear a lot of the time during the actual piece things like 'tick tick', 'check check' and the repetition of numbers. That was my approach to writing with the choir, so it is almost in a minimal fashion, and it's extremely rhythmic.

Have you written for a choir before?

I've had no past experience from writing with choirs and it was interesting working with New Dublin Voices to actually hear some of the techniques that they could do.

Are you currently influenced by specific contemporary artists?

I do tend to be heavily influenced by minimalists, also Frederic Rzewski, and the Irish guys, I love Donacha Dennehy's stuff and I'd also be into Bang On A Can, Michael Gordon and David Lang.

I tend to approach a lot of classical music with quite strong rhythms, strong beats, influenced by the likes of Bang On A Can and Crash Ensemble.

Where does this piece sit in your repertoire?

I don't know, because it's my first piece to write for voice, I would certainly take parts of it and I think I would revise parts of it to form a bigger piece.

How do you treat the relationship between composer and performer? Is there a dialogue back and forth?

I would certainly like more of that in actual performances because I find that often what you hear back on your computer is completely different from what you hear in a live setting. Sometimes it can be a shock to the system in terms of the parts that you think are strong that end up being weaker. I think dialogue is really important and I also think that it works to the benefit of both the performer and the composer. In my piece for NDV, I had a tempo marking that was far too slow and when we did it first in the rehearsal I couldn't actually believe how much it was dragging the rhythm. In the next rehearsal with them we bumped the tempo up by about 30bpm and it resulted in a much stronger performance of the piece.

How do you feel working with NDV has influenced your approach to working for voice again and how does the experience of writing this piece make you think about vocal writing having not necessarily done it before?

The complexity that they can achieve in vocal writing. After I heard my piece back and then I heard other people's pieces I thought 'oh god mine sounds really simple'. When it gets to the more lurid complex rhythms in my piece, they could sightread that stuff so easily. It's then that I thought they are actually capable of a lot more complex writing. But I'm certainly not one of those new complexity composers you know. I don't know, that's the way I would find it with them anyway.

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Premiere of Obsessive Choral Disorder by New Dublin Voices in St Ann's Church on July 12th. See who else is going here

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0'00 Extract 1 - Grit Listen to full track at goo.gl/mQcjiE

0'32 Interview begins

1'45 Extract 2 - The Lullaby Wars Listen to full track at goo.gl/krzEJ3

5'05 Extract 3 - In This Skin Listen to full track at goo.gl/HGqlrj

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Listen to more from Daniel at soundcloud.com/danielmcdermott

Conversations Blog #3: A View from the Choir, Eoin Conway

A view from the choir

New Dublin Voices’ working repertoire spans about four or five hundred years, with a greater emphasis on the contemporary than most choirs. But all the pieces we sing normally arrive to us fully-formed. This project has given us a glimpse into the act of composition, an opportunity to see musical material in embryonic form, growing and changing through various drafts. For us, interaction with composers normally means asking questions and adapting our performance to match what the composer wants. But workshops give opportunities for composers to try different approaches to see what works for the performers.

Singers are an idiosyncratic bunch, and writing for us must seem very counterintuitive to anyone who’s used to writing for instruments. A textbook will say to the young composer: here are the ranges of a soprano, alto, tenor and bass; now go forth and compose. For example, Wikipedia defines the bass range as “generally” reaching down to two octaves below middle C, and defines tenors as being able to sing to the C above middle C. What the textbooks won’t tell you is that singers with that kind of range are extremely rare. I’ve known choral directors to refer to them (in hushed, reverent tones) as “true tenors”, or “real basses”, etc., to distinguish them from all the tenors and basses out there. Even if the textbook advises a more conservative range, the arcane matters of tessitura and passagio, while matching high and low notes to the most appropriate vowels, can take years to master.

To complicate matters further, writing for several voices is a different discipline to writing for one voice, because relative range will affect the balance of the chords. A climactic passage which crescendoes out into bigger, richer harmonies, with everything from the highest, soaring treble to the deepest, thundering bass played together, sounds great or on a piano or in MIDI playback, but goes against the grain for a choir. The mismatched ranges will unbalance the chords, and making smaller subdivisions of voices will cancel out the effect of the crescendo.

Happily, the majority of the ICC composers arrived with a good grasp of these principles. Most of the issues arising in rehearsal, mundane though it sounds, were about notational clarity and ease of reading. One composer submitted a first draft printed in landscape format, which looks great… until you put all your concert music into a folder.

The primary rule of notation is to write your music so that it’s easiest to read. A different way of stating the obvious is that the music, as far as possible, should look the same way that it sounds. If a piece contains tonal chords, spelling them with a mixture of accidentals will create confusion. If a piece sounds gentle and not rhythmically charged, very precise rhythmic notation will undermine the mood. It’s hard to maintain a serene sound if the singers are counting furiously in their heads to navigate a thicket of rhythmic information. A disagreement between the eye and ear can be jarring enough to derail the piece.

That sounds so obvious that it's almost insulting to mention it. But in practice, when you’ve been working on a new piece for a long time, it’s not easy to take a step back and see it with fresh eyes. One piece arrived to us with a rhythmic pattern which was 5 crotchet beats long, and therefore notated in bars of 5/4. But that created oddities like triplets beginning halfway through beats, so we asked the composer to re-notate it in two bars of 5/8. The score now looks less tidy, but the rhythm is easier to process.

Clear notation applies most of all to uncommon or extended techniques. In our ICC pieces, we’ll be singing, speaking, ululating, sliding between notes, singing our highest possible notes, clasping our hands over our mouths, breathing loudly, and imitating seagulls. Anything is possible, as long as the notation is clearly explained. One piece included an aleatoric section, unbarred, with stemless notes, saying that singers should use the written pitches “as a guide for the melody”. This meant that singers should use the written pitches in free rhythm. But “as a guide” is a little ambiguous. It could also have meant “use approximately these pitches”, so we had to double-check.

All this nitpicking about notation sounds like a small point, and indeed it only poses a problem on the first or second readings through a new piece. But first impressions matter, and they can make the difference between a choir persevering with a new piece or not. It is my hope that the composers will come away from the project with pieces capable of taking on a life of their own.

[ - Eoin Conway is a freelance musician, and countertenor with New Dublin Voices  ]

Conversations Blog #2: Patrick Connolly

To One Dead

This work was inspired by the writings of poet Francis Ledwidge and is one of a number of works I am currently composing that utilises his poetry. Ledwidge was born in Slane, County Meath and wrote many short poems depicting the landscapes of Ireland. Like so many of his poems this text is full of strong imagery describing nature “blackbird singing” and “bluebells swinging”. As a composer is it wonderful to work with a text that contains such vivid imagery and I tried to represent these images through the use of rich, condensed harmonies.

This poem, again like many of Ledwidge’s, is simple in its construction consisting of two verses of short fragmented lines. I tried to convey this feeling of simplicity in the work, with the use of simple rhythms and melodic phrases. In essence I tried to capture the mood of restrained sorrow found in the poem, of descriptive scenes of nature and the longing conveyed in the final phrase “the silence was for you, the sorrow was for me”. I particularly enjoy writing music for voices, and this is my second large scale work for unaccompanied choir (the first being my 2011 work Geimhridh). I find once I stumble across a text that I feel I can work and connect with, the compositional process is relatively straightforward. A key task for me is finding and understanding the soundworld of the text I am working with and then trying to devise a way to replicate this in music. A good text will have an inherent musical quality and through imagery and phrase patterns will almost suggest music to the composer, all we have to do is write it down! I like to work with poetry that deals with nature, particularly the nature of an Ancient Ireland that perhaps doesn’t exist anymore.

The process of working with a group like the New Dublin Voices is an exciting one.  The workshop was very informative and it was exciting to hear some new works by my colleagues in the Collective. A group like the New Dublin Voices care about the music and the suggestions they make are for the good of the piece, and for the good of the performance. There is also the exhilaration of hearing a new piece for the first time and seeing how the sounds in your head are replicated in real life. I am not a fan of hearing my music in a concert setting and I much prefer hearing it in this type of workshop, where there is interaction and an exchanging of musical ideas involved. After any suggestions have been made and corrected the work is out of my hands and it is up for the performers to present it to a (hopefully!) willing audience.

Donal MacErlaine wins choral composition competition

Congratulations to ICC member Donal MacErlaine on winning the Sean O'Riada Composition Competition with his choral piece Solomon Grundy. The work will be premiered as part of the Cork International Choral Festival in May by Chamber Choir Ireland. The ICC would also like to congratulate former members Amanda Feery and Alex Dowling on their joint winning of the Jerome Hynes Composition Competition. What a talented bunch of composers we have!


From the Cork International Choral Festival press release:

The judges’ impressions of the triumphant work are of ‘a very fine piece in every way. It is exciting, playful, exuberant, energetic and individual.’ [Rhona Clarke]. ‘I like the text and the witty deconstruction of it and it displays some adventurousness and crucially, imagination’. [David Fennessy].’ It seems to me that the composer here knows what ‘he’ (outerspaceman –pseudonym) is doing and how to do it, and moreover, that it is something worth doing’. [Paul Hillier].

Additionally, a selection of pieces that demonstrate the impeccably high standard of entries received will be given a Performance Reading by Chamber Choir Ireland on Saturday 3rd May, as part of the Composers Workshop event.

As a Festival Guest, Mac Erlaine will also participate in the 46th Seminar on New Choral Music, part of the Education Programme at 2pm on Friday 2nd May, alongside members of the panel of judges; composer David Fennessy , seminar chair and composer Rhona Clarke, and Paul Hillier, director of Chamber Choir Ireland, with the CCI itself, where Solomon Grundy  and David Fennessy’s  piece will be discussed.



Conversations blog #1: Donal MacErlaine

the bubbles of the whirlpool break, and form again, and disappear again 

The Text

The text is from the opening of a beautiful memoir written by a Japanese hermit Buddhist in the twelfth century by the name of Kamo No Chomei. This man renounced material possessions, leaving the city to live in the wild sometime in his thirties. He spent the remainder of his long life there playing music, meditating, and writing poetry. As far as I'm aware, this memoir is his only prose, and the only documentation of his existence.

The text itself is simply one line of Kamo No Chomei's. 'The bubbles of the whirlpool break, and form again, and disappear again.' This idea of perpetual change is one of the central messages of Buddhism. Within a universe described as this, it is logically impossible to identify things as fixed, and therefore giving a name to things denies this truth. So in the line is a paradox: as a whole it speaks of impermanence; but in its detail it denies this by supposing that things such as bubbles and whirlpools exist as entities. Much of the Japanese tradition of Buddhism focuses on paradoxes such as these, often in the form of koans. As the act of composition is, in a way, measuring out time, I thought it was an appropriate text. It works then as a sort of vague self reference.

Process of writing

I had done another choral work, but that piece had chewed up the text so much that I don't think it would be possible to hear it through the musical texture [Solomon Grundy, recent winner of the Sean O'Riada Composition Competition]. That suited it, in a way, as the text was absurdist. In this piece, however, the words do have a poignancy which I'd like to maintain and allow to shine through, which is why the full text makes up the title. In this way, then, the audience has already been given the plot. There are no surprises. I threw lots of material out when writing this piece. In the end I opted for a much simpler piece than I had originally intended, and that I usually compose. Despite this, some elements remain, such as the tremolo material that weaves itself through the piece as a whole.

Working with NDV

Working with this choir and Bernie was a fabulous experience. I was surprised at how insightful some of the singers' comments were in terms of composition. Unfortunately I didn't get to hear the whole rehearsal, but some of the other pieces I did hear were of astounding quality. I often find workshops and rehearsals of my work more interesting than concerts. This is partly because the informalities of rehearsing mean a better interaction between people generally, but mainly it's down to the way that ideas are questioned, stretched, trampled upon, and kicked around. It's a fun process. It's the same as the act of composition itself in that it's the way material is treated rather than something inherent in the material that makes a piece interesting. Just consider how much Beethoven got out of his 4-note motif which opens his Fifth Symphony. And three of those notes are on the same pitch!

Composition is essentially a lonely process and it's experiences exactly like these that reinvigorate and re-energise composers. It's inspiring to hear your own piece performed by such a talented choir. And it can be even more so to hear others' pieces – and see the diversity of design that arises when a group come together to organise sound.

- Donal MacErlaine

the bubbles of the whirlpool break, and form again, and disappear again   will be performed by New Dublin Voices on 5 April at the University Church, Stephen's Green

Introducing: Conversations, with New Dublin Voices

Composing for Choirs workshop - 26 Feb, 7pm, Katherine Brennan Hall, RIAM Conversations I  – 5 Apr, 8.30pm, University Church, Stephen's Green

The ICC is delighted to announce the details of a new collaboration between us and 'Ireland's Choir of the Year', New Dublin Voices, directed by Bernie Sherlock

Conversations is a collaborative project that aims to develop a new Irish repertoire of choral music, and to facilitate close communication between choral practitioners, composers and the public.

The project sees Bernie Sherlock and the choir give workshops on contemporary repertoire and on writing for choir, the next of which will take place at 7pm on 26 February at the Katherine Brennan Hall in the RIAM on Westland Row. The workshop is FREE and open to the public, and should be of great interest to singers, students, composers, and choral music fans!

Conversations will culminate in two concerts, each featuring the world premiere of seven new works, the result of collaboration between the choir and member composers. Conversations I will take place at 8.30pm on 5 April at the University Church on Stephen's Green.

Conversations Composers: Ryan Molloy, David Collier, Peter Leavy, Éna Brennan, David Bremner, Richard Gill, Daniel McDermott, Patrick Connolly, Kian Geiselbrechtinger, Sean Doherty, David O'Regan, Donal MacErlaine, Anna Clifford, Hugh Boyle

Conversations is generously supported by the Arts Council of Ireland

Evolution Project concert details announced!

The full dates and programmes for three concerts in January at the Hugh Lane Gallery – the culmination of a year-long collaboration between the ICC and the Association of Irish Composers – has been announced. Sunday Jan 5th

Ensemble: Paul Roe (cl), Richard O’Donnell (perc), Roddy O’Keeffe (trmb), Adrian Mantu (vc)


Anna Murray     L’os Sec* 
Benjamin Dwyer     Soneto del Amor Oscuro
Jenn Kirby     Moments*
Karen Power     here comes another one   

Programme also includes Deirdre McKay’s Between.

Sunday Jan 12th

Ensemble: Susan Doyle (fl), Paul Roe (cl), Ryan Molloy (pf), Adrian Mantu (vc)


Ryan Molloy     Concertino* 
Seán Doherty     Fugue State* 
John McLachlan     Aurora* 
Kevin O’Connell     Little Overture* 

Programme also includes Grainne Mulvey’s Plurabelle 

Sunday Jan 19th 

Ensemble: Susan Doyle (fl), Ryan Molloy (pf), Richard O’Donnell (perc), Roddy O’Keeffe (trmb)


Patrick Connolly     4 movements for ensemble* 
Kian Geiselbrechtinger     Morning Rain* 
Peter Moran     Gel* 
Grainne Mulvey     Alluvion* 

*world premiere

Culture Night 2013

Free musical events taking place across the country. What are you doing for Culture Night 2013?


Here's what some of our members are up to:

Anna Murray will take up residence in the Contemporary Music Centre, where she will create a new vocal piece with mezzo-soprano Michelle O'Rourke.

Dylan Rynhart presents an exhibition and immersive sound installation with artist Jo Cummins at the Centre for Creative Practices.

The UCD Gamelan Orchestra, directed by Peter Moran, will perform at the Mill Theatre in Dundrum.

The CMC will also host a number of electroacoustic works, including Derek Foott's am arís and Matthew Whiteside's Vociferous Palpitations.

Elements, a new piece by Matthew Whiteside, based on found sounds in the gallery, will be performed at the R-Space in Lisburn.