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

0'32 Interview begins

1'45 Extract 2 - The Lullaby Wars Listen to full track at

5'05 Extract 3 - In This Skin Listen to full track at

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Listen to more from Daniel at