Dennacha Dennehy’s music is marked by a sonic and rhythmic intensity and a kind of volatile, dirty tonality that travels in and out of an overtone-based focus. His fascination with the way time and light stretch and contract through the seasons of the year in his native Ireland, and the psychological impact of such phenomena, has often influenced the structure of his music generally. The intersection between words and music, and the vocal sean-nós (old style) tradition has exerted a strong pull over him too since he was a child attending informal get-togethers at his grandmother’s house in Kerry. “There’s be long, all-night sessions in my grandmother’s house with singing and poetry, and people remembering 30-stanza poems,” Dennehy told NPR. Returning to Ireland after studies abroad, principally at the University of Illinois in the US, Dennehy founded Crash Ensemble, Ireland’s now-renowned new music group, in 1997. Alongside the singers Dawn Upshaw and larla Ó Lionáird, Crash Ensemble features on the 2011 Nonesuch release of Dennehy’s music, entitles Grá agus Bás. Other releases include a number of NMC Records in London, Bedroom Community in Reykjavik and Cantaloupe in New York. He joined the music faculty at Princeton University in 2014, and now lives in America. In recent years, Dennehy has completed two operas with Enda Walsh, The Last Hotel and The Second Violinist. He has also written a kind of “docu-cantata”, The Hunger, for Alarm Will Sound.
Upcoming Concerts from Donnacha Dennehy
New Music Ensemble
Missouri Theatre, Columbia, MO
Liam Byrne and Podium Esslingen
“Der Erde Lauschen”
Kloster Beberhausen, Germany
Iarla Ó Lionáird, sean nós singer
Katherine Manley, soprano
Crash Ensemble (conducted by Alan Pierson)
Works and Compositions
"A wonder to hear."
"Then a trapdoor opens. The Dowlandesque dissonances thicken further into dense, microtonal chords, creating from the uncanny pure tone of the viol consort vivid, intense new colors: harmonies suggest at once the iridescence and the taste of an old copper pot, or both the rainbow halation of a streetlamp on a misty night and the buzz of its sodium bulb. The effect was hypnotic, and the piece, a single 38-minute movement, could have gone on forever and felt like a moment."
"Softly evocative at times, it expands to a deafening roar at a climax of fiery death. Lock me anywhere with that piece, any time."
"The Last Hotel unleashes a thrilling musical energy. Dennehy's 12-piece ensemble includes accordion, electric guitar and heavy percussion, and thrums with a savage, unstoppable groove, shouting the unspeakable, seething with emotions that characters are too numb to express."
"From the exhilarating score, lyrical singing, and dazzingly intricate design, this is a work that needs to be seen more than once in order to absorb the rich detail. Like its recurring filmed image of a murmuration of starlings, it soars."
“Donnacha Dennehy has a soundworld all of his own.”