By Jonathan Grimes
Cross Currents is a radio series I have long wanted to make, and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to work with Athena Media to make this happen.
Through my work over the years with the Contemporary Music Centre, the partner in this project, I got to discover many of the recordings and radio programmes featuring Irish composers and their music from the RTÉ Sound Archives from the 1970s.
Listening to recordings of such major Irish composers today as Raymond Deane, Gerald Barry, Jane O'Leary, Frank Corcoran and Roger Doyle talking about their work as young composers really made me want to research and explore this seminal period for Irish music further. There seemed to be a great energy about the period and a sense that much of what was happening in Ireland in music at the time was groundbreaking, new and exciting.
Many of the pieces by Irish composers from this period were among the first Irish works I heard, and they had a considerable impact on me. Works such as Raymond Deane’s Embers, Gerald Barry’s Things that Gain, Roger Doyle’s Thalia, and Frank Corcoran’s Three Pieces for Orchestra, to name a few, still have a freshness about them some 40 years on, and like much of the music featured in the series, deserve to heard more often.
I wanted to connect these young composers and the emergence of a vibrant new music scene in Dublin during the 1970s with those of the previous generation and the current generation, and see exactly what the connections and threads between them are. Through a series of interviews with 15 featured composers, it's been fascinating to uncover the common themes and connections between all composers and see how many of the developments begun during the 1970s and 1980s have shaped the Irish new music scene today.
I’ve really enjoyed hearing the many different stories that make up each of these composers lives, and learn more about and what drives them creatively. From visiting Jane O’Leary’s home in Galway and seeing her collection of materials on the contemporary music ensemble, Concorde, the first Irish new music group which she founded in Ireland in 1976, just a few years after moving to Ireland from the US, to talking to Tipperary-born composer Frank Corcoran at his home in Italy in the warm September sunshine about his deep struggle to find his musical voice in the Ireland of the early 1970s.
It’s been a privilege to work on the series and to have the opportunity to spend time with many of the featured composers and find out about their lives in music, and what drives them creatively. It's been a pleasure working with Helen Shaw and all the team at Athena Media, and of course I'm very grateful to the support of the Contemporary Music Centre in the project and the funding support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and RTÉ Lyric fm.