New Music Dublin – a chat with composer Brian Irvine about Big Mistake

Posted April 20, 2021 in Event Preview, Weekender

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Composer Brian Irvine is instrumental in the creation of the Totally Made Up Orchestra who form part of Big Mistake, a new multi-screen music video installation which will be projected around the city as part of New Music Dublin and MusicTown this weekend. He checks in with us from Donaghadee, which we subsequently discover is Northern Ireland’s closest point to Scotland.

“I guess I’m always looking for people to collaborate with and new ways to showcase work whether that is in an opera house or a residential care home. I see no difference, for me  collaboration is the key to unlocking the most exciting contemporary ideas. Fresh sounds can come from anywhere and that continually excites me. I like the idea  that everything is valid when it comes to sound – The fragile, naive world of Tori Kudo’s Maher Shalal Hash Baz or the visceral complexities of Stockhausen – it’s all magnificent.

The Totally Made Up Orchestra came about through a discussion with festival director John Harris a few years ago. I’d known John from my collaborations with the Red Note Ensemble. What interested us was the idea that anyone of any age, ability and instrument background could create new exciting contemporary music. We’ve had to rethink things since it moved online but its essence remains the same. The thing I love about the Orchestra is the participants – their energy, their individual spirit  of adventure, their curiosity and their wonderful sense of play.

With the Big Mistake, we will be illuminating certain places with a series of projections of  individuals from The Totally Made Up Orchestra playing their own music. It’s about trying to find the resonance between regular people and urban spaces. After we come out of this period of isolation I believe our thinking will have changed forever. We may see an avalanche of people reconnecting with the value of creating things, being involved with people – the interconnectivity of art I hope will be more centre stage in all our lives.

We’ve all had to engage with new communication methods. It has made us all at Dumbworld reimagine how we connect –  with projected operas, hybrid pieces and the mashing – up of on-line worlds and acoustic spaces. “It’s about trying to find the resonance between regular people and urban spaces.”

Just before lockdown I had been working with the INO on an opera called Least Like The Other and the social distancing requirements forced us to reimagine the work as a sonically immersive piece that combines surround sound, prerecorded and live elements. This ultimately led to us creating a work that is much more mobile and flexible – a development that would not have happened if it were not for the lockdown situation.

Online communication platforms have become part of our life now and it is much more acceptable to be able to deliver tutorials or creative workshops in this format. Together with the brilliant team at Dumbworld we are currently working on projects that mash up contemporary opera with games technology, animation and all kinds of communities in association why the Royal Opéra House, Irish National Opéra and the Art of Music in Kenya – It’s an exciting time and I’m writing like crazy.”

Big Mistake, as part of New Music Dublin, will be projected nightly from 7pm to 11pm on Busáras and Barnardo Square from Friday April 23 to Sunday April 26. The festival also starts on Friday and you can view the full programme here.


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Dublin Theater Festival -23 – MPU


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