Soundings 2014: Meet the composers. Introducing Ruaídhrí Mannion


Our third composer taking part in Soundings 2014 is Ruaídhrí Mannion. Born in Ireland, Ruaídhrí is now based in London, where he is completing a PhD at the Royal College of Music. Soundings 2014 will see the world premiere of Ruaídhrí’s Scáil Cruach for string quartet, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, trumpet, tenor trombone and live electronics – a definite highlight of this year’s programme.

Introduce yourself/your work

I am a doctoral composer at the Royal College of Music writing music for acoustic and electronic instruments. The focus of my research is in interdisciplinary arts and collaborative models between artists of different disciplines and persuasions. I’ve written a lot for small chamber forces and electronics, using the context of spatialized electroacoustic sounds as a sort of scene-setting in developing my own type of musical theatre. I also perform using live electronics, processing the sounds of solo acoustic performers. I’m fascinated by the musicians’ connections to these ‘real and imaginary sounds’ and to each other in the chamber context.

What do you expect from Soundings?

I wrote a new piece for this occasion that has 8 players divided into two distinct quartets and fused together using live electronics. A common thread has been developing in my music for almost 3 years now: using straight lines of trajectory when developing materials. This was opportunity to interweave all of its different guises, and so I hope to discover new things by their observing their dissimilarities when wrought into the same form. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to spend time working with great musicians who I haven’t met before – it’s a genuine honour to be counted in the company of these great composers and performers, and to be given the chance to offer them something in return.

Who or what inspires you?

Ruaídhrí Mannion

I’m quite prone to distraction, so inspiration tends to be something that I have to be overwhelmed by rather than something subtly suggested. Anywhere that you can be completely immersed by something out of the ordinary, be it fiction or reality gives me the space to feel inspired. The massive sculptures and earth art of Anselm Kiefer, the radiance and depth of Rothko’s colour fields, the enormity of a Sibelius symphony, grappling with the latest developments in physics – I think those are more like places where inspiration happens and not just materials for study.

My good friend, Antoine Francoise played La Monte Young’s Well Tuned Piano earlier this year. I arrived at the performance with only 1 hour left to go and I had to run through some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen in London. When I got to the venue there were a handful of people scattered the length of a dimly-lit stone corridor, all sitting at separate tables, facing different directions, and some lying on the floor next to statues. The piano was about three quarters of the way up the long room: Antoine had his back to me and there was an tall lamp just beyond him that sort of framed his place. Knowing that everyone had already been there for hours, in a sort of mutual prayer, was really special. I lay on the floor and got completely swept away. That was a life-affirming experience.

In what context would you like a piece of yours to be performed?

In a deeply absorbing space with a really interesting natural acoustic, that we could work in for a week beforehand to really explore the performance. Maybe in an underground cave.



Ruaídhrí Mannion (b.1985) is an Irish composer and electronic music performer living in London. Ruaidhri is a Royal College of Music Scholar, currently studying towards his DMus under the supervision of Dr. Jonathan Cole and generously supported by the Lucy Ann Jones Award. His music has been performed at venues such as King’s Place, Royal Academy, Cadogan Hall, Sonic Arts Research Centre, National Portrait Gallery and Konservatorium Bern. Recent projects include an audiovisual music theatre work exploring modern surveillance culture ‘London 1:14’ with pianist Gwenaelle Rouger, and a commission to write a saxophone sextet for the Royal Academy of Art’s critically acclaimed ‘Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined’ exhibition.



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