Donnacha Dennehy (born 1970) is a composer living in Dublin. He studied music composition at Trinity College Dublin with Hormoz Farhat and at the University of Illinois with Salvatore Martirano and William Brooks. He pursued further studies in electronic music at the Hague and at IRCAM, Paris. Returning to Ireland, he founded the Crash Ensemble, Dublin's now-renowned amplified new music band, in 1997. Among the premieres in Crash's first concert was a piece that Dennehy wrote specially for the group called Junk Box Fraud, a work that in many ways marked a significant shift in his compositional style. Dennehy is also a lecturer in music composition at Trinity College Dublin.
Dennehy has received commissions from WNYC in New York (for the Bang On A Can All-Stars), Dawn Upshaw, Electra, the Fidelio Trio, Icebreaker, Joanna MacGregor, Lisa Moore, New Noise London, Isabelle O'Connell, Orkest de Ereprijs, Orkest de Volharding, the Percussion Group of the Hague, the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, RTE TV (for Elastic Harmonic), the Ulster Orchestra (for BBC Radio 3), the Smith Quartet, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and the Tate Ensemble, among others groups. Other noted performers of his work include Darragh Morgan, Ensemble Intégrales, Jenny Lin, Prism Quartet, Sonic Generator in Atlanta, Tatiana Koleva, and the London Sinfonietta. Enjoying collaborations, he has worked with the choreographers Yoshiko Chuma on To Herbert Brun and Shobana Jeyasingh on Hinterlands and with the visual artist John Gerrard on Composition for Percussion, Loops, Blips and Flesh.
His work has featured in festivals such as ISCM World Music Days, Bang On A Can in New York, WNYC’s New Sounds Live, the Sonic Evolutions Festival at Lincoln Center, EXPO, the Ultima Festival in Oslo, Fuse Leeds, the Saarbrücken Festival, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, the State of the Nation at the South Bank in London and the Gaudeamus Festival in Amsterdam; both Junk Box Fraud and Traces of A Revolutionary Song were shortlisted for the Gaudeamus Prize in 1999.
Recent premieres include Crane in 2009 for the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, As An Nós in 2009 for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Stamp in 2008 for the Smith Quartet, and Grá Agus Bás in 2007 for the Crash Ensemble and the sean nós singer Iarla O’ Lionáird, which was described by the New York Times as a “magnificently energetic” vocal work, given a "powerful account" by the Crash Ensemble.
Current projects include a commissioned piece for Dawn Upshaw that she and the Crash Ensemble will premiere in the autumn of 2010. Dennehy’s first full-length album, Elastic Harmonic, was released by NMC Records in London in the summer of 2007. In its review of that disc, The Wire declared, “Donnacha Dennehy has a soundworld all of his own.” New recordings will include releases from Nonesuch and Canteloupe Records.
The creative spark for Crane was an ambitious collaborative concept: an urban industrial ballet, to involve a live orchestral performance and the choreographed movement of cranes located at various building sites across the Dublin skyline during the apex of Dublin’s construction boom. Although the costs and practicalities of the choreography eventually proved insurmountable, it happily set the conditions for the birth of this stand-alone piece.