Dave Flynn’s genre jumping genius may jar for some

Between the amazing power and authenticity of his recent Clare Concerto (with the Clare Memory Orchestra – his vision), the perfect fit of his Music for the Departed (with Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill), his vision for and musical contribution to the Tune Makers tour (involving Mairtín O’Connor and Liz Carroll and other guest composers), his large body of classical compositions (including commissions by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Crash Ensemble, Lyric FM, Concorde, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Arts Council of Ireland, the Masters of Tradition Festival, the Con Tempo Quartet and the Contemporary Music Centre), his folk-world-pop music projects (including his solo album Draíocht and his new group with Vyvienne Long and Niwel Tsumbu, DFF), and everything in-between (including standing in for Paddy Groenland of Ensemble Ériu for their Feile na Bealtaine concert recently), it is no wonder that he has drawn the following comments from people:

“The precision of Flynn’s writing displayed years of studying the music of Hayes: his style, rhythm, technical ability and aesthetic. At the same time, the composer moved the fiddle-player into unfamiliar territory, compelling him to climb through shifting, plated orchestral accompaniment. Each time Hayes arrived at a plateau, Flynn had spun the map, but Hayes was undeterred, ascending and chasing even harder. It was thrilling, heady and explosive. Brophy danced on the podium. I moved to the edge of my seat. Like a fish fighting for breath in the net of our national betrayal, Aontacht carried everyone momentarily to the surface.” Toner Quinn, The Journal of Music

“Irish music is this … composer’s passion and main inspiration, and at times he has the quartet’s two violinists digging into their instruments with the kind of power and grittiness you hear from Celtic fiddlers at their most raucous.” Alan Kozinn, The New York Times

‘’In an era dominated by fret-burning virtuosity, gently persuasive releases such as this are a rare and precious resource. A significant niche release and one of the most effective chill-out discs ever to come my way”. Paul Fowles, Classical Guitar Magazine

“Nothing could have prepared me for the innovative, soothingly pastoral music that washed over me. The works, arranged and composed by Flynn, are a unique and truly satisfying blend of traditional Irish melodies and harmonies, gently delivered in a contemporary style” Timothy Smith, Minor 7th

“Flynn is seeking to bring the influence of traditional Irish music into the hallowed realms of the classical string quartet and moments of the Smith Quartet’s performance of this minimalist- influenced work gelled to perfection ” Michael Dervan, The Irish Times

“‘More positive to relate were two efforts from a younger breed of composer, unveiled by the Smith Quartet. David Flynn’s ‘The Cranning’ incorporated traditional Irish music without Hollywood pastiche…..’’ Neil Fisher, The Times


What is a wonder, though, is how much work he has to put in to production and promotion etc., the one area where I would say he could do with delegating in. Despite the greatness and positive reception for much of his work, he is not yet in a position to hire the professionals to do these jobs.

[He recently announced that he had “decided to stop using Facebook”, and explained his “reasons for leaving” thus:

1. When I first joined I did so out of curiosity and a way of connecting with genuine friends, old and new.
2. Eventually this changed as more and more people told me Facebook was a great promotional tool for professional work and I found less of the interactions on Facebook were genuinely to do with friendship.
3. So since then most of my ‘Facebook Time’ has been spent trying to promote my work.
4. I’ve lately come to the conclusion Facebook is not particularly useful for either maintaining friendships or promoting work. So I’m leaving.
5. Twitter is even more useless, so I’m not using that any more either.
6. I feel I’ve gotten too caught up in this Facebook/Twitter world, it’s just not me. I don’t need lots of virtual friends and I don’t need to market myself like this, I’m not a PR person, I’m not a marketing person, I’m a musician, so I should stick to what I do best.]

Why, though, is he not in such a position if his music is so great? Why can he not “stick to” it alone? Why is it that Aontacht, for example, hadn’t been programmed by any orchestra since its premier in 2010, until today? (At least the announcement was made today.) http://www.rte.ie/orchestras/2014/0801/comartinhayes.html

It’s hard to say. Perhaps, though, it is partly to do with his enthusiasm for so many genres and the way he follows through on ideas that most of us would only dream of or chat about in the pub. He’s a do-er, which may be a curse to a composer.

If he had to abandon all his wide interests bar one, I’d hope that he’d opt to focus on the composition work and (reflecting my personal bias) in particular that he’d plough that Clare Concerto / Music for the Departed / Aontacht furrow as deeply as his obvious talents, knowledge, skills, creative energies AND total commitment would allow. I have a sense – even though his work to date is already magnificent and exciting and I love it – that it is bound to be compromised by the distractions and pressures, and that he is actually only getting going on his compositional explorations of Irish music.

I will be so bold as to suggest that if Dave Flynn were given the kind of patronage that the great classical composers were given, we might end up, finally, with a body of work to compare to that of the likes of Dvorák or Bartók or whoever you may care to mention yourself, by a single Irish composer.

*The one musical reservation I would have is that traditional music on solo guitar hasn’t done it for me yet, except in very rare instances, as in, for example, Steve Cooney playing very distinctive tunes from the Goodman collection or O’Carolan pieces. With regular dance tunes, played at anything approaching dance speed, the uniformity of timbre across the range of rapid guitar plucking produces an acoustic blur in my ear that reminds me of a time when I didn’t “understand” traditional music at all, when a lot of it was just the beat, or as Ciaran Carson put it once: “I am sometimes returned to the state of a novice listener or learner, unable to tell one tune from another: it’s all diddly-dee to me.” (http://journalofmusic.com/focus/art-possible)


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