Morning music

A few days ago I awoke to the music of Ignaz Moscheles (part of the bridge between music of the classical period and music of the romantic period). Yesterday it was another composer with an interesting name, Donnacha Dennehy, also in a zone between genres: this time, between contemporary concert music and performance art. I awoke early on during his 1997 composition Junk Box Fraud, an intriguing title (which, as far as I can tell, Dennehy has never been willing to explain).

You can watch a performance by Crash Ensemble on video here. Just over 13 minutes, described as electro-acoustic and mixed media, for two singers/speakers and a chamber ensemble, plus visuals on a screen. Fascinating sonic texture, with outbursts of profanity (the piece begins with “Fuck you” from one of the women) and vocal play that reminds me of George Crumb. If you’re listening for melodies, Dennehy’s not your man, but the piece is riveting, assaultive, playful, and funny.

A murky still from the beginning, with nothing up on the screen:

On the composer, snippets from Wikipedia:

Donnacha Dennehy (born 17 August 1970 in Dublin) is an Irish composer.

[After time away from Ireland:] In 1997, Dennehy returned to Dublin, and subsequently co-founded the Crash Ensemble, which focuses on the performance and recording of contemporary music. His works for the Crash Ensemble include Junk Box Fraud, Derailed, and For Herbert Brun. He later returned to Trinity College Dublin as a lecturer in music.

Pronunciations of his personal name vary according to dialect, but something in the neighborhood of the woman’s name Donica will probably do. On the name, from Wikipedia:

Donnchadh is a Gaelic masculine given name. It is composed of the elements donn, meaning “brown” [that is, ‘brown-haired’]; and chadh, meaning “chief” or “noble”. The name is also written as Donnchad, Donncha, Donnacha, Donnchadha and Dúnchad….

Modern versions include (in Ireland) Donagh, Donough, Donogh and (in Scotland) Duncan…

The surnames Donough, McDonagh, McDonough, O’Donoghue and Dunphy among others are derived from the given name

And on the surname, from Wikipedia:

Dennehy is a surname of Irish origin. The original form in Irish is Ó Duineachdha, meaning descendant of Duineachaidh, who was a chieftain who fought the Danes in Limerick in 934… Spelling variations include Denehy, Dennehey, Danahy, Deniehy, and Denahy.

Then there’s the title Junk Box Fraud. The occasionally tinkly music might suggest a connection to juke box music (on juke box, see this posting). Or, given the vulgarity of the words tossed out, it might be a joint allusion to junk ‘male genitals’ and box ‘female genitals’. Or junk box could just be a relatively transparent N + N compound meaning ‘box of junk’, referring to a collection of relatively worthless (but maybe useful) stuff. If so, then the fraud would be in the stuff’s having more worth or meaning than would at first appear. But mostly I am at the moment just baffled by fraud.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: