Denis Clohessy

Composition / Sound design

Denis Clohessy has produced work for theatre and dance with the Abbey Theatre, Gate Theatre, Rough Magic Theatre Company, Fishamble: The New Play Company, The Corn Exchange, junk ensemble and many others.

He was an associate artist with the Abbey in 2008 and was a participant on Rough Magic’s ADVANCE programme in 2012.

He has also composed extensively for Film and Television including The Irish Pub (Atom Films), His and Hers (Venom Film), The Reluctant Revolutionary (Underground Films) and the television series Limits of Liberty (South Wind Blows) performed by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Awards
Best Design, Dublin Fringe Festival Award 2011 for ‘Man of Valour’ (The Corn Exchange)
Best Sound Design, Irish Times Theatre Awards 2011 for ‘Sodome My Love’ (Rough Magic Theatre Company
Best Score, Underground Film Award 2013, for ‘The Note’
Best Achievement in Film Music, European Short Film Biennale, Germany 2005, for ‘Useless Dog’ (Venom Films)

Denis Clohessy   Aristocrats

2014
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Francis O'Connor
Sinead McKenna
Catherine Fay
Production company
Abbey Theatre
Premiere Venue
Abbey Theatre, Dublin
Writer
Brian Friel
Director
Patrick Mason
Photographer
Ros Kavanagh

Artist Statement

Aristocrats by Brian Friel heavily features a selection of piano pieces by Chopin, performed offstage, reflecting the sentiment of the action at various stages. We recorded the fantastic pianist Conor Linehan in his home using five different mic positions mixed together.

The play is set in Donegal of the 1970s and the director Patrick Mason wanted to create the sense of a family living in splendid isolation while the troubles in the North raged just over the border. For the opening sequence and scene changes we sourced archive recordings of unedited news reports from RTE including the Civil rights marchers singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ which opened the show.

I also recorded a 7 year old playing the violin for a featured piece on cassette tape that served as a recording of a naive, innocent sister of the family working as a nun overseas sending back a present for her father.

The father only appears once on stage. The rest of the time we hear the father’s voice through an on-stage baby monitor, the dialogue for which was recorded in the Peacock Theatre.


Denis Clohessy   Underneath

2014
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Production company
Fishamble: The New Play Company
Premiere Venue
Lime Tree Theatre, Limerick
Writer
Pat Kinevane
Director
Jim Culleton
Photographer
Patrick Redmond

Artist Statement

It was a privilege for me to have been asked by Pat Kinevane and Fishamble to produce the music and sound score for his two one man shows Silent and Underneath. He had previously enjoyed great success with his first one man show Forgotten so it was very exciting for me to be brought on board for these next two, highly anticipated, productions.

We discussed the integrated role the music and sound would have, particularly as these were shows designed to tour easily and quickly. The productions would have minimal set and lighting. Instead it was the sound that would create the world for Pat’s characters to inhabit.

The scores for both shows were developed over a twelve month period. We had multiple recording sessions in which no idea was too much, we all swapped ideas and thoughts during the composing and design process. This was followed by development workshops to integrate the audio with the script and the performance before finally bringing it to life in front of the hugely appreciative audiences.

It has been a huge pleasure for me and some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever undertaken.


Denis Clohessy   Dusk Ahead

2013
Stage Dance
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Sabine Dargent
Sarah Jane Shiels
Production company
junk ensemble
Premiere Venue
Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny
Choreographer
Jessica Kennedy & Megan Kennedy
Photographer
Ines Billings

Artist Statement

Dusk Ahead was a piece that explored darkness, vision and a version of sensory deprivation. I have collaborated with Megan and Jessica Kennedy of Junk Ensemble on a number of projects. Normally the music is a response to their work in the rehearsal room. On this occasion we decided to alter this approach and compose a number of the pieces in advance of the rehearsals.

It was not only to try a new approach but also for practical reasons in that we had Cellist Zoe Ni Riordain who would perform with the pre-recorded tracks. The dancers also performed two songs not only singing but also learning to play instruments (ukelele, chimes, accordion and percussion).

The music is rhythmically driven with repeating motifs. There is also a lighter, comedic waltz section in the middle of the production.


Denis Clohessy   The Falling Song

2012
Stage Dance
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Aedín Cosgrove
Emma Downey
Production company
junk ensemble
Premiere Venue
Project Arts Centre, Dublin (Space Upstairs)
Choreographer
Jessica Kennedy and Megan Kennedy
Photographer
Kilian Waters

Artist Statement

This piece looked at masculinity and male vulnerability. From the first conversations about the music for the project we knew it would involve a children’s choir. Three songs were composed for the choir and performed by Piccolo Lasso directed by Ite O’Donovan. The lyrics for the songs were written by Dennis Kennedy.

The other pieces were composed as a response to the work in the rehearsal room. There was a variety of themes and scenes running through the piece so there is quite a varied score as a result including a club like piece, atmospheric tones and an 80s glamour number!


Denis Clohessy   Silent

2011
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Production company
Fishamble: The New Play Company
Premiere Venue
Mill Theatre, Dublin
Writer
Pat Kinevane
Director
Jim Culleton
Photographer
Maria Falconer

Artist Statement

It was a privilege for me to have been asked by Pat Kinevane and Fishamble to produce the music and sound score for his two one man shows Silent and Underneath. He had previously enjoyed great success with his first one man show Forgotten so it was very exciting for me to be brought on board for these next two, highly anticipated, productions.

We discussed the integrated role the music and sound would have, particularly as these were shows designed to tour easily and quickly. The productions would have minimal set and lighting. Instead it was the sound that would create the world for Pat’s characters to inhabit.

The scores for both shows were developed over a twelve month period. We had multiple recording sessions in which no idea was too much, we all swapped ideas and thoughts during the composing and design process. This was followed by development workshops to integrate the audio with the script and the performance before finally bringing it to life in front of the hugely appreciative audiences.

It has been a huge pleasure for me and some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever undertaken.


Denis Clohessy   The Government Inspector

2011
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Conor Murphy
Kevin Treacy
Catherine Fay
Production company
Abbey Theatre
Premiere Venue
Abbey Theatre, Dublin
Writer
Nikolai Gogol
Adapted by Roddy Doyle
Director
Jimmy Fay
Photographer
Ros Kavanagh

Artist Statement

This was Roddy Doyle’s hilarious adaptation of Gogol’s satire. The score for this was to heighten the bombast and pompousness of the self important grandees of the town. To this end it’s primarily an orchestral score using the Vienna Symphonic Library. I also used some choral elements for the scene changes using East West’s Symphonic Choirs software.

As well as the bombastic score there is also a nightmare sequence where the town’s mayor is feeling guilty about how he’s treating the townsfolk.


Denis Clohessy   Man of Valour

2011
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Aedín Cosgrove
Jack Phelan
The Corn Exchange (Annie Ryan)
Production company
The Corn Exchange
Premiere Venue
The Everyman, Cork
Writer
Michael West, Annie Ryan, Paul Reid
Director
Annie Ryan
Photographer
Fiona Morgan

Artist Statement

Man of Valour was one of my favourite projects to work on. Director Annie Ryan essentially said go as big as you like with the drama of the music. The play was a one man piece devised and performed by Paul Reid. It centres on the story of lonely office worker whose imagination runs riot in the absence of human contact.

The sequences where he goes into his imagination centre on epic stories of heroism and danger. The score is modelled on Hollywood action movie scores and uses large scale orchestral instrumentation as well as drum kit and electric guitars.

There are moments when he remembers his parents. The memory of his father is marked by a soundscape score and the mother by a simple piano melody. The music that marks the demons he is wrestling with includes vocal shouts from a female choir. There is also the heroic theme that marks his journey towards self fulfilment.


Denis Clohessy   Sodome, My Love

2010
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
John Comiskey
Monica Frawley
Val Sherlock
Production company
Rough Magic Theatre Company
Premiere Venue
Project Arts Centre, Dublin (Space Upstairs)
Writer
Laurent Gaudé, translated by Olwen Fouéré
Director
Lynne Parker
Photographer
Conor Horgan

Artist Statement

Sodome my Love was a great project to work on. It was a production that began without parameters and we gave ourselves time to find what the world would be.

This was an examination of a character/spirit/entity who was coming back to contemporary society after having been brutalised and buried alive during the destruction of the mythical city of Sodome.

I spent a lot of time in the rehearsal room observing Olwen Fouere and Lynne Parker work together and tease out the script. I went through many drafts before settling on what I would describe as a soundscape score. I used string samples which were then filtered through GRM tools software, which I had been told about by Irish Composer Roger Doyle.

This software enabled the ‘freezing’ of audio, selecting slices of audio and manipulating its parameters. This not only sounded good but fitted in perfectly with the idea of a woman who had been in a stasis for aeons.


Denis Clohessy   Happy Days

2010
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Joe Vaněk
Sinéad Wallace
Val Sherlock
The Corn Exchange (Annie Ryan)
Production company
The Corn Exchange
Premiere Venue
Project Arts Centre, Dublin (Space Upstairs)
Writer
Samuel Beckett
Director
Annie Ryan
Photographer
Johnny Savage

Artist Statement

Beckett’s fantastic play is set in a barren wasteland with the main character, Winnie, musing and reflecting. There was quite a minimal soundscape for the production mostly serving to heighten some of Winnie’s monologues.

The tones were created primarily using the Absynth software from Native instrument. These tones were also pitch shifted to create a warmer timbre.


Denis Clohessy   BROADENING

2009
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Zia Holly
Donncha O'Dea
Production company
Glass Doll Productions
Premiere Venue
The Lir, Dublin
Writer
Peter Dunne
Director
Ronan Phelan
Photographer
Oliver Kehoe Smith

Artist Statement

Sound design was extremely important to this play as the main set piece is a reel to reel recorder and microphone. All the interactions in the experiment within the play are recorded and played back. As the play is not written in a linear style I used this forwarding and rewinding of the reel to reel to build a soundscape and therefore direct the audience as to where the next scene was heading.

The playback heard on the reel to reel of interviews with the participants in the experiment became part of the soundscape as the play progressed until all voices are overlapped, struggling to be  heard, by the end.


Denis Clohessy   The Burial At Thebes

2008
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Ferdia Murphy
Sinead McKenna
Production company
Abbey Theatre
Premiere Venue
Abbey Theatre, Dublin (Peacock stage)
Director
Patrick Mason
Photographer
Ros Kavanagh

Artist Statement

The Burial at Thebes by Seamus Heaney is a dramatic version of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Antigone. In all there are only seven cues but they were used at very effective moments and given time and space to heighten the turns in the story. The music was used in combination with the Greek chorus, three older men who offer judgment and opinion on the events in the story.

The instrumentation was dulcimer, harmonium, strings, percussion and the Armenian instrument the dudek.


Denis Clohessy   The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui

2008
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Paul Keogan
Conor Murphy
Production company
Abbey Theatre
Premiere Venue
Abbey Theatre, Dublin
Writer
Bertolt Brecht, translated and adapted by George Tabori
Director
Jimmy Fay
Photographer
Ros Kavanagh

Artist Statement

This was a fantastic large scale production focusing on the rise to power of the maniacal Arturo Ui, mirroring the ascent of Adolf Hitler. The score was built around a detuned piano and composed in a quasi-period (1930s) style. The primary theme also features organ, brass, drum kit and electric guitar.

One song was composed for the production ‘The Whitewash Song’. Its written in a Brechtian/Kurt Weill idiom and includes a clarinet and muted brass.

The production was staged in the wake of revelations about America’s actions internationally and so featured a variation on ‘America the Beautiful’ and used Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Star Spangled Banner’ to bring us into the interval.


Denis Clohessy   Attempts on Her Life

2007
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Conor Murphy
Sinead McKenna
Val Sherlock
Production company
Rough Magic Theatre Company
Premiere Venue
Project Arts Centre, Dublin (Cube)
Writer
Martin Crimp
Director
Tom Creed
Photographer
Ros Kavanagh

Artist Statement

Attempts on Her Life was my second time to work with Tom Creed for Rough Magic. The playwright Martin Crimp had described the piece as a gift to directors. In other words the director was given free rein to interprete the script as they wished.

And so this was also passed along to the design team. Tom and I focused on the camera motif from the play’s song ‘The Camera Loves You’. We decided that for the most part the scene changes would be a percussive in and out for which we used the sound of a camera shutter.

I composed the music for the two songs and also a gypsy piece to close the show performed by Cora Venus Lunny.


Denis Clohessy   Don Carlos

2007
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Paul O'Mahony
Sinéad Wallace
Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh
Val Sherlock
Production company
Rough Magic Theatre Company
Premiere Venue
Project Arts Centre, Dublin (Space Upstairs)
Writer
Friedrich Schiller
Director
Lynne Parker
Photographer
Patrick Redmond

Artist Statement

Although I had worked with Rough Magic previously, Don Carlos was my first time to work with Lynne Parker as director. This adaptation, despite clocking in at over two hours, was a lean, tightly written thriller and the production matched that.

The score was character driven so there were themes for the associate players. Don Carlos and Elizabeth were represented through the pizzicato motif, King Philip through low brass and the Cardinal through a kind of whispering gallery.

I also used ambient mic’ing to represent various places in the script such as the Cathedral, the Palace and the Prison.


Denis Clohessy   Woman and Scarecrow

2007
Stage Theatre
Composition / Sound design
Other featured designers
Conor Murphy
Paul Keogan
Val Sherlock
Production company
Abbey Theatre
Premiere Venue
Abbey Theatre, Dublin (Peacock stage)
Writer
Marina Carr
Director
Selina Cartmell
Photographer
Ros Kavanagh

Artist Statement

I had worked on a number of productions with Selina Cartmell before Woman and Scarecrow. This was the first time both of us worked in the Abbey Theatre together. Selina likes to use a lot of music and sound design in her productions and this was no different.

To create the sound of Scarecrow I recorded both Barbara Brennan and Olwen Fouere creating dark guttural sounds which I filtered and pitch shifted to create the ominous presence.

The set was a snowscape so this was reflected in the music using chimes and string harmonics written in a high register.

The play ends with ‘Song to the Moon’ from Dvorak’s Rusalka as woman thinks back over her life.