with the Santos Symphony Orchestra 2009
photo: Ian SImpson
“It's always fascinating to hear a composer in his own music, especially when he's as accomplished an instrumentalist as Dwyer, who plays with a charismatic blend of explosive panache and evocative lyricism.” Fanfare Magazine
Benjamin Dwyer’s music is forged from an intensive amalgamation of technical and interpretative elements. Experienced at the intersection of compositional, performance and improvisational praxes, his music is further enriched through its deep immersion in ritual, symbol, literature, dance movement, film and the political. His works have been performed worldwide by renowned musicians and ensembles. As a classical guitarist, and a major exponent of contemporary music and free improvisation, Dwyer performs worldwide and has appeared as soloist with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra (Ireland), the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the Neubrandenburg Philharmonic (Germany), the Santos Symphony Orchestra (Brazil), the VOX21 new-music ensemble, the Callino Quartet (UK) and the Vogler String Quartet (Germany). He is a member of Barry Guy’s Blue Shroud Band, a founder-member of TIN (the UK-based Transdisciplinary Improvisation Network) and co-founder of Coterminous, a cross-disciplinary collective (dance, music, film) that explores the concept of translative epistemologies through free improvisation. In the free improvisation arena Dwyer has performed with leading exponents of the genre including bassist/composer Barry Guy, percussionist Lucas Niggli, trumpeter Peter Evans, saxophonist Nick Roth, vocalist Savina Yannatou and violist/composer Garth Knox among others.
Recent compositions and performances include what is the word (triptych with interludes): a setting of texts by Samuel Beckett, it was written for Barry Guy, Maya Homburger, and narrator, with Dwyer on guitar. Umbilical, which was written for Homburger, Guy and David Adams, is a musical version of Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus. Scenes from Crow is an amplified mixed-ensemble work inspired by Ted Hughes’s Crow sequence; both Scenes from Crow and Umbilical are released on Diatribe Records. Twelve Études for guitar (recorded by the composer on Gamelan Records) has been described by Fabio Zanon as the ‘summation of an entire guitar epoch’. Imagines obesae et aspectui ingratae was written for violist Garth Knox; a recording appears alongside a specially designed limited edition of the score in hard-back published by New Dublin Press. The Fidelio Trio premièred Nocturnal, after Benjamin Britten at King’s Place London in October 2015. Dwyer featured as a performer in the Krakow Autumn Jazz Festival 2014 and 2016 as a soloist and in small ensembles, as well as with the Blue Shroud Band. KnowingUnknowing, a work for improvised music and dance (with Helen Kindred), was premiered at London's InsideOut Festival in 2016. Sobre los Ángeles, a song cycle for soprano and guitar on poems by Rafael Alberti, premiered at the Barrow River Festival in April 2017 with Sylvia O'Brien. Dwyer's latest compositions for guitar include Tombeau sur la Mort de Claude Debussy, premiered at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, in June 2018, and five disjecta (after Beckett) premiered at the Belfast Book Festival in 2019 with the composer as soloist. Dwyer's Beckett-inspired works, what is the word (triptych with interludes), six residua (after Beckett) and five disjecta (after Beckett), are released on Diatribe Records, which launched at the New Music Dublin festival 2020 at the National Concert Hall.
Chiefly informed by continental philosophy, and postcolonial and feminist theory, Dwyer has written extensively on music exploring themes such as Irish art music, the intersections of performance and compositional practice, improvisation, the classical guitar, and music as myth and symbol. He specialises in the works of numerous Irish composers, György Ligeti, Benjamin Britten and Barry Guy among others. Book publications include Britten and the Guitar: Critical Perspectives for Performers (Carysfort Press, 2017); Different Voices: Irish Music and Music in Ireland (Wolke-Verlag, 2014); and Constellations: The Life and Music of John Buckley (Carysfort Press, 2011). His influential essay, 'Transformational Ostinati in György Ligeti’s Sonatas for Solo Cello and Solo Viola' appears in György Ligeti: Of Foreign Lands and Strange Sounds (Boydell & Brewer, 2011). Articles include: “‘...O Master of secret configurations...’ Reflections on the Adorno-Berg Correspondences” (The Musical Times, 2007); "'Dios los cría’—Barry Guy and Maya Homburger,” (Music & Literature, 2014); "Sheela-na-gigs and an 'Aesthetics of Damage’" (Enclave Review, 16); and 'Joycean Aesthetics and Mythic Imagination in the Music of Frank Corcoran' (The Musical Times, 2019).
Dwyer is an elected member of Aosdána (the Irish government-sponsored academy of creative artists) and an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, London (ARAM). He is currently Professor of Music at Middlesex University, London.