Selected Compositions & Improvisation Projects

Twelve Études

Composed over a ten-year period, Twelve Études explore, through what Dwyer describes as 'hidden pedagogy', the challenges that 20th- and 21st-century music presents to the modern guitarist technically and interpretatively. They are described by guitarist Fabio Zanon as the ‘summation of an entire guitar epoch’. Below left is a video of the full score of the Twelve Études in a recording by Benjamin Dwyer (released on Gamelan Records in 2008). On the right is a video of the renowned Greek guitarist Smaro Gregoriadou performing Book I (Études 1, 2 & 3).

In Memoriam Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is a 20-minute work for orchestra composed in 2009 soon after the death of the Indian Vedic spiritual leader. The work was premiered by the USP Filarmônica de Ribeirão Preto (Brazil) conducted by Rubens Russomanno Ricciardi. This performance was given by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland 29 April 2022 under the baton of Stefan Asbury at the National Concert Hall for the New Music Dublin festival.

five disjecta (after Beckett) for solo guitar seek to explore in music facets of Beckett’s late work—an aesthetic of impoverishment, semantic deconstruction, and a yearning for silence. This led me into areas exploring techniques often deemed ‘incompatible with art’, employing sounds considered ‘unusable’ by composers, shifting from reliance upon traditional semantic constructions towards methods whereby minute entities are mined for the utmost meaning. Silence- orientated procedures replace conventional motific development. Figurations reappearing in different contexts offer different meanings and perspectives. Established vocabularies are at times abandoned in favour of fractured schemata, deconstructed ‘languages’, gesture-generated sounds, and a host of traditionally rejected sonorities and noises. This is a Dreamsong Film directed by Jonathan C. Creasy.

Guitar Quintet (for guitar and string quartet) was composed in 2003 (revised 2009). It is a version of Dwyer's Concerto No. 1 for Guitar and Strings, which was composed in 1998 (revised in 2008). It was premiered with the composer performing with the Callino Quartet (UK) at the National Concert Hall Dublin in 2009, and was recorded soon after that. It is recorded on Dwyer's CD Irish Guitar Works: Benjamin Dwyer & the Callino Quartet (Cortijo Records, 2012).

SacrumProfanum is an hour-long multimedia work for amplified viola, flutes (alto, C, piccolo, and tin whistle), medieval Irish harp, bowed guitar, and tape. It was composed especially for violist Garth Knox, flautist Emma Coulthard, harpist Siobhán Armstrong with the composer on bowed guitar. SacrumProfanum explores the enigmatic stone carvings found in Ireland and parts of Britain known as Sheela-na-gigs. Dwyer spent ten years travelling across the country studying, photographing and sketching these mysterious figures. Responding artistically through the Sheela ‘as witness’, Dwyer has created a unique work exploring themes such as feminism, colonialism, dispossession, identity, religion, rite, sexuality and the disintegration of Gaelic culture. In a score that combines contemporary music interfacing with traditional Irish materials, instruments and sean-nós singing, SacrumProfanum offers perceptive critiques of contemporary exploitations of Irish culture. HAG, for amplified flute and bowed guitar, is the 7th of eleven movements in SacrumProfanum, and is perhaps the most explicit and abject—the flautist embodies the Sheela, expressing her anger and defiance through a visceral dramatic narrative performed through the instrument, which is echoed and amplified by the (mostly) improvised bowed-guitar playing.

password: sacrum

Tombeau sur la mort the Claude Debussy was commissioned by Térèse Fahy and the Ireland's Tombeau to Debussy festival in 2018. The work was premiered at the National Concert Hall in Dublin and subsequently performed in Paris at the Centre Culturel Irlandais. The work is based on the third of Debussy's Douze Études, 'pour les quartes'. It is dedicated to Térèse Fahy.

Barry Guy’s composition The Blue Shroud is an homage to the painting Guernica by Pablo Picasso. It is for the people of the Basque town who were victims of the Nazi German air force bombardment during the Spanish Civil War. Guy also wants us to remember the occasion in 2003, when the Guernica-tapestry at the UN Security Council was obscured by a blue drape as Colin Powell made the case for invading Iraq. The strength of art against the power of the military, government and the media is a central theme.

Benjamin Dwyer is the guitarist with the Blue Shroud Band (Barry Guy: double bass, Director; Savina Yannatou: voice; Agustí Fernández: piano; Maya Homburger: violin; Fanny Paccoud: viola; Percy Pursglove: trumpet; Torben Snekkestad: soprano saxophone and reed trumpet; Michael Niesemann: alto saxophone and oboe; Per Texas Johansson: tenor saxophone and clarinet; Julius Gabriel: baritone saxophone; Marc Unternährer: tuba; Lucas Niggli: percussion; and Ramón López: percussion).

 

The film, The Blue Shroud: Live in London is a Dreamsong Film directed by Jonathan C. Creasy. It was filmed live in the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre for the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival. It was produced by Neil Guerin, Jonathan C. Creasy, and Maya Homburger. ‘The Blue Shroud might just be the crowning achievement in Barry Guy’s long and varied career’ (The New York City Jazz Record).

KnowingUnknowing

This is an improvised triptych for dance and amplified guitar (Helen Kindred dancer, Benjamin Dwyer guitar, prepared guitar, bowed guitar, 2016). Inspired by various texts by Samuel Beckett, Ted Hughes and Martin Heidegger, KnowingUnknowing explores the liminal spaces between the body and the zones it occupies, the conscious and the unconscious, movement and stillness, sound and silence, sight and gesture. This film version of KnowingUnknowing is the result of an unedited, one-off improvised performance with dancer, guitarist and improvising filmmaker Pete Gomes. The film features on the Farpoint Recordings label in a CD/DVD entitled KnowingUnknowing.

Umwelt V

improvisation for solo guitar (2020)

This is a film of a solo free improvisation recorded on 3 August 2020 in a studio in Dublin by filmmaker Lucía Dwyer. This improvisation makes use of prepared guitar techniques devised by Dwyer and features his use of a bow and other techniques. By deconstructing the instrument, new, hidden instruments have been liberated; new compositional possibilities have been unleashed. 

Umwelt V is part part of Dwyer's Umwelten ('environments') series, which emerged out of his responses to the psychological, emotional and physical effects the Covid-19 lockdown. These pieces also engage with the proposition of Umwelt Theory at the core of current biosemiotics, which explores the latitudes and limits of human consciousness and perception.

 New Pathways in Improvisation@MDX is a hybrid conference-performance event devised and directed by Benjamin Dwyer and hosted by Middlesex University. Its core focus is exploring through performance and intellectual inquiry the value of improvisation within interdisciplinary and intercultural contexts. Here, Dwyer performs improvisations with (on the left) Charlotte Hug (viola, composer, artist) and Nick Roth (saxophonist, composer and writer); and on the right, he improvises with Olesya Zdorovetska (singer and dramatist). 

Dwyer with Lucas Niggli (percussion) and Nick Roth (saxophone): free improvisation (no title) performed at the Breaking the Sound Barrier symposium at Middlesex University, 23 June 2015.

Nick Roth (saxophone) and Dwyer perform Improvisation for Barry Guy at the Different Voices book launch concert at Smock Alley Theatre Dublin on 6 November 2014.
 

 

Complete Catalogue

 

 

Five Sicilian Preludes

solo guitar (25') 2020

Hommage à Ligeti

solo guitar (15') 2020

Umwelten V

solo guitar improvisation (22') 2020

 

Umwelten I-IV

bass clarinet & accordion (18') 2020

 

five disjecta (after Beckett)

solo guitar (12') 2019

what is the word (triptych with interludes)

guitar (prepared guitar), violin, double bass and narrator (35')

(text: Samuel Beckett) 2019

six residua (after Beckett)

solo violin (17') 2019

SacrumProfanum

amplified viola, flutes, medieval Irish harp and bowed guitar (55') 2018

Tombeau sur la mort de Claude Debussy

guitar (6') 2018

Sobre los Ángeles

soprano and guitar, prepared guitar (one player)

(text: Rafael Alberti)

30' (2017)

 

KnowingUnknowing

amplified guitar, prepared guitar (one player) and dancer

(improvised composition and choreography)

30' (2016)

Nocturnal, after Benjamin Britten
piano trio

23' (2015)

 

jouissance…
shakuhachi

13' (2013)

 

Étude
Piano
6’ (2013)

imagines obesae et aspectui ingratae

(from SacrumProfanum)
viola
20' (2013)

Umbilical
Baroque violin, double bass, harpsichord, tape
(optional Butoh dancer)
55' (2011)


Scenes from Crow
amplified mixed ensemble, soprano, tape
45' (2009)


Dos estudios avanzados

guitar

8' (2008, 2012)

 

Eight Simple Studies

guitar

8' (2008, 2012)

 

Twelve Studies

guitar

8' (2008, 2012)

 

Crow

amplified flute (with sliding head-joint), tape

13' (version 2010)

 

In Memoriam Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

3222 422, timpani, 3 percussion, harp, piano, celeste, strings

20' (2009)

 

Four Japanese Prints

amplified bass flute, alto flute, flute, piccolo (one player), amplified piano

10' (2009)

 

Sueños Lentos (Sloe Dreams) [Portrait]

piano

4' (2009)

 

Twelve Études for Guitar

guitar

44' (2008)

Concerto No. 2 for Guitar and Orchestra

29' (2007, revised 2022)

Passacaille

Baroque violin, harpsichord

7' (2007)

 

Night Words

accordion, bass clarinet

11' (2007)

 

Homenaje a Maurice Ohana

piano

12' (1997, 2006)

 

Piano Trio II

violin, piano, cello

17' (2007)

 

Al-Andalus

flute (doubling bass flute), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), accordion, violin, cello, percussion

14' (2005)

 

Tango para dos

2 guitars

5' (2005)

 

Líneas

violin, 8-string guitar

5' (2005)

 

Movimientos I-IV

violin, piano

20' (2007)

 

Apuntes sin títulos I-IV

guitar

10' (2005)

 

Voces Críticas

guitar

16' (2004)

 

Afterjoyce I

flute, percussion, live electronics

5' (2004)

 

Guitar Quintet

guitar, string quartet

18' (2003)

 

Apuntes

piano

11' (2002)

 

Crow’s Vanity

amplified cello, tape

8' (2000)

 

Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra: Rajas, Sattva, Tamas

percussion solo, 2222 2210, timpani, 3 percussion, harp, piano, strings

23' (2000)

 

Crow

amplified flute (doubling piccolo), tape

13' (1999)

 

Crow

amplified tenor recorder, tape

13' (1999)

Concerto No. 1 for Guitar and Strings

guitar and strings

18' (1998, revised 2008)

 

Piano Trio I: Quasi una fantasia

violin, cello, piano

13' (1998)

 

Quasi una fantasia

soprano saxophone, violin, piano

13' (1998)

 

Quasi una fantasia

clarinet, violin, piano

13' (1998)

 

Quasi una fantasia

piano

12' (1997, rev. 2006)

 

Parallaxis

soprano saxophone, alto saxophone

8' (1996)

Canción y Tango

for soprano saxophone, guitar

8' (1995, 2003)

Canción y Tango

for guitar

8' (1995, 2003)

 

Canción y Tango

for flute, guitar

8' (1995, 2003)

Soneto del Amor Oscuro

flute (doubling alto and sliding flutes), percussion

15' (1995, 2011)

 

Soneto del Amor Oscuro

oboe, percussion

15' (1995)

 

Song for Her (Canción para Ella)

flute, guitar

3' (1995)

Song for Her (Canción para Ella)

soprano saxophone, guitar

3' (1995)

 

Song for Her (Canción para Ella)

2 guitars

3' (1995)

 

Song for Her (Canción para Ella)

guitar

3' (1995)

 

In Memoriam

ssaa

4' (1995)

Omeros

4 guitars (amplified)

12' (1994, 2004)

 

Tiento

soprano saxophone, piano

13' (1994)

 

Sonata for Tenor Recorder and Guitar

tenor recorder, guitar

13' (1994, 1997)

Sonata for Flute and Guitar

flute, guitar

13' (1994, 1997)

 

Sonata for Oboe and Guitar

oboe, guitar

13' (1994)

 

Two Mahon Songs

mezzo, cello

7' (1994, 1995)

 

Two Mahon Songs

high voice, cello

7' (1994, 1995)

 

Prakriti

alto saxophone

15' (1993, 1995)