James O’Callaghan is the recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts’ Robert Fleming Prize (Canada, 2015), and his music has been awarded first prizes in the Salvatore Martirano Memorial Composition Award (USA, 2016), the Musicworks’ electronic music competition (Canada, 2015), the SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers (Canada, 2013, ’14), including its 2014 John Weinzweig Grand Prize, and the Canadian Electroacoustic Community’s competition Jeu de temps / Times Play (CEC, Canada, 2013). His music was nominated for the Gaudeamus Award (The Netherlands, 2016) and the Juno Award for Classical Composition of the Year (Canada, 2014), and was a finalist in the the 8e Prix Collégien de Musique Contemporaine (Québec, 2016) and the Klang competition (France, 2015).
Originally from Vancouver, he received a Master of Music degree in composition from McGill University in 2014, studying with Philippe Leroux, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts honours degree from Simon Fraser University in 2011, studying with Barry Truax.
So says the blurb – but what did I get from this album: genius, essentially.
James O’Callaghan is a composer and sound artist based in Montréal and is praised for his “mastery of materials and musical form” (Électromania, Radio France) and “highly refined sense of colour” (Vancouver Sun). There is plenty of that is this recording.
Using a blend of electroacoustic media, employing Field Recordings, amplified found objects, computer-assisted transcription of environmental sounds, and unique performance conditions this is an album to be reckoned with – there is everything from orchestral crescendos to the quietest of piano witterings.
O’Callaghan’s work, spans chamber, orchestral, live electronic and acousmatic idioms, audio installations and site-specific performances. His work has been variously commissioned by the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM), NYO Canada, Ensemble Paramirabo, Quasar, and Standing Wave, among others. A composer with pedigree – and this album holds out.
In many ways, this is a very busy recording – the listener does not get much time for peace. As the name of the album suggests – this is a very claustrophobic affair. But one worth pressing on with. Yes, there is the odd flirtation with solace; but that is soon knocked asunder for the betterment of noise.