From the Archives: Seóirse Bodley

April marked the 85th birthday of Irish composer Seóirse Bodley. Bodley, who studied in Germany and taught in the music department of UCD between 1959 and 1998, has a catalogue of works spanning six decades. His new song cycle, Reservoir Voices, based on a collection by Brendan Kennelly, was premiered in June 2018 by Sylvia O’Brien and Imelda Drumm.

To mark this significant birthday, CMC has selected a number of extracts from audio interviews which the composer made for RTÉ over the years, along with some of its interviews produced for this web site. The full recordings are available to listen to in CMC’s library, and CMC is grateful to RTÉ Archives for permission to make extracts from their archival recordings available.

Composers at work

The 1950s radio series which profiled some of the significant Irish composers active during this time featured a programme of the young composer’s chamber and vocal music. Recorded in 1958, while the composer was living in Germany, the programme also included a short talk in which Bodley addressed the issue of musical nationalism and the relation between traditional Irish music and contemporary European art music.

The extract also includes a performance of Ná Déan Gáire (1953) by Tomás Ó Súilleabháin and Rhoda Coghill.

The greatest danger which faces the Irish composer is that of false nationalism. In other words, he must not write music in an Irish style out of a sense of duty.

Music and the Musician

An interview with the composer by Andy O’Mahony in 1973 in which Bodley talks about his studies in Germany during the 1950s, and his relationship with traditional Irish music.

It’s rather easy I feel to say that Irish composers must write in a sort of national idiom and that’s that, but there’s a whole range of social, emotional and psychological aspects of the matter than impinge on the whole type of work you’re doing. Often artists don’t quite know what’s motivating them to do anything. I don’t always know myself.

Composers in Conversation

A wide-ranging interview with Dermot Rattigan recorded in 1988 in which Bodley talks about his career and works. In this extract, the composer talks about the process of composition and his approach to composing.

I find a distinction between knowing how to employ a technique, which is one thing, and doing compositional exercises, and actually composing. I regard them almost as two separate issues.

Cross Currents

The 2016 radio series exploring contemporary Irish composers and their work produced by Athena Media in association with CMC featured Seóirse Bodley in conversation with CMC’s Jonathan Grimes. The following is a short audio profile of the composer, and an audio tour of the composer’s study which includes the composer talking about the background to and composing of his latest work, Reservoir Voices. More on the radio series here.

See also

Extracts from Composers at Work, Music and the Musician, and Composers in Conversation © RTÉ, used by kind permission. For more information on these and other recordings, please contact us or visit our library.