The Dublin Festival of Twentieth Century Music

My practicum is in collaboration with the Contemporary Music Centre of Ireland. The centre was set up to support Irish composers from both the Republic and Northern Ireland and to archive their music. The goal of the centre is ‘to ensure that the contemporary music landscape in Ireland is documented and preserved for future generations’ and to provide a library of contemporary works that can be accessed by the public. They also work to promote the works of contemporary composers from the island of Ireland. They have a library and archive in their premises on Fishamble Street in Dublin but also have a great online presence.Their website provides a catalogue of the composers that they support, information about their works, and there are also some extracts of the works that can be played on the site.

The project I am working on for the centre is the creation of a site for the Dublin Festival of Twentieth Century Music. The festival ran from 1969 to 1986 in Dublin and was a celebration of both international and Irish contemporary music. There is not much information on the festival online even though I found through research that it was an important event for composers at the time. The festival provided  platform for Irish contemporary composers to showcase their work at a national level. The festival  also encouraged young composers to have their works premiered as there were special performance slots for new young composers. There was also the opportunity to meet the main European composers of the time such as Stockhausen and Messiaen who came to Ireland for the festival and their works were performed.

My role is to research the festival and create a website that is the starting point for online research into the festival. I also had to showcase the programmes that the Contemporary Music Centre have, and they will be digitised to be put up on the site. I began by doing research into the festival, to familiarise myself with those involved. The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland and The Invisible Art: A century of music in Ireland 1916 – 2016 provide me with much of the necessary information about the festival. I also asked composers about their own personal experiences of the festival. As there has not much written about the festival, it is hoped that by having an online presence, there will be more research and literature about the festival.

The creation of this site will highlight an event that was so important for the contemporary music scene in Ireland.  As a music graduate, I have a knowledge of contemporary many Irish composers. However, throughout my time at college there was never a mention of this festival. I have discovered that many of the composers that I would know consider the main players in the Irish contemporary music scene had a great involvement in the festival. From further research and talking to those in the Contemporary Music Centre, I have found that the festival was a very important event but that there was almost no information or record of it online. There is not a great discussion in the Irish music scene about this festival.  It is important to document the personal experiences of composers who attended the event as many of the composers are still alive and still involved in composition. If their experiences are not captured and recorded, this event could slip out of memory and out of the public consciousness. It also highlights the importance of the web as a record for events. It is the hope of both myself and the Contemporary Music Centre that the creation of an online site will help to preserve a festival that was held only a few decades ago. With information about the site now available online, more people will have access to this information and a conversation about the festival can begin.

When the page goes live, it will be available on the website of the Contemporary Music Centre of Ireland,


 Contemporary Music Centre of Ireland,

White, Harry, and Barra Boydell, editors. The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland. Volume 1: A-K, University College Dublin Press, 2013.

Dervan, Michael. The Invisible Art : A Century of Music in Ireland, 1916-2016. New Island, 2016.