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Barry O’Halpin is a composer and electric guitarist from Dublin. His music has been performed and workshopped by groups including Crash Ensemble, Kirkos Ensemble, Chamber Choir Ireland, Rarescale, Bastard Assignments, Fishamble Sinfonia, Benyounes Quartet, BINARY flute duo and ConTempo Quartet. His work has featured in festivals & concert series including Bang On A Can Summer Music Festival (US), Tokyo Wonder Site (JPN), New Music Dublin(IRL), and Borough New Music (UK).


He is also a member of Alarmist, a Dublin based band blending experimental rock, jazz and electronic influences. Since 2011 they have released 3 records and built an international following.


In recent years, Barry's music has heavily drawn upon the sounds and patterns of the natural world as a source of inspiration both abstract and direct. He is fascinated by the process of delving as an outsider into hidden worlds such as those revealed through biology and microscopy, emerging with uncanny yet inherently musical material.  


His works have woven vivid musical shapes, sonorities and gestures from the merging of wolf and frog choruses, the colour and motion of cells under interference microscopy, the vibration of electromagnetic spectra and the slow dissolution of aging chromosomes.


Some areas of research for the UCD residency include:


•Transcribing vocalisations, choruses, stridulations and other animal-produced sounds, weaving them into musical structures performed by musicians.


•Musically juxtaposing phenomena that in reality exist at wildly different scales eg. Mosquito wing ‘chords’ against the lurch of whale choruses, braconid wasp songs with the hum of molecular vibrations.


•Deriving musical shapes and structures from the development of multicellular life: cell division, formation of tissue and organ, segmentation, etc.


•Deepening my understanding of soundscape ecology and environmental science, and considering the implications for musical structures.


•Exposing contrasts and uncanny commonalities between ‘wild’ sounds in nature and human-made music and machinery.


"I'm interested in synthesis rather than isolation of these areas, allowing for a various macro & micro levels of biology to be represented and perceived on a single plane within individual works, building a sort of artificial ecosystem that communicates these concepts in a tangible way."


Concurrent with his Parity Studios residency, Barry is a Composer-in-Residence (as well as performing member) with Crash Ensemble. He is currently working on a sprawling multi-sectional composition for the group that draws inspiration from the above areas of research, with his exploratory approach to the guitar providing connective tissue for the whole.  


During the 2018-2019 Parity Studios residency, Barry will develop several new solo and chamber compositions; stand-alone works which will later be expanded into sections of the large ensemble project with Crash. These will be presented in a number of on-campus concerts and open workshops, featuring guest musicians including flautist Lina Andonovska, drummer Matthew Jacobson, accordionist Evin Kelly and members of Crash Ensemble.

In addition to fostering exchange of ideas with fellow resident artists, Arts and Humanities and Science researchers, Barry will collaborate with UCD School of Music students and musicians from the College’s resident ensembles in performances and workshops on campus.


Barry is a PhD composition candidate at Queen’s University Belfast with Simon Mawhinney. His MMus Composition Studies at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, London were supported by the Arts Council of Ireland. He graduated in 2010 From BA Music Studies at Trinity College Dublin, where he was awarded the Geoffrey Singleton prize. He regularly performs with leading force of Irish new music Crash Ensemble, with whom he has premiered works by Tansy Davies, Ann Cleare, Michael Gordon & more. He was Guitar Fellow at the renowned 2017 Bang On A Can Summer Music Festival at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, USA, supported by Arts Council of Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast Thomas Dixon awards. He was also fellow of the Bang On A Can 2016 residency in Germany, with a scholarship from host organization Villa Musica. Festival performance highlights, with his band Alarmist, include Ottawa Jazz (CAN), Arctangent (UK), 12 Points (SWE/IR0 and Match & Fuse (FR/UK), with media coverage including BBC Radio, WNYC/NPR, Swedish National Radio, All About Jazz and The Guardian.









Artist In Residence at UCD College of Arts and Humanities 2018/2019

Telomere for solo clarinet (2015,4'). performed by Léonie Bluett


This work takes its name and inspiration from the protective regions of repeating genetic code found at the end of each chromosome. Each time a cell in a body divides, the telomeres within are gradually eroded until the repetitive chains can no longer protect the chromosome and cell; this is a key element in the body's ageing process. The piece renders this image musically, centering on a subdued, repetitive sequence that is increasingly punctured and frayed by contrasting fragments of material, using parallel and inverse Fibonacci sequences as a means to control the pace of sonic and structural transformation. These devices offer a formal conduit ripe for the expression of more intuitive timbral and gestural flourishes inspired by the micro-drama of the subject matter.

HD headshot

Free Cells Drinking the Medium for bass flute, viola & electric guitar (2016, 9')

Commissioned by UK collective Bastard Assignments for their Fresh & Clean series, with support from Arts Council England.


This trio is a response to an eerily captivating piece of interference microscopy footage from 1958 found by chance in the Wellcome Collection. On surface level, the film is a very clinical document of normal and cancerous cells. However, the longer  I observed these alien shapes floating in a blue void, the more abstract and visually captivating the images became, like a moving painting with distinct edges blurred by the warmth of grainy film.

The rich colour palette of the footage and it's fluttering, pulsating, sometimes jarring movements are sonically reflected in the piece's microtonal harmony, rhythmic fluidity and blurred instrumental identity. As the name - taken from a title card in the film - alludes, I visualise the often fleeting, unstable musical material that jumps between the players as emerging and retreating into its own dark liquid medium.


Excerpt: Sleep Flare for 8 musicians & electronics (2017, 24')

Composed in response to newly directed film by Rouzbeh Rashidi. Commissioned, premiered and recorded by Kirkos Ensemble & Experimental Film Society. Supported by Arts Council of Ireland.


Just as the film embraces the distorted texture and grit of aging technologies, its sonic counterpart revels in the noisy artefacts of vinyl, cassette and digital sampling, alongside the delicate acoustic impurities of barely pitched air and whispering bow air.

Stemming from my deep curiosity in the hidden musicality of nature, the harmonic palette is built from the sonified electromagnetic spectra of 5 chemical elements prevalent in organic cells;carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorous and oxygen. Each ethereal tangle of vibrations is like a fully formed musical organism, with moving parts and uncanny harmonies pushing beyond equal-tempered familiarity.

Performing with his band Alarmist. 'Petrichor' studio performance video