In operation since 2006, the production company and record label Ergodos has emerged as one of the most successful initiatives on the new Irish music scene. The two most recent recordings of projects performed by Ergodos Musicians, ‘I Call To You’ and ‘Songs’, both released by Ergodos, have attracted universally positive reviews. Run by two Dublin-based composers, Benedict Schlepper-Connolly and Garrett Sholdice, Ergodos has produced concerts and festivals in Dublin and beyond, and released more than a dozen recordings. Typically, old and new music is programmed side by side, within the context of a single theme or idea.
The name comes from the work of American composer and music theorist James Tenney (1934-2006), who used the term ‘ergodic’ to describe non-hierarchical forms in music. As Garrett Sholdice explains, “Tenney talks about ‘ergodic forms’ – musical forms where no one moment is more important than any other. The concept comes from ergodic functions in mathematics... Myself and (Ergodos co-founder) Benedict Schlepper-Connolly found this idea very resonant with our own natural tendency towards eclecticism in curating our projects. We also got a lot from Tenney's music – hence the name.” In Greek the word also has more ordinary associations, with work and employment… “you're right, 'Ergodos' can also mean 'path of work' – and perhaps this simpler meaning increases in importance for us as time passes. We've always seen Ergodos as a natural and important complement to our work as composers. The creative work and the curatorial work are often intertwined.”
Ergodos’ inclusive approach, of curating performances and then making and releasing recordings, emerged over time. “I don't think we ever had a model for Ergodos as an inclusive, multi-strand entity.... We began with an idea to produce an annual two-day new music festival, and to occasionally produce small-run CD-Rs. This gave way to additional stand-alone events, tours and a more serious approach to making records. Ergodos has grown according to what we feel we have to do.”
Attentive to the nature and possibilities of live performance, the range of events and musics curated by Ergodos is notably eclectic. Music as performance art, and the promotion of site-specific events underpins the current production work, as Sholdice points out. “As it happens, both myself and Benedict have made music for dance quite a bit over the last years, but we tend to think of all performance situations as inherently theatrical – as you say, ritual and immersion are recurring aesthetics for us. In our current Santa Rita Concerts series at The Little Museum of Dublin we are very involved in creating a deeply immersive environment for the audience – concentrated, continuous performances, a beautiful intimate Georgian performance space, candlelight…”
Taking part in ICC10 – marking the tenth anniversary of the Irish Composers’ Collective – Ergodos Musicians perform ‘I Call To You’ in the Project Arts Centre on November 20. This atmospheric work won critical praise when it was released last year. Anticipating the chance to perform it again live, Sholdice reflects that “[i]t seemed the most appropriate project for us to present at a festival celebrating 10 years of the ICC. It features myself, Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, Jonathan Nangle and Simon O'Connor – all of us ICC alumni – engaging with this beautiful chorale prelude of J.S Bach, ‘Ich ruf zu dir’ (‘I Call to You’). We're very much looking forward to re-visiting the work next week. The project began (in a somewhat different form) four years ago, but with each re-visiting we find new elements in the work, new nuances to bring across, new resonances, and new depth in the central Bach. Music is a living thing; it's always evolving.”
Sholdice goes on to explain the role of the ICC in their early work: “Both myself and Benedict Schlepper-Connolly were involved with the ICC – or YCC (Young Composers Collective) as it was known then – from its earliest days around 2004/2005 through to around 2009. Student performances and workshops are important, of course, but young composers must also hear their music performed by professionals in front of a paying audience – only then do you get a sense of whether the work succeeds or not. Through collective action, the ICC provided a way for this to happen regularly. It also gave us a great sense of community. I think the ICC has had much to do with a culture of mutual support amongst Irish composers over the last decade. This kind of atmosphere also helps the work.”
Looking ahead to the future, Ergodos will continue to produce concerts and release recordings into 2015: “The Santa Rita Concerts, our candlelit music series at the Little Museum of Dublin continues on 26 November with a solo performance from woodwind instrumentalist and composer Seán Mac Erlaine. This series will also continue in 2015, with further performances from traditional Irish musician Toner Quinn, alternative jazz ensemble SnowPoet and a new song cycle by Simon O’Connor, performed by vocalist Michelle O'Rourke. To coincide with his Santa Rita Concert on 26 November, we will release Seán Mac Erlaine's second solo album, ‘A Slender Song’. There are a number of records which are slated for release after that, including a new Ergodos Musicians album, featuring the music of the ‘All the Ends of the Earth’ project which is inspired by Medieval vocal music, and an EP by the Irish Youth Chamber Choir. 2015 will see the premiere of a new project with pianist Michael McHale featuring solo piano music by Franz Schubert.”
Ergodos Musicians will perform ‘I Call To You’ in the Project Arts Centre on November 20 as part of the Irish Composers Collective tenth anniversary festival.