“I’ve known Daniel’s work since (the early days) and initially regarded him as a courageous artist. Later I began to see him as visionary, unclassifiable in his installation work. I’ve long heard an uncanny mix of elegy and anger in Daniel’s music which doesn’t require words or explanation. But I find this combination quite thrilling and moving.”
Eamon Carr 2010
Composer, producer, curator and intermedia artist, Daniel Figgis is dedicated to audacious applications for technologies old and new alike.
He was born on Sandford Road, Ranelagh, Dublin, Ireland on 2 May 1961 to Anne and Peter. His first adventures in this business we call show were as a child actor, a youthful career that got off to a galloping start with Eugene McCabe’s Swift at the world-renowned Abbey Theatre alongside Micheál MacLíammóir and under the direction of the legendary Tyrone Guthrie (1969), swiftly followed by Sean Cotter’s Waiting for Godot as The Boy alongside Peter O’Toole and Donal McCann (1969). O’Toole later directed his own interpretation with both Figgis and McCann onboard for the Nottingham Playhouse, England (1971) while Figgis continued to work with the Abbey until 1975 notching up appearances with Ray McAnally, Cyril Cusack, Niall Buggy and John Kavanagh amongst many others.
Simultaneously, a burgeoning TV and film profile developed through his involvement in projects as varied as George Schaefer’s Emmy Award-winning A War of Children for CBS TV (1972), BBC TV’s adventure serial Sleepers On The Hill (1974), Joseph Strick’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with a score by future Figgis favourite Stanley Myers (1978) and Anglia TV’s The Last Campaign with Frank Finlay (1978). For the latter, Time Out London named him child actor of the year. And that, apart from an abortive mid-eighties film project with Debbie Harry, where he was cast as “The Rock Star”, was that.
Nevertheless, this grounding in film and theatre may go some way to explaining the narrative zeal and invention so evident in both Figgis’ recorded work and his recent enormous landscape interventions.
“… the ethical field is the primary site of cultural invention.” James Faubion
After graduating from Trinity College Dublin with a philosophy degree and a thesis on the Objectivity and Rationality of Ethics under his belt, and following on from a not too brief dalliance with post-punk projects which he entered into in the spirit of both fledgling composer and performance artist, Daniel knuckled down to the job at hand, the first fruits of which manifested as the Skipper album and the unreleased album: “emptyeverything”. Tracks from both albums were reworked, as opposed to remixed as such, for Spitroast Records’ When It’s Ajar: The Music of Daniel Figgis? CD and online project for which Daniel originated the notion of “re-composition” whereby all tracks were written in the style of the 34 commissioned musicians but based on elements derived exclusively from Figgis’ original recordings. This instruction was, aside from the album title and art direction with Deirdre Behan and Gareth Jones, Daniel’s sole unique contribution to the project which included re-compositions from Roger Doyle, Cathal Coughlan, Amoebazoid (Keith O’Brien), Spectac, Deep Burial, David Donohoe, Somadrone and Decal. Daniel’s eartheatere – a groundbreaking concert promotions company co-founded with artist Deirdre Behan, specialising in the accessible face of contemporary composition running the gamut from musique concrete to dub-based electronica, presented their inaugural event at Dublin’s National Concert Hall in 2000, featuring live performances by Vincent Doherty and an early incarnation of the Daniel Figgis Band, along with a tape work by the seminal Roger Doyle, dubbed for the event by Behan as “The Godfather of Irish electro-acoustic music”.
Tiring of the traditional performance scenario, Figgis embarked on a series of monumental site-specific events with his live ensemble: Daniel Figgis’ MOTOR for the Kilkenny Arts Festival (2004), Daniel Figgis’ TAMPER at the Dublin Fringe Festival (2004) in Marlay Park and Daniel Figgis’ THE BANQUET, a multimedia “opera for dancers” built and performed at the National Basketball Arena, Dublin, 22 July 2006 and AWOL (givinguptheghost), a short film incorporating “auto re-composition”, choreography and a hypnotised dancer filmed underwater for DIVERSIONS, Temple Bar (2006).
As the 2004 Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown composer in-residence, Daniel explored his process of “imposition” with a new work for locally based brass quintet, the Ottoni Ensemble – compositional structure “imposed” upon preliminary improvisations within firmly defined and predetermined parameters, playing to the musicians’ strong suits. This piece was presented January 2005 at the People’s Park, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin as Daniel Figgis’ THE GATES – a quadrophonic tape piece for strings, woodwind, percussion and brass, dedicated to the late Timothy Keane. The Impositions series continued as a series of pre-recorded Ante-Room sequences within THE BANQUET opera event featuring internationally renowned musicians including John Martyn, Keith Tippett, Eva Alkula, Roger Doyle, David Jackson, Richard Sanderson, Kristen Vigard and Robin Guthrie.
He presented SOUNDTRAP 1: Daniel Figgis’ DOPPLER for Beaconsfield Gallery, London in conjunction with Architecture Week, June 2006, and performed POST-PRODUCTION, a 23 section songs-without-words-cycle at New York’s Winter Gardens, World Financial Center in November 2006 – this was a WNYC New Sounds commission.
Daniel was invited by the World Financial Center Arts Program to curate Snakes & Ladders 2008: a free festival of New Irish Music March 15-17 2008, New York, and was asked to compose and perform: Daniel Figgis’ PHOTO-FINISH (with shortcuts), an arts>World Financial Center 20th Birthday Commission, which received World Premiere performances at World Financial Center Winter Garden, March 16/17 2008. For this event Daniel personally commissioned new work by 13 Irish composers and ensembles for live performance and sound installation with the support of Culture Ireland and Arts Council Ireland. A simulcast on Second Life added some virtual spice to proceedings.
In January of 2009 Daniel returned as a Culture Ireland delegate to APAP in New York with a view to consolidating relationships and establishing new international contacts in order to further the development of the Snakes & Ladders festival on the world stage. He returned with ” to New York January 2010 at Peter Norton Symphony Space on Broadway, following on from shows at Dublin’s National Concert Hall and the Wexford Opera House in 2009, this time incorporating sound installations and new video and live performance commissions unique to the festival plus “Daniel Figgis’ AUDITORIUM” – a soundwork which, in something of a first, was a Wexford Opera House Commission.
Daniel’s priority remains his steadily building career as an ever-innovative live performer both nationally and internationally, in which studio–originated and treated recorded material is a core manipulated component in live performance.
In 2010 Daniel was appointed Artist in Residence at the Pearse Museum, Dublin and presented, as culmination of his residency, ASCENSION at the Pearse Museum Walled Garden, St. Enda’s Park, September 2010 – a work for pre-recorded surround-sound, four live performers and a spectacular light installation for the Walled Garden.
Daniel completed his debut feature film score parts for All Good Children in February 2010 – it was selected for the highly prestigious Director’s Fortnight at Cannes film festival May 2010 and has since, to great acclaim, received both cinema and DVD releases.
THE BATTLE oF SPEEDS phase 1 – an intense and immersive six-way audio/visual experience – premiered at The Orangery, Regency Walled Garden, Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin, at any and every time between 10am and 4pm, 27 November 2011. THE BATTLE oF SPEEDS -phase 1 illustrated how evolving recording media formats have, over time, determined and informed recorded musical form and, to some extent, content. TBoS -phase 1 was presented as an entertaining and unique toddler-friendly phantasmagoria “for one night (afternoon!) only”. This event was supported by DLRCC Arts Office.
19 July 2012 Crash Ensemble presented the World Premiere of dimmerswitch -a work for 10 live performers and tape -at Galway Arts Festival. This event was supported by the Arts Council of Ireland.
1/2/3 February 2013 Daniel presented CITY HALL – an interactive site-specific musical work for and with his biggest ensemble to date: the general public – at Dublin’s City Hall. This event was supported by the Arts Council of Ireland and Dublin City Council. A site-neutral variant on this work will tour in 2014.
26 March 2013 Heresy Records/Naxos released On The Nature Of Electricity & Acoustics: an overview of electro-acoustic music in Ireland, curated by Daniel. The iTunes special edition features 35 composers/ensembles.