2017 ISCM Young Composer Award (supported by Music on Main) – James O’Callaghan

James O’Callaghan. Photo by Michael Slobodian

Immediately following the end of the final concert of the 2017 ISCM World New Music Days at the Vancouver Playhouse on 8 November 2017, Music On Main Artistic Director David Pay and ISCM Executive Committee member Kjartan Ólafsson announced from the stage that Vancouver-born, Montréal-based composer James O’Callaghan (b. 1988) is the winner of the 2017 ISCM Young Composer Award for his 2016 composition subject/object, a sextet for flute, bass clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion, which was performed by the ensemble Standing Wave during a WNMD concert at The Roundhouse the previous evening.  

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(NOTE: The audio/video footage embedded here, which features videography by Ryder Thomas White and sound engineering by Brian Chan, is from an earlier performance of subject/object, the world premiere, which took place at The Annex in Vancouver in 17 April 2016.)

The ISCM Young Composer Award, which is co-sponsored by ISCM and Music on Main (which was also the host of this year’s WNMD), is annually awarded to an outstanding composer under 35 years of age whose work is featured during that year’s World New Music Days festival.  The award consists of a cash prize which also serves as a commission to compose a new work which will be performed on a future WNMD concert. The jury for the 2017 ISCM Young Composer Award was Alison Isdora (Netherlands), Balázs Horváth (Hungary), and Velo-Matti Puumala (Finland). ISCM Executive Committee member Kjartan Ólafsson served as the Jury Coordinator.

“There were many excellent pieces on the festival this year, so the judges had a very difficult job,” according to Kjartan Ólafsson. “In the end, however, they chose James O’Callaghan for this commission and they explained their decision as follows: ‘O’Callaghan combines traditional musical instruments, everyday objects, and electronics to create a unique and humorous sound environment. The theatrical elements of the piece are intelligently intertwined with the music-making. This made the ISCM want to hear more.’”

The music of James O’Callaghan intersects acoustic and electroacoustic media, employing field recordings, amplified found objects, computer-assisted transcription of environmental sounds, and unique performance conditions. He is the recipient of the 2015 Robert Fleming Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts and has won first prizes in the Jeu de Temps-Times Play Awards (2014), Musicworks’ electronic music competition (2015), the Salvatore Martirano Award (2016), and the SOCAN Foundation Awards (including the John Weinzweig Grand Prize in 2014). His works have been finalists in the JUNO Awards (Classical Composition of the Year in 2014), KLANG! Acousmonium (professionals category, 2015), the Prix collégien de musique contemporaine (2016, 17), and the Gaudeamus Award (2016). His work, spanning chamber, orchestral, live electronic and acousmatic idioms, audio installations, and site-specific performances, has been variously commissioned by the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (INA-GRM), the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Ensemble Paramirabo, Quasar quatuor de saxophones, and Standing Wave, among others. His works have been performed internationally and featured in many prominent festivals, including Gaudeamus Muziekweek (Utrecht), SICMF (Seoul), KLANG! (Montpellier), MANTIS (Manchester), SF Tape Music Festival (San Francisco), Cluster (Winnipeg), AKOUSMA, Suoni per il popolo (Montréal), Sound Travels, 21C (Toronto), MANCA (Nice), IFCP, and NYCEMF (New York). In 2016, an album of his acousmatic music was released by empreintes DIGITALes. There is more information about his music, including extensive links to audio and video recordings, on his website.