Collapsing Old Buildings (for G.F. Handel)

Research output: Non-textual formInstallation


A generative sound installation for Dublin Culture Night 2011, commissioned by the Contemporary Music Centre as part of a programme of events to mark their 25th anniversary. The piece was installed in the stairwell of the Contemporary Music Centre’s building in Fishamble Street, Dublin, next to the former site of the Fishamble Street Music Hall where Handel’s Messiah received its premiere in 1742. The piece’s programmatic concept traces a connection between Handel’s visit and the boom-time milieu of Georgian Dublin and the subsequent history of the built environment left over from this boom. The city underwent a massive expansion of population and economic development during this period, followed by over a century of dramatic decline, with impressive eighteenth-century townhouses becoming subdivided into tenement flats which became some of the worst slums in Western Europe. The microtonal structures generated by the piece’s processes thus possess a metaphorical connection with this long, slow collapse, with the impressive edifice of eighteenth-century harmony undergoing a process of microtonal subdivision. The sonic material for the piece is derived from a cadential sample from the 1916 Edison recording of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ in Messiah was spectrally processed and underwent a simple cyclical process in the Max environment (Cycling 74) whereby 27 instances of the recording were offset in pitch and time modulating upwards by a major third and downwards by a perfect fourth (themselves prominent intervals in the piece’s figuration), creating a dense ‘collapsing’ peal of bell-like microtonal materials descending at the start of the piece, followed by repeated cadential phrases which are microtonally offset through this process of repeated modulation. The process proceeds for up to a maximum of 1742 seconds before repeating (although this is determined by the specification of the piece, not by the materials coming back into their initial alignment).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 16 Sept 2011
EventCollapsing Old Buildings - Contemporary Music Centre, Fishamble Street, Dublin
Duration: 16 Sept 2011 → …

Bibliographical note

Reference text: REFERENCES:
Handel, G.F. 1742. Sampled material of the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Messiah, performed by Oratorio Chorus, Edison (May 1916), Online, available at:
National Archives of Ireland, n.d. Dublin: Poverty and Health. Online, available at:

Description of event:

Audio excerpt (1.5 MB mp3):

CMC Interview:

Contemporary Music Centre library record for piece:

Review of related concert (at the Joinery Gallery with the Spatial Music Collective): multichannel tape piece based on installation materials, Michael Dungan in the Irish Times, October 12, 2011:
Joinery Gallery concert event page:


  • microtonal
  • tuning
  • harmony
  • spatial
  • generative
  • composition
  • Handel
  • Messiah
  • Dublin
  • Georgian


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