Dustin O’Halloran

Glance at Dustin O’Halloran’s ever-increasing list of projects, and you could be forgiven for assuming that he’s something of a restless spirit.

His life story does little to dispel the impression – it’s a litany of motion, of different homes in different continents, and sometimes hardly any home at all. But all this activity is deceptive; or, at least, it’s just surface detail. All the time, beneath the surface, there’s been a constant, stealthy, steady pulse – O’Halloran’s wistful and beautiful music.

Dustin’s compositions are languid and contemplative. The melodies are hestitant; plucked, slow-motion skeins of sound that fall languidly from solo piano or from naked acoustic guitar. And although they’re delicate – miniature marvels of nuance and balance – they carry an unfailing emotional charge. It’s hardly surprising, then, that O’Halloran’s music is being used, and heard, increasingly widely.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Dustin took his first piano lessons there at the age of 7, and played one of his own compositions live for the first time when he was 11. Having abandoned the piano for several years, he enrolled to study art at Santa Monica College – and a way back into music opened up. It was there that he met Sara Lov. Each recognising in the other a kindred spirit, the two formed Devics, whose swooningly atmospheric songs seemed to float free from any obvious ties to a specific time or place. Not surprising, then, that their tenuous links to California were soon broken – they signed to a British label (Bella Union), and shimmered their way into the hearts of listeners all over the world.

Taking the decision to move to Italy back in 2000 – O’Halloran found himself based in an old farmhouse in the rural depths of Emillia Romagna, with space to think and the use of a beautifully restored 1920s Sabel piano. Gradually, he developed the conviction that piano music could avoid both the staid rigour of the classical tradition and the vapid noodlings of New Age, and started to develop his own personal, meditative approach to the instrument. It was a purely instinctive activity started – initially at least – with no idea that there might be an audience. But when an album – ‘Piano Solos’ – emerged (in 2005) things started to happen.

Bella Union released two volumes of the solos, and word about the music reached film director Sofia Coppola, who asked Dustin to write for her then-work-in-progress ‘Marie Antoinette’. It wasn’t the first time that a director had been struck by the seductive, filmic qualities of O’Halloran’s melodies – Devics had previously contributed to the soundtrack of Guiseppe Bertolucci’s ‘L’Amore Probabilmente’ – and it wasn’t to be the last. Since the release of ‘Piano Solos Volumes 1′ and 2, O’Halloran has gone on to score a number of films and TV shows. These include Drake Doremus’ ‘Breathe In’ and ‘Like Crazy’, he also worked on 2015’s Indian drama ‘Umrika’, and gave him his first opportunity to compose for a full string orchestra – as well as the ten episode comedy drama for Amazon, ‘Transparent’, for which Dustin won an Emmy Award in 2015.

Having signed to 130701 late in 2010, dustin released two albums the following year, the beautiful ‘Lumiere’ (an expansion of his usual solo piano material that took in lush electronics and orchestral arrangements), quickly followed with the live solo piano album ‘Vorleben’ in June 2011.

In the same year, Dustin began his collaborative project with Stars Of The Lid’s Adam Wiltzie, under the monicker A Winged Victory For The Sullen, whose profile rapidly soared following two albums (released by Erased Tapes in Europe and Kranky in the USA) and a hugely successful collaboration writing and performing the music for resident  Royal Ballet choreographer Wayne MacGregor’s ‘ATOMOS’.

In 2017, Dustin and Hauschka’s jointly composed score for the film ‘Lion’ saw its authors nominated for ‘best original score’ gongs at the OSCARs, Grammy and BAFTAs.

His life story does little to dispel the impression – it’s a litany of motion, of different homes in different continents, and sometimes hardly any home at all. But all this activity is deceptive; or, at least, it’s just surface detail. All the time, beneath the surface, there’s been a constant, stealthy, steady pulse – O’Halloran’s wistful and beautiful music.

Dustin’s compositions are languid and contemplative. The melodies are hestitant; plucked, slow-motion skeins of sound that fall languidly from solo piano or from naked acoustic guitar. And although they’re delicate – miniature marvels of nuance and balance – they carry an unfailing emotional charge. It’s hardly surprising, then, that O’Halloran’s music is being used, and heard, increasingly widely.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Dustin took his first piano lessons there at the age of 7, and played one of his own compositions live for the first time when he was 11. Having abandoned the piano for several years, he enrolled to study art at Santa Monica College – and a way back into music opened up. It was there that he met Sara Lov. Each recognising in the other a kindred spirit, the two formed Devics, whose swooningly atmospheric songs seemed to float free from any obvious ties to a specific time or place. Not surprising, then, that their tenuous links to California were soon broken – they signed to a British label (Bella Union), and shimmered their way into the hearts of listeners all over the world.

Taking the decision to move to Italy back in 2000 – O’Halloran found himself based in an old farmhouse in the rural depths of Emillia Romagna, with space to think and the use of a beautifully restored 1920s Sabel piano. Gradually, he developed the conviction that piano music could avoid both the staid rigour of the classical tradition and the vapid noodlings of New Age, and started to develop his own personal, meditative approach to the instrument. It was a purely instinctive activity started – initially at least – with no idea that there might be an audience. But when an album – ‘Piano Solos’ – emerged (in 2005) things started to happen.

Bella Union released two volumes of the solos, and word about the music reached film director Sofia Coppola, who asked Dustin to write for her then-work-in-progress ‘Marie Antoinette’. It wasn’t the first time that a director had been struck by the seductive, filmic qualities of O’Halloran’s melodies – Devics had previously contributed to the soundtrack of Guiseppe Bertolucci’s ‘L’Amore Probabilmente’ – and it wasn’t to be the last. Since the release of ‘Piano Solos Volumes 1′ and 2, O’Halloran has gone on to score a number of films and TV shows. These include Drake Doremus’ ‘Breathe In’ and ‘Like Crazy’, he also worked on 2015’s Indian drama ‘Umrika’, and gave him his first opportunity to compose for a full string orchestra – as well as the ten episode comedy drama for Amazon, ‘Transparent’, for which Dustin won an Emmy Award in 2015.

Having signed to 130701 late in 2010, dustin released two albums the following year, the beautiful ‘Lumiere’ (an expansion of his usual solo piano material that took in lush electronics and orchestral arrangements), quickly followed with the live solo piano album ‘Vorleben’ in June 2011.

In the same year, Dustin began his collaborative project with Stars Of The Lid’s Adam Wiltzie, under the monicker A Winged Victory For The Sullen, whose profile rapidly soared following two albums (released by Erased Tapes in Europe and Kranky in the USA) and a hugely successful collaboration writing and performing the music for resident  Royal Ballet choreographer Wayne MacGregor’s ‘ATOMOS’.

In 2017, Dustin and Hauschka’s jointly composed score for the film ‘Lion’ saw its authors nominated for ‘best original score’ gongs at the OSCARs, Grammy and BAFTAs.