Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly: NPR Music Field Recordings
In a Manhattan studio, some of the musicians behind Planetarium play the album's beautiful closing track.
By Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey
Early on a spring morning in Manhattan, Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly and Nadia Sirota gathered at Reservoir Studios in Manhattan to play a song first performed five years ago and an ocean away.
"Mercury" is the closing track off Planetarium, a song cycle about the planets by Stevens, Dessner, Muhly and James McAlister. The work was originally composed on commission for the Dutch concert hall Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, and first performed there in 2012. Five turns around the sun later, Planetarium will arrive in recorded form on June 9 via 4AD.
"Mercury" is one of the most intimate songs on the record, a quality that's emphasized by its spot just after the 15-minute, ambient, electronic epic, "Earth." Where the record's other songs foreground synthesizers and spastic electric drum samples reminiscent of 2010's The Age of Adz, "Mercury" largely rests on Muhly's gentle piano work and Stevens' beautiful vocal. Where once, in the original live performances, the song swelled to a cinematic rush on the order of Illinois, it's now spare and elegant. Its warm intimacy is all the more apparent in the group's live performance, which features Dessner of The National lightly doubling on guitar Stevens' wordless refrain at the song's close.
Like many of the pieces on the record, its lyrics are a constellation of the cosmic, the personal and the mythological. The song, named for the messenger god, is a perfect musical setting for the feeling of having something dear carried away from you. "All that I've known to be of life / and I am gentle," Stevens sings. "You ran off with it all."
"Life is so abundant here, and yet we're so obsessed with the exterior of here," Stevens told All Songs Considered's Bob Boilen in a companion interview. "That's what's so interesting, there's a sort of beautiful, perfect order to life on earth that's so mysterious and so profound. And yet, as people, we really fuck it up. We're so dysfunctional. And we seek guidance from the exterior world — from the heavens — to help us understand our purpose here, and to sort of create a sense of order."
Producers: Bob Boilen, Ben Naddaff-Hafrey; Director: Mito Habe-Evans; Editor: Nickolai Hammar; Violist: Nadia Sirota; Audio Engineering: Daniel Availa, Fritz Myers, Josh Rogosin, James Yost; Videographers: Annabel Edwards, Mito Habe-Evans, Nickolai Hammar; Series Producer: Mito Habe-Evans; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann, Keith Jenkins; Special Thanks: St. Rose Music, Mark and Rachel Dibner of the Argus Fund.
The trio talk about the grand mysteries of the universe that helped inspire their celestial collaboration, Planetarium.
By Bob Boilen
There's a stunning project by a handful of music's current big-thinkers: composer Nico Muhly, songwriter and singer Sufjan Stevens and guitarist-composer Bryce Dessner of The National. The trio, along with percussionist James McAlister, have created Planetarium, an existential song cycle that confronts both the heavens and the human condition in a marriage of hypnotic sound and song.
The NPR Music team met Muhly, Dessner and Stevens at Reservoir Studios in Manhattan to capture a video of the trio performing the song "Mercury" with violist Nadia Sirota, which you can watch here.
We also got a chance to to talk with them about the work's complex creation. There's have a brief video interview here and a more extensive conversation in the All Songs Considered podcast.
Producers: Bob Boilen, Ben Naddaff-Hafrey; Director: Mito Habe-Evans; Editor: Nickolai Hammar; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Annabel Edwards, Mito Habe-Evans, Nickolai Hammar; Special Thanks: St. Rose Music, Mark and Rachel Dibner of the Argus Fund; Series Producer: Mito Habe-Evans; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann, Keith Jenkins
Shara Worden - vocals // Bryce Dessner - guitar // Nico Muhly - piano // Owen Pallett - violin
Sound recording and engineering - Adam Armstrong // Sound editing, mixing and mastering - Nick Lloyd
Recording produced by Bryce Dessner
Cinematographer - Meg Kettell // VFX Supervisors - Jake Braver, David Isyomin // Hair and Makeup - Kaarin Lanyi // Key Grip - John Hay // Editor - Mary Angelica Molina // Color - Nat Jencks // Producer - Drew Houpt // Director - David Lang
death speaks – words and music by david lang
1. you will return
you will return to dust you will turn return to dust
turn to the sun like me, turn to the sun turn to the light turn to the light
if thereʼs an eye still open grieving sweet sleep close it for me
turn your heart, your poor heart it will only find rest when it has stopped beating
turn to peace turn to peace this is the only road that leads you home
I am your pale companion I mirror your pain I was your shadow all those long nights, all those days long past
listen to me this message is for you where I am now, all sorrow is gone where I am now, all lovers are together where I am now in my arms only will you find rest gentle rest
2. I hear you
I hear you I hear you call I pity you I am your friend I am not cruel give me your hand you will sleep so softly in my arms
when love breaks free from sorrow a new star shines a new star shines
three roses, half red, half white they will never wither
the angels they shed their wings and fall
rest well rest well close your eyes you will rest with me until the river drains into the sea
Iʼll make a bed for you the softest pillow come, rest everyone will sing for you for you
I will protect you from the hunter, from the forest from the flowers, from your dreams from the wicked girl, from her shadow I will keep your eyes covered I will protect you
good night, good night
3. mist is rising
mist is rising moon is full and rising sky above us it is so full
I greet you, sister soul rise up, like an eagle rise up, to where the light is rise up, to where the light is from
I am your rest, I am your peace I am what you long for, and what makes the longing go away I am full of joy for you, and I am full of grief come in and close the door behind you I will drive your sadnesses away my eyes fill with your light fill them fill them
sweetest child come with me I will play with you I will show you the flowers and the shore my motherʼs golden robe my daughters and their evening dance they know a song to sing while you are sleeping I love you I love all of you I love your face I love your form please donʼt make me make you follow me
come and see
tears of love become strands of pearls when the angel comes
4. pain changes
pain changes every shape
once you are truly lonely you will never be alone
feel my hand I feel you touch my cold hand I will take you from her to your new cold land
I have chosen you my only love those others they search for you but where they search they will never find you
after the leaves fall, spring returns after love is parted, it returns all you have to do is come with me and wait one day she will be lowered in the earth beside you my hand will guide her home to the place where love is and no pain
when that door opens you will be healed
dearest man, dearest woman dearest boy, dearest girl dearest mother, dearest father dearest son, dearest daughter you will never leave me
you listen you are silent you feel me leaning towards you
nothing escapes me not the warrior not the hunter
everything awaits the way it changes when life falls away that is the meaning of the swan and its song
the night canʼt last forever nor will this sleep beyond this sleep is light forever light until that light can shine until you see it shining sleep sweetly here in the cool, dark night
5. I am walking
I am walking in the sunlight I see the moon, at my feet I see the sun, at my feet I walk in joy I am kissed by angels
your heart child of man your heart canʼt know what joy I feel
sister soul, come to rest
pure notes of love echo around you a lily, a rose they wait for you while you sleep
only you can hear me only you can see me only you can hear the music it never stops
The classical, indie, post-rock haze that Clogs has become known for has materialized once again on the Last Song EP.
The first proper "single" from their most recent LP, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, "Last Song," appears on the EP, featuring the evocative muttered baritone of Matt Berninger of The National. Clogs co-founder Padma Newsome sings lead on the second track, "No Bridge." The final instrumental piece "Loev Song" is performed by the group.
Released at the same time as the EP is a video for "Last Song" by Benjamin and Stefan Ramirez Perez, twin brothers studying film and animation at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, Germany, and the Vancouver School's Digital Design program, respectively.
May 2, 2016 by TOM HUIZENGA • The Chicago new-music ensemble eighth blackbird is on a roll. Just after winning its fourth Grammy in February, the group received a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions; the prize came with a $400,000 grant. Hand Eye — eighth blackbird's second album in seven months — just came out, and this season the group marks its 20th anniversary. The celebration includes an extensive tour, with world premieres of music by Bryce Dessner and David T. Little, as well as a gig as a "living installation" at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, where eighth blackbird has commandeered the third-floor galleries as a space to rehearse and perform.
It's an understatement to note that there's far less space behind Bob Boilen's desk. But after a few discussions about placement, the sextet squeezed in while making sure everyone could see each other — one of the keys to navigating rhythmically challenging pieces by David Lang, Bryce Dessner and Robert Honstein.
Right out of the gate, we meet the group's newest member, flutist Nathalie Joachim, who opens the first of two short pieces, "Wave The Sea," with a scurrying theme of nervous energy. The music is by Bryce Dessner, perhaps best known for his work in The National but increasingly in demand as a classical composer. It's Dessner's take on the folk tradition of grisly story-songs collected in his larger suite, Murder Ballades.
"Pulse," from Robert Honstein's three-movement Conduit, seems to hover in midair. Throbbing notes from Matthew Duvall's vibraphone, Yvonne Lam's violin, Lisa Kaplan's piano and Michael J. Maccaferri's clarinet fold in one by one, as if in a round. Joachim's flute floats above while Nicholas Photinos' cello secures the bottom end, fleshing out a mesmerizing wash of sound.
David Lang's "learn to fly," also from a larger work, pumps up the energy with a motorik beat, fueled by Kaplan's syncopation. The interlocking parts race on until Lam finally breaks out of the pattern, soaring in a sweepingly romantic solo.
For those who persist in predicting the death of classical music, eighth blackbird once again demonstrates that it remains vibrantly alive.
Descobri recentemente uma colaboração entre Antony Hegarty e Bryce Dressner. Chama-se "I Was Young When I Left Home" e está numa compilação da série Red Hot, de nome "Dark Was The Night". A compilação inclui nomes como David Byrne, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Grizzly Bear, José Gonzalez, Bon Iver, The National, Andrew Bird, Conor Oberst, Beach House... bom, ficava aqui o resto do dia.
Comprei no iTunes, mas só depois me apercebi que o Bryce em causa era dos The National, uma das minhas bandas favoritas, e logo de seguida apareceu-me este artigo à frente.
O senhor tem um mestrado em guitarra clássica, tem uma outra banda de nome "Clogs", vai tocar com a Brooklyn Philarmonic, está a participar na escrita do próximo álbum dos The National (Yay!) e está a aprender uma nova peça de Steve Reich.
Diz ele: "I'm 32 years old, and I feel happy to be busy. I'm also still really learning a lot. Everyday, I'll do some composition and then probably have a band rehearsal or write some songs, and then maybe there'll be something I have to learn that's harder music that I have to practice."