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Label News (more headlines) 01-18-2014

Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Classics Announces Bryce Dessner & Jonny Greenwood Release Out March 3

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Never before have classical and rock converged in so organic, compelling and sensual a way as they do in the three short orchestral works by New York composer and guitarist Bryce Dessner on his new release St. Carolyn by the Sea, performed with the Copenhagen Phil and conducted by André de Ridder. The explanation is simple enough: Dessner, born in 1976, has always had a foot in both worlds, classical and rock inextricably mingled within his musical bones. To watch the EPK click here: http://bit.ly/1aabCZE

Dessner is known to many as one of the guitarists with The National, a band who are famed for their full guitar sound and their lead singer's distinctively seasoned baritone voice, who sell out the largest venues in the U.S. and have long since conquered Europe as well. But what many of their fans may not know is that guitarist Dessner originally studied classical music (holding a master's degree from Yale University), and absorbed the influences of composers such as Morton Feldman and Steve Reich when he came to New York. These days, as well as playing with The National, he regularly collaborates with contemporary artists such as Bang on a Can and the Kronos Quartet. "For any classical musician who's been born since 1960, the music of the era around them is popular music," says Dessner. "You find that in many variations: former rock musicians who end up going the classical route, or very academic composers who are perhaps re-setting a text by Bob Dylan. You find all kinds of various strands of this. Someone like myself or Jonny Greenwood, we're actually part of a new generation of composers where our education, our background, our interests are so diverse that you can't really say ‘oh, that's a guy from a rock band who writes classical music.' You should say the opposite: Jonny Greenwood was a classical violist who became a guitarist with Radiohead. But the music he's interested in is still Penderecki and Ligeti."

Dessner presents three pieces of modern classical music here, written from the perspective of a rock musician who is keenly aware of the raw emotional impact music-any music-can have on an audience. He draws on elements from Baroque and folk music, late Romanticism and modernism, minimalist music and the blues, among others, as well as referencing the work of such legendary figures as John Fahey, La Monte Young, Béla Bartók, Glenn Branca, Benjamin Britten, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Despite this broad spectrum of influences, his voice remains individual and distinct. The works performed here with de Ridder show Dessner to be a composer of surprising independence of mind. "I'm drawn to writing in this fashion because I feel like I have something to say, not because I'm interested necessarily in the crossover form of it" he says.

The same is true of Jonny Greenwood, the composer of a suite of six miniatures for the soundtrack of "There Will Be Blood" which rounds out the album. The pairing of Dessner and Greenwood on the disc didn't come about by chance, but because André de Ridder likes programming their music together, for live concerts too. The defining strand of the collaboration is not so much the similar musical backgrounds of Dessner and Greenwood, but more their mutual preoccupation with quintessentially American themes such as the vast expanses of the country's landscape, or a sense of nostalgic longing; themes which, previously, were largely the domain of other musical genres.

With this album, Bryce Dessner and Jonny Greenwood open up a new frontier for symphonic music.

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