April 10, 2012 – 8:13 pm

Multi-instrumentalist formerly from Petoskey, Michigan tries his hand at classical music.

Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.

Featuring the New Trombone Collective and Navarra String Quartet
Amsterdam 2012 [no label, 2CD]

Live at the Muziektheater, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; April 8, 2012. Excellent audience recording.

Thanks to ianmacd who recorded the show and sharing the tracks on Dime.

Here are some notes from ianmacd:

On the bill tonight: Sufjan Stevens, the singer/songwriter who seems to reinvent himself with each new album; Bryce Dessner, guitarist of currently highly acclaimed band The National; and classical composer Nico Muhly, who has worked with a great number of artists, including Philip Glass, Björk and Jónsi, in addition to composing an opera and several film scores.

In a reordering of the scheduled programme, the evening opened with three quintets composed by Bryce Dessner. These were performed by the Navarra String Quartet, with the addition of Dessner himself on guitar.

‘Blind Willy’ is a contemplation of the pure and emotional quality of Blind Willy Johnson’s guitar. All of the material is derived from two basic chords.

‘Chorale’ was written as a requiem for a friend of Dessner who died in 2006.

The mediaeval compositional technique of the polyrhythm forms the basis for ‘Isorhythms’. Four different rhythms can be heard conflicting with one another.

Upon completion of the quintets, Dessner left the stage, leaving the Navarra String Quartet to continue with ‘Diacritical Marks’, a composition by Nico Muhly in eight short parts.

About his work, Muhly says (again translated from the Dutch), “I concentrated on the details: dotting the ‘i’s, a subtle movement of the bow.”

Following a short intermission came the highlight of the evening, with Sufjan Stevens, Dessner and Muhly joined on stage by the Navarra String Quartet and the New Trombone Collective for ‘Planetarium’, a song cycle comprising 11 songs and instrumental pieces about our solar system. [Editor: Compared to the “classical” strains of the earlier section, the second half of the show is decidedly “pop-ish”.]

Translating from the Dutch programme, “The text and substance of the work are derived from astronomy and astrology, as well as the Greek, Roman and heathen mythologies. ‘Planetarium’ explores, in sound and subject, the mutual dependence of harmony and discord in the universe.”

The piece was composed for trombones, string quartet, keyboards, drum machine and guitar. Dessner says that he chose those instruments, so that the work could simultaneously be practical, versatile and expressive.

Regarding the recording, ianmacd wrote:

The first two quintets received some minor amplification in post-processing to bring them in line with the rest of the show. Apart from that, the only intervention I have performed is the removal of a couple of prolonged periods of silence between some of the pieces.

Fades have also been added at the beginning and end of the two sets. I could have crossfaded the applause at the end of the first set into that following the intermission, but felt that the fades made for a truer representation of how the music was presented on the night.

Type: Audience master, recorded from 15 metres back from centre stage.
Source: 2 x matched DPA 4060 mics > DPA MMA6000 amplifier (100 Hz low-cut filter) > Edirol R-09HR recorder (44.1 kHz/16 bit WAV)
Lineage: Audacity 2.0.0 (tracks split, fades added) > FLAC - compression level 8 [libFLAC 1.2.1 20070917]

Pictures by PixelRisotto, posted on the net - thanks!

Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (224 kbps). As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.

Please Do Not Hammer The Links. Due to the size of some of the files, please be very patient when downloading the tracks. It could be that the server was very busy. The tracks should still be around. Please try again later. Kindly email us at [email protected] if you encounter persistent problems downloading the files.

Disc 1
Track 101. Introduction by Bryce Dessner (1.1MB)

Performers: Bryce Dessner featuring the Navarra String Quartet
Composer: Bryce Dessner
Track 102. Quintets - Blind Willy (7.9MB)
Track 103. Quintets - Chorale (10.2MB)
Track 104. Quintets - Isorhythms (9.6MB)

Performer: Navarra String Quartet
Composer: Nico Muhley
Track 105. Diacritical Marks - I (3.1MB)
Track 106. Diacritical Marks - II (6.2MB)
Track 107. Diacritical Marks - III (4.2MB)
Track 108. Diacritical Marks - IV (2.8MB)
Track 109. Diacritical Marks - V (3.5MB)
Track 110. Diacritical Marks - VI (2.9MB)
Track 111. Diacritical Marks - VII (5.3MB)
Track 112. Diacritical Marks - VIII (7.9MB)

Disc 2
Performers: Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly featuring the New Trombone Collective and Navarra String Quartet
Composers: Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner and Nico Muhly
Track 201. [Preamble] (928k)
Track 202. Planetarium - Neptune (4.8MB)
Track 203. [Introduction by Sufjan Stevens] (621k)
Track 204. Planetarium - Jupiter (12.2MB)
Track 205. Planetarium - Venus (8.4MB)
Track 206. Planetarium - Uranus (7.9MB)
Track 207. Planetarium - Mars (8.6MB)
Track 208. Planetarium - The Sun (7.0MB)
Track 209. Planetarium - Pluto (9.8MB)
Track 210. Planetarium - The Moon (8.8MB)
Track 211. Planetarium - Saturn (7.1MB)
Track 212. Planetarium - Earth (14.9MB)
Track 213. Planetarium - Mercury (11.2MB)
Running time: 104m 40s

Click here to order Sufjan Stevens releases.

Click here to order Bryce Dessner releases.

Click here to order Nico Muhly releases.

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  2. hmmmm…. ok.
    Thank you, Big O

    By THE Russian Assassin on Apr 11, 2012

  3. MY dream request answered! A TRIPLE thanks - for posting what will hopefully be an ongoing series - “introducing the unfamiliar”. I know of none of these obscurities, which makes them all the more enticing. Even some of the “known unknowns” like Sun Ra, whom I’ve heard so little of and now I have the means to catch up on, merit special thanks.

    keep ‘um comin’!

    By lowendbill on Apr 15, 2012

  4. hey lowendbill, if you’re ever looking through the used bins and see sun ra-mayan temples, get it! it’s later ra on the black lion label, but it’s a good one. it’s the first one i ever heard.

    be nice if bigo would share ra’s city stages set. i’ve heard it’s out there. city stages was an annual music festival here in bham, al where ra was from that was in and around linn park. my understanding is even if ra was from bham he really didn’t play bham that many times. i know of city stages and the nick. there might be 2 or 3 more times he played here and in tuscaloosa, al he played once.

    i supported city stages for years and saw lots of great acts play such as dylan, iggy pop, jethro tull, los lobos, the allman bros band, gov’t mule, the black crowes, derek trucks, etc. they ended city stages in 2009, after 20 years. now all we have for festival type shows is the annual schaeffer eye center crawfish boil coming up may 4 and 5.

    we still get some rock shows here, though. i like seeing shows at workplay theatre and soundtage. remember alan hunter from the “i want my mtv” 80’s era? well he was one of the original vj’s with jj jackson, martha quinn, mark goodman and nina blackwood. alan’s from here and he and his brother own workplay. i’ve seen lots of great shows there.

    if you’re into free jazz, definitely check out anthony braxton. i think, he’s good. he’s been doing it since the 70’s. bigo have offered a few shows by him. if you like those, you can get even more of his shows for free off his tri-centric foundation site. the one from graz 74 is killer!


    By Ed Saad on Apr 15, 2012

  5. thanx for tips!

    By lowendbill on Apr 16, 2012

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