BRIM and the Guidonian Hand recently presented Songs from the River Project out in California, at the Cal State Fullerton New Music Festival. We premiered two new pieces, and got a nice review from Mark Swed in the LA Times.
BRIM, loadbang, the Guidonian Hand, and James Johnston are heading into the studio to record the next set of River Project pieces for EP#3. EP#1 is now sold-out, but EP#2 is still available, so if you haven’t yet snagged a copy, here’s your chance!
Along with working on recording the next EP, we are currently booking shows for next season, and of course I’ve got more pieces on the way! I keep finding more areas I want to delve into, which are taking shape into pieces and projects I would never have predicted. More about the new projects soon!
But it occurs to me that new visitors might want a quick link to the beginning of this whole journey, which you can find right here.
I’ll be performing some RiverProject music including It Happens Like This and I am really a simple person with wonderful Mark Stewart and the excellent Dither folks on 4 March at this very cool place. It’s a benefit for Dither, and it’s gonna be awesome. Guitar aficionados will especially enjoy it: check it out!
Even though we just finished up one series of concerts, there are more upcoming projects here in New York that continue the flow…
On 17 February, the Ekmeles Vocal Ensemble with Vicky Chow on piano and Ana Milosavljevic on violin will be performing a show we’re calling Songs from the River and Elsewhere on the Avant Music Festival, which is going to be a wonderful series of concerts, highly recommended.
We’ve already begun rehearsing the repertoire for the 17 February concert, and it’s really fascinating to be embedding RiverProject songs in and among songs from A Book of Days. While the journey down the river definitely changed me and my work, there are some themes that thread their way through all the pieces, and hearing them performed by these excellent musicians is really great.
Also upcoming (on 2 March) is a performance of The Sirens, or Pleasure, my Cagean (Cageish?) collaboration with Yvan Greenberg, by the duo Two Sides Sounding. come check out the bicycle roulette wheel doing its thing, you never know which crackerjack prizes it’ll choose!
Along with these performances, I’m starting work on Pump Music, a big new piece for violin, trombone quartet, and location recordings of hand pumps found in campsites along the Mississippi River, a Meet the Composer commission that will premiere later in the spring on the Tribeca New Music Festival. Stay tuned for news about date and venue, which should be firmed up very soon!
What a fun way to start the year! a series of RiverProject concerts at Abrons Arts Center, each one so different from the next, with an array of wonderful musicians, from Loadbang and the Guidonian Hand the first night, to Newspeak and Will Lang the next, and then the last night with Taylor Levine, Malcolm J. Merriweather, and special guest Ron Blessinger, who paddled all the way from Portland, OR to get here… and of course Mary Rowell with me every night, that’s a central part of the whole experience! I feel so lucky to work with all these wonderful musicians, who also happen to be excellent humans, which really makes it great!
Here are a few links to interviews and press about the festival; over the next few days and weeks we’ll be posting some live recordings and more fun stuff.
Amanda McBlane’s interview in Time Out
Olivia Giovetti’s RiverProject radio show on Q2
Kurt Gottschalk’s radio show/interview on WFMU
Stacey Anderson’s NYTimes pop/rock listing
Steve Smith’s NYTimes classical listing
We’re hard at work getting ready for three concerts of River Project music at Abrons Arts Center in late January: wrangling rehearsal schedules for more than 25 people, making special arrangements and generating parts for River Project music for three different rosters of players, organizing tech riders, instrument movers, press releases, all that endless stuff that goes into doing shows, even before a single sound gets made. In a way I feel very far away from the river, and from the urges and pleasures that got me out there two years ago. but then I realize it’s all about the river, and the anxiety recedes and I can just keep paddling.
BRIM has released the first of what will be a series of recordings of River Project music, a limited edition of 250 signed CDs. It’s a four-song EP which you can get only while supplies last.
Order Online Now
01. I am really a very simple person
02. I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long
03. Wayfaring Stranger (live recording)
04. The Flood
Eve Beglarian vocals, electronics, electric guitar, bass
Mary Rowell violin, electric violin, acoustic guitar
This one is really thoughtful, thanks so much, Brett!
The Oregonian did both a preview article and a review for my RiverProject show with Third Angle, called One Mississippi. it was a totally wonderful experience to work with Ron Blessinger and the band, and I’m seriously considering a Columbia River project now. Why not?!?!
Monday morning, we left Pittsburgh early in order to get to Hyden, Kentucky, where Mary had set up a school presentation for BRIM at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music. Mary had been there with ETHEL before, and has worked with Dean Osborne, who’s the director of this very cool school nestled in a hollow in the Appalachians.
I was fascinated to learn that there’s a rigidity and extreme traditionalism in the bluegrass world that rivals the classical music world. Doing anything different from the established norms is frowned upon, and yet all the greats of bluegrass were of course tremendous innovators who broke all the rules, from Bill Monroe to the Osborne Brothers themselves. So the school is devoted to finding that line of respect and devotion to the excellence of the tradition, while at the same time opening up to new ideas and approaches that will keep the art form alive.
It was a really meaningful experience to perform my music for these fellow travelers, I felt like we arrived from different places to a shared path, and I’m honored to have their company. They had lots of questions about how I put my music together technically, which was a bit of a surprise to me. When I do these kinds of presentations at conservatories, I don’t generally get asked detailed compositional questions. I found the whole experience refreshing and fascinating. I think there may be something really interesting to explore at the nexus of traditional bluegrass and new music…. Hmmmm….
Dean Osborne generously arranged to put us up at Mary Breckinridge’s house, Wendover, which was the site of the Frontier Nursing Service she founded in the late 20s, and which is still operating today. (I had only learned about this program a few weeks earlier, when I met Mary’s cousin Kristin, a cheese-maker, at the Craftsbury Farmer’s Market up in Vermont, who had participated in the program in the late 80s.) Mary Breckinridge was this amazing person. A privileged woman, she lost both her own children at an early age, so she decided to come to deeply impoverished Leslie County and start a nursing service for mothers and children. In the years that she ran this service, both maternal and infant health improved from perhaps the worst in the nation to better than the country as a whole, and all this work was done by a combination of professional nurses on horseback traveling up and around the hollows, and by young women volunteers, who came out to join the adventure. It’s a case of those much-maligned “ladies bountiful” doing something really meaningful and transformative with their time and talent and energy. Dean estimates that something like a hundred thousand people today owe their existence to Mary Breckinridge and the Frontier Nursing Service.
Saturday, we headed out in the rain and cold towards Pittsburgh, stopping at Shanksville at the newly unveiled Flight 93 memorial, which is quite well-done: tasteful and thoughtful in that National Park-ish way. It might be strange to say this, but I found the absence of any information or images of the four hijackers to be a lost opportunity, somehow. I guess I really believe that seeing the bad guys, engaging with their craziness, is a way to guard against craziness in oneself or one’s culture. I mean, isn’t that at least part of why we read and watch movies about Hitler or mass murderers or whatever? I’m not sure how that could or should be done at this memorial, but in my opinion, erasing them completely from the picture is a sanitizing that minimizes the actual authentic heroism of the forty folks who brought down the plane in this lonely field.
We arrived at my friends’ Rick and Kate’s place in time for dinner, and I could help marveling at how different our pace was from that 20 to 40 miles per day I did going down the Mississippi in 2009. No wonder I got so interested in 19th century (and earlier) history, I was traveling at a pre-20th century pace! That’s super-obvious the moment I think of it, but I only realized it fully doing that quick drive on Saturday: nothing to it to drive from New York City to Pittsburgh, it’s only a few hundred miles!
It was great to catch up with Rick and Kate. Rick is a wonderful poet, you can check out his work here and here, and Kate is a passionate birder, and I was really gratified that she liked the movie of In and Out of the Game, that really means a lot to me.