An evening of music connecting generations of American artists: the UK premiere of Black Mountain Songs, a major new work co-curated by Bryce Dessner (The National) and Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), followed by a performance of Terry Riley’s minimalist classic In C.
Opening the concert, Black Mountain Songs casts us back to a tumultuous, thrilling moment in American history, to the 1930s Bohemian arts colony whose list of alumni and teachers – including composer John Cage, dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, artist Robert Rauschenberg, poet Charles Olson and more – reads like a who’s who of modern art, music and dance.
At North Carolina’s Black Mountain College, a spirit of radical democracy prevailed. Students and teachers shared roles and work, boundaries between disciplines dissolved, and art bled into life, nurturing an atmosphere of unfettered creative collaboration. Though only active for 20 years, the College played host to Cage’s first ‘happening’, saw Cunningham form his dance company, and gave us many other works that changed how we think about music, movement and the process of creating art.
In Black Mountain Songs, performed by a unique cast of The Brooklyn Youth Chorus, dancer and narrator Gus Solomons Jr – a member of Merce Cunninghams’s dance company in the 60s, and backed by an ensemble of Dessner, Parry, Caroline Shaw and Ning Yu, that thread of creative collaboration is renewed.
New music by eight composers - Dessner, Parry, Shaw, Nico Muhly, Aleksandra Vrebalov, John King, Tim Hecker and Jherek Bischoff, is set to stark visuals by Matt Wolf (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell), in a brooding, expansive and exhilarating performance that blends music, dance and digital projections, exploring the Black Mountain College’s history and rekindling its guiding principles.
This session closes with a performance – in Terry Riley’s 80th birthday year – of his legendary and pioneering In C, led by eighth blackbird and featuring performers Bryce Dessner, Richard Reed Parry, Nico Muhly and more from across the Mountains and Waves weekend.
Bryce Dessner and Lisa Kaplan discuss these two pieces in this clip from our podcast:
Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Richard Reed Parry
Black Mountain Songs Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Choral director and conductor Dianne Berkun-Menaker
Created by Bryce Dessner
Co-curated by Bryce Dessner & Richard Reed Parry
Directed by Maureen Towey
Music by Jherek Bischoff, Bryce Dessner, Tim Hecker, John King, Nico Muhly, Richard Reed Parry, Caroline Shaw and Aleksandra Vrebalov
Choreographed by Jenny Shore Butler