The Long Count For immediate release: Thursday 15 December 2011
UK premiere of The Long Count - The National's Aaron and Bryce Dessner's multimedia collaboration with visual artist Matthew Ritchie inspired by the Mayan creation myth, the Popol Vuh
Barbican Theatre, Barbican Centre, London UK,
2 – 4 February 2012, 8.30pm, Tickets £20-£25
Produced by the Barbican
Commissioned by BAM for the 2009 Next Wave Festival
The Long Count is an immersive multimedia collaboration about the beginning of time jointly conceived by twin brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner of revered American rock band The National and British-born visual art phenomenon Matthew Ritchie, which will receive its UK premiere at the Barbican Theatre in February 2012.
An abstract orchestral-rock song-cycle, the project is inspired by the Mayan creation myth, the Popol Vuh – of which the Long Count calendar is an important part – and the Dessners’ own story. E xploring ideas of symmetry and creation, the performance weaves together disparate themes ranging from the ‘hero twins’ of the Popul Vuh to the epic 1976 baseball World Series victory of the Cincinnati Reds over the New York Yankees (which occurred in the year of the Cincinnati-born Dessners' birth).
Composed and performed by the Dessners, who are joined by a 12-strong chamber orchestra, and sung by guest artists including Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) and Kelley Deal (The Breeders), the complex score of The Long Count subtly interweaves guitars, solemn a capella, layered sound structures and scintillating rock. Matthew Ritchie's animated film made from the artist's intricate, biomorphic drawings provides the large-scale sculptural frame for the project and the performers on stage.
When the Dessners and Matthew Ritchie were first commissioned in 2009 by BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) to write a piece for its Next Wave art festival, “Big Red Machine” was the initial title they considered for the project. But then the Dessners’ interest in the 1976 event and the rituals of baseball started to form a counterpoint to Ritchie’s interest in the Mesoamerican ball game in Popol Vuh , the creation myth of the Maya. Popol Vuh begins with twin brothers playing a baseball-like game who eventually become the sun and the moon. These “hero twins” thus form a part of the creation of the universe and the beginning of the Mesoamerican calendar, the Long Count, which ends, or resets, on 21 December 2012 - a date that has long been the subject of fervent New Age speculation.
Aaron Dessner said : We are incredibly excited to bring The Long Count to the Barbican Centre. This piece has been an extraordinary opportunity for Bryce and I to push the boundaries of our songwriting and composition and explore the intersection of film, architecture and song with Shara Worden, Kelley Deal and Matthew Ritchie. The collaborative elements of the piece continue to evolve and we look forward to the next iteration in London.
The Long Count (Thu 2 – Sat 4 February 2012, Barbican Theatre)
by Aaron & Bryce Dessner and Matthew Ritchie
The National’s twin brothers Bryce and Aaron Dessner’s multimedia spectacle about the beginning of time, devised in collaboration with video artist Matthew Ritchie.
Read more about the Long Count here
Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner
Written, designed and directed by
M atthew Ritchie
Additional lyrics by
Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond)
Kelley Deal (The Breeders)
Matthew Ritchie Studio (James Case, Nick Roth, Mike Koller)
Box Office: 0845 120 7550
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Notes to Editors
About the Barbican
The architecturally renowned Barbican Centre is one of the world's leading arts centres, founded and run by the City of London Corporation. It encompasses dance, film, music, theatre, visual arts and creative learning who work together in creating the model of tomorrow's international arts and learning centre. Committed to providing a world-class programme which inspires, challenges and amazes its audiences, the Barbican is also home to Resident Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra; Associate Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra; Associate Producer, Serious; and a range of Artistic Associates. For more information visit www.barbican.org.uk.
Matthew Ritchie’s installations of paintings, texts, wall drawings, light boxes, sculptures and projections are investigations of the idea of information; explored through science, architecture, history and the dynamics of culture. His work has been exhibited in numerous exhibitions worldwide, including the Whitney Biennial, the São Paulo Bienal, the Sydney Biennale, the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Seville Biennale and the Havana Bienal. In 2008 Ritchie created ‘the Morning Line’, an innovative interactive architectural structure designed in collaboration with Bryce Dessner, architects Aranda\Lasch and Arup’s Advanced Geometry Unit to explore the possibility of a visual operating language for the universe and to use that language to create a new type of sonic environment. In 2009, Ritchie collaborated with noted physicist Lisa Randall and composer Hector Parra to create ‘Hypermusic’, a projective opera that premiered at the Centre Pompidou and is now touring several European cities.
Aaron Dessner is a multi-instrumentalist best known as a founding member, primary composer and all-around tinkerer in the acclaimed rock band The National. When he isn’t unearthing new National songs, Aaron writes, produces and performs music in collaboration with many artists. In 2009, Aaron co-produced the critically acclaimed album "Dark Was The Night" for the Red Hot Organization to benefit AIDS charities. The album features 31 exclusive recordings by artists including Arcade Fire, Antony, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, Feist, Kronos Quartet and many others. On 3 May 2009, Aaron co-produced a sold out performance of songs from Dark Was The Night at Radio City Music Hall. Recently, Aaron has performed with Final Fantasy, Doveman, Grizzly Bear and David Byrne and contributed music for an award-winning documentary on youth NASCAR racing, “Racing Dreams”. Aaron is also a co-founder of Brassland Records, home to artists including Clogs, Doveman and Nico Muhly.
Bryce Dessner is a composer/guitarist/curator based in New York City, best known as the guitarist for the acclaimed rock band The National. Dessner is also a composer and guitarist for the improvising new music quartet, Clogs and has performed and/or recorded with some of the world’s most creative musicians including songwriters Sufjan Stevens and Antony Hegarty, Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, composers Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Michael Gordon, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and visual artist Matthew Ritchie. As a composer, new works include a commission by the Rosenbach Library in Philadelphia for a composition in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s bi-centennial, a commission from BAM’s Next Wave Festival, and a new string quartet for the Kronos Quartet.
Bryce Dessner’s work also features in the Barbican’s Spring 2012 contemporary music season as part of Awakenings: A Kronos Quartet Residency which includes a performance of his Aheym on 24 January; and as part of a collaborative evening with Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens and Nico Muhly (9 April) which sees Sufjan Stevens’ first live performance of the vocals for Bryce Dessner's new quartet Tenebrae, featuring the Navarra String Quartet.
The Long Count © Dennis Stempher