The National's Bryce Dessner: "My Favorite Contemporary Classical Works"
The National's Bryce Dessner has just released his recording debut as a composer of contemporary classical music. Titled Aheym, it's an exquisite collaboration with the famed Kronos Quartet. We asked Bryce to share with us his favorite contemporary classical works from the likes of Steve Reich, John Cage, and John Zorn.
My Favorite Contemporary Works
by Bryce Dessner
Arvo Part 'Pari Intervallo'
A simple chord progression on the organ with a repeating slow arpeggio pattern. This piece is emblematic of beautiful economy in Arvo Part's music:
Steve Reich 'Music for Eighteen Musicians' (original recording on ECM)
This is Reich's classic in my opinion. An hour of pulsing harmony:
Steve Reich 'Electric Counterpoint'
I always reference this piece when people ask me about my classical background and playing in a rock band. I like to say that Reich's electric counterpoint for multiple electric guitars is as influential on my guitar playing as any 'classic rock' guitarist. Here's Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead performing it:
Philip Glass 'Closing Piece'
I performed this piece from Glass Works on tour with Philip almost ten years ago. It is as memorable as any pop song, so simple and haunting:
Britten Sea Interludes, 3 'Moonlight' from Peter Grimes
The four Sea Interludes from the Peter Grimes opera are some of the most beautiful music of the 20th-century. If you don't know Britten, this is a good place to start:
John Zorn 'Kol Nidre'
Also written for Kronos. Zorn is one of the most influential composers/musicians and his music is incredibly diverse. This piece written on the Yom Kippur prayer of Kol Nidre is one of my favorites:
David Lang 'So Called Laws of Nature'
Lang's masterpiece written for So Percussion. Like everything David does, its incredibly challenging to play but also somehow it sounds elegant and effortless:
Nico Muhly 'Skip Town'
This piece is one of many that I love by my friend Nico Muhly. It has this beautiful geometry about it and quirky rhythms which Nico does so well:
John Luther Adams 'For Lou Harrison'
One of my favorite composers, he lives in Alaska and his music is deeply inspired by the natural world around him. This piece he composed for Lou Harrison, another great west coast American Composer. It cycles through chord patterns in this seamless expanding process, like waves coming in from the sea:
Witold Lutoslawski 'Musique Fenebre'
One of my favorite String Orchestra pieces, its scored for 10 different string parts and has a stark beauty to it. It was written in memory of Bela Bartok and the whole piece has these transparent processes going on which somehow amount to something very subtle and mysterious:
John Cage 'String Quartet in Four Parts'
One of Cage's pieces I can listen to endlessly, especially the recording by the Arditti Quartet. Written using his chance methods, the piece was also dedicated to Lou Harrison whom he knew from his Black Mountain College days:
John Adams 'Shaker Loops'
One of his masterpieces and one of the greatest works for String Orchestra. He is able to get so many different textures and subtle effects out of the strings, and the score itself is a thing of beauty. The original recording with the San Fransisco Symphony is my favorite. (The version below is from a recent New Albion Records release. - ed.):
John Tefteller is a well-known rare blues record collector. In 2013, Tefteller purchased “Alcohol and Jake Blues” by Tommy Johnson (1930), a very rare blues 78 rpm record, on eBay for $37,100. Tommy Johnson made five records for the Paramount label in 1929 and 1930. Johnson, unrelated to bluesman Robert Johnson, was a little known […]
The Theremin, an electronic musical instrument that you play by not touching it, celebrates the 100th anniversary of its invention next year. Smithsonian looks at the history of the first successful electronic musical instrument that New York Times critic Harold C. Schonberg described as sounding like “(a) cello lost in a dense fog, crying because […]
Studies have shown cannabidiol (more popularly known as CBD) to be effective in two main areas: Pain relief and stress relief. Both of those make the non-psychoactive, cannabis-derived compound a natural for topical creams. There’s no shortage of CBD products out there, but here’s eight of our favorites, all specifically designed for dermatological use – […]
If you’re part of the maker community, you know Make:. Though Make: magazine is off the shelves as of this year, the eBooks and resources put out by Maker Media are still a fantastic resource for the new generation of tinkerers, hackers, and robotics geeks. If you’re in that tribe, listen up: they’ve released a […]
Life isn’t getting any less hectic, and pressure cookers are a quick, healthy solution for a growing number of kitchens. But if you thought your Instant Pot was versatile, there’s a major upgrade on the market: The Yedi 9-in-1 Total Package Instant Programmable Pressure Cooker. If you’ve somehow never used a pressure cooker before, try […]