Gurgling water, a revolving fan belt, airport announcements and an impassioned poem by Charles Olson all fuel the output of New York ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars. The eclectic group is back at the Barbican with new input by an awe-inspiring array of composers including Bryce Dessner of The National and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire, iconic American composer Steve Reich, Golden Globe winner and two-time Oscar nominee Jóhann Jóhannsson, artist/musician Christian Marclay and Bang on a Can co-founder the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner Julia Wolfe.
Using archival film the musicians have woven beautiful and immense sounds that fuzz and fade, replicating the thunder and drone of old movie reels and combining this with delicate piano, expressive percussion and soulful strings.
The concert include seven UK premieres including Bryce Dessner's Letter 27 with film and Richard Reed Parry's The Brief and Neverending Blur.
Richard Reed Parry:
How did you get involved in Bang on a Can?
I have met them all over the years from various contexts - they invited my old band Bell Orchestre to participate in one of their marathons ten years ago and we sadly didn’t have time to do it and I’ve regretted it ever since. Thankfully they reached out again.
Bang on a Can's concept is to push musical boundaries – how have you done this in The Brief and Neverending Blur?
The fundamental principle/technique of Music for Heart and Breath is, remarkably, a new one, or at least one that’s never been formally done before - using the heartbeats and the breathing rates of the performers as the only tempo guides.
How do you push yourself musically?
Two ways - firstly by attempting to make every kind of music that I aspire to make… and secondly by getting way over my head in terms of ability when I take on a project, and just forcing myself to rise to the occasion somehow.
What kind of a work out will the Bang on a Can artists receive with your composition – do they have to move around to alter the breath/heartbeat cycle?
The Brief and Neverending Blur is actually quite a miniature piece, and has a very drifty, languid pacing. I let BOAC off easy. This time. :)
Is it possible to orchestrate the human body?
Yes, but it’s difficult to conduct it.
How many instruments do you play now?
Hard to say exactly. It depends how competent one has to be to qualify as being able to “play”. Three or four decently well, and a whole lot more just enough to create and make nice sounds.
Why do Canadians make such good musicians?
Because there are lots of large, uninhabited quiet spaces in our land.
Who will your be collaborating with next after BOAC?
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I'll be finishing up my sonic folk record, called the Quiet River of Dust. Making an Arcade Fire record. Plotting and writing an hour-long piece of Heart and Breath music for large ensemble. Finally making another Bell Orchestre record. All the regular stuff for me.
Bang On A Can All-Stars: Field Recordings (Vol.2) is at The Barbican, Milton Court Concert Hall on Sunday, April 17 at 7.30pm.