Bryce Dessner

Dessner, Friends and Spaces by Liquid Music

BY VIDEO PRODUCER/DIRECTOR/EDITOR NATE MATSON                                                                                                                              

I don’t know of another program quite like Liquid Music. It’s fresh. It’s edgy. It pushes creative boundaries. It challenges artists—and sometimes audiences.

When Kate Nordstrum, the curator and producer of Liquid Music, approached me about creating video content for its series, I didn’t have to put much thought to it.

Drummer Glenn Kotche’s excellent show last year sealed the deal. I went as a Wilco fan, but as the evening progressed, and the songs were performedusing household items and toolsI gained a new perspective on his artistry. About midway through the show, as I took in the eclectic repertoire and visuals, I realized what I was experiencing was not an everyday concert. It was chance for an artist, in this case Mr. Kotche, to showcase a different side of his creativity. I left feeling like I’d just eaten a gourmet meal by an award-winning chef. And in Saint Paul, Minnesota, no less!

I was a fan then. I’m a fan now. 

Very rarely is someone in my positiona videographer with a musical background, hungry for artistic pursuitsgiven such intimate access to such a wide caliber of talented and respected artists. Although Liquid Music focuses on orchestral music, it’s much bigger than that. Nearly every musical genre is represented, from Indie Rock to World Music.

Yet there is always a twist.

More recently, Bryce Dessner’s show at the Walker Art Center is a perfect example. Known as the guitar player for the Grammy nominated band The National, Dessner brought along so many friends with so much content, he booked 2 concerts with completely different programs. Night 1 focused on strings. Night 2 focused on percussion. Dessner allowed his friendsnotably Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire and vocalist Caroline Shawto try new things, debut new music, and in one case, debut new music on invented instruments.

Again, this is a rare opportunity.

My team, Spaces, and I will be present for many performances, watching as fans with the audience, and filming from the shadows on stage. But we’ll also be behind the scenes capturing conversations, tearing down walls traditionally built between the artist and the fans, and exposing the creative underbelly of artists and the passion driving them beyond their norm.

So, needless to say, I am pleased as punch to help out Liquid Music for the 2015-16 season.

Please enjoy the Bryce Dessner highlights video and keep an eye out for more of Spaces’ work on the Liquid Music blog and on social media.

In Loring Park, music arranged by your GPS by Liquid Music

Loring Park (Photo by Jason Riedy via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Kate Nordstrum, Liquid Music curator, writes: 

On the occasion of The Music of Bryce Dessner mini-festival presented by Liquid Music and the Walker Art Center, I thought it would be exciting to partner with Leav, a mobile platform that connects digital art with the world around it. It’s been fascinating to learn about this new technology and I invite you to experience Leav’s arrangement of Dessner’s Music for Wood and Strings on a walk through Minneapolis’ Loring Park (immediately across the street from where it will be played live by So Percussion on Saturday, April 4.) Your own movement will dynamically interact with the piece’s content—everyone’s listening experience is a unique creation. Leav founder Bobby Maher provides more context:

There is a relationship between art and location. In a gallery, at an outdoor art installation, at a play in a historical theater, or a show at a dive bar, our environment affects our experience. Mobile technology has ensured that we can listen to music or watch video anywhere, but unfortunately, this encourages most people to ignore the world around them. We wanted to change that.

In 2013, with the generous support of a New Media grant from the IFPMN and the McKnight Foundation, Andy Voegtline, Erik Martz, Joey Kantor, and I put together a team of artists and programmers to create a mobile platform for Minneapolis/St. Paul that could connect digital art with the world around it. We called it Leav.

Leav is a mobile app that allows users to take in art that is shaped by and linked to specific cues like location, time, and other environmental factors. It uses your phone’s GPS to uncover things like a citywide symphony with different orchestral parts drifting in and out depending on which city street you’re on, or a short film only viewable at dusk in a tree-filled park in December. Factors like time, temperature, direction, and speed of travel can dynamically interact with a piece’s accessibility and content.

We are proud to partner with world-renowned composer and musician, Bryce Dessner, and SPCO’s Liquid Music series to create an interactive experience that allows audiences to discover Dessner’s Music For Wood And Strings in a way otherwise impossible. Wander through Loring Park with your iPhone to reveal the composer’s intricate counterpoints, striking rhythms, and vibrant harmonies as a creative participant in your own listening experience.

To arrange this work we enlisted electronic composer Aquarelle (Ryan Potts) to reimagine Dessner’s intricate composition of four hammer-like dulcimer “chord sticks” as well as woodblocks, snares, and bass drums.

With a composition as dynamic and active as Music For Wood And Strings I first had to acknowledge that I could not fully encapsulate the range and breadth of the piece itself. That could not be done. But I could try to approximate the structural and thematic tendencies of the whole in smaller, focused sections that also illuminate the detail and interplay between the players of So Percussion. That become my aim throughout the process of arranging the piece into six distinct sections. – Aquarelle

When you first open Leav in Loring Park you will see a map indicating pieces of art in your area. Once you are inside the radius shown on the map, you can move within that space to hear the various musical elements of Music For Wood And Strings interact with one another.

Leav’s arrangement of Dessner’s Music For Wood And Strings will be available in Loring Park April through August 2015. The app is free for download in the iTunes store.

I hope to see you at the concerts this weekend or wandering the park with new eyes while the app is available.

So Percussion performing Leav’s arrangement of Dessner’s Music for Wood and Strings in Loring Park

So Percussion performing Leav’s arrangement of Dessner’s Music for Wood and Strings in Loring Park