Billband Releases New Album TOWARDS DAYBREAK Today
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by BWW News Desk
Composer Bill Ryan is known to many as The Force behind The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, the student group that gained widespread praise for recordings of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians (2007) and Terry Riley's In C with remixes (2009). With Towards Daybreak, the sophomore release from Ryan's ensemble Billband, the focus returns to his own work. Towards Daybreak comes out today, January 29 on Innova. The music - by turns contemplative, roiling, elegaic, and aggressive - reflects experiences in Ryan's life, from the birth of a child to the loss of his parents.
In its latest incarnation, Billband includes cellist Ashley Bathgate, pianist Vicky Chow, and percussionist David Cossin of the Bang on a Can All-Stars; violinist Todd Reynolds (Outerborough); bass clarinetist Michael Lowenstern; and cellist Pablo Mahave-Veglia and saxophonist Jonathon Nichol from GVSU. Cellist Paul de Jong (formerly of The Books) appears as a special guest.
Bill Ryan and Billband celebrate the release of Toward Daybreak with a show at Le Poisson Rouge on Sunday, February 10, 7:30 pm (doors at 6:30). Tickets are available at www.lepoissonrouge.com. For this show, Billband will expand to an octet with the addition of Doug Perkins on percussion.
Ryan's post-minimalist musical language is personal and expressive, poised on a knife edge between lushness and reticence. This is a music that reveals itself gradually, working its way deeper with each listen.
His previous record with Billband, Blurred, was released in 2004; Gramophone called it "gritty and funky." Says Ryan, "A lot has happened in my life [since then] - another beautiful child, relocating to the Midwest. New friends, strengthening connections with old ones. Teaching my son to drive, teaching my daughters to play. Watching my students become young adults while my own teachers begin to retire. All of these experiences impact my music, but none greater than the sudden loss of my parents - my mother in an automobile accident, my father from cancer. While I was initially paralyzed by these losses, life did continue, and eventually, the music did too. This CD comes out of these experiences - it is about loss, it is about grieving, it is about carrying on. It is also a celebration, an appreciation, and a thank you."
Towards Daybreak is bookended by a pair of elegies. It opens with Simple Lines, in memory of Ryan's father, and ends with a live version of Blurred, written after the passing of his mother. The ravishing Simple Lines, played by Bathgate on multi-tracked cellos, is built on lengthening, wave-like figures that are simultaneously yearning and consoling. Blurred captures the brittleness of grief with a pinging, raindrop-like piano figure and frail harmonics, deepening into insistent, obsessive chords.
Throughout the disc, Ryan compels attention through the cunning opposition of elements: hesitancy and forward motion in Toward Daybreak; somber tonalities and playful rhythms in Rapid Assembly; turbulence and control in Solitude in Transit and Friction. As a whole, Towards Daybreak blends the precision and craft of the best minimalism with the humanistic interplay of a small chamber group. Grammy-winner Silas Brown engineered and co-produced the album with Ryan, and the attention to sonic detail shines through. The strings are rich and woody, the percussion viscerally captured, the winds vividly present. The tracks are:
1 Simple Lines (6:20)
For the past twenty years Bill Ryan (b.1968) has been a tireless advocate of contemporary music. Through his work as a composer, conductor, producer and educator, he has engaged diverse audiences throughout the country with the music of our time.
Bill's own music has roots in minimalism and jazz, the latter, undoubtedly connected to playing trumpet in jazz bands throughout his youth. His compositions are energetic, evocative and deeply personal, and have been described as "...constantly threatening to burst at the seams, were those seams not so artfully structured...rarely has music this earthy been so elegant (Gramophone)."
Bill's music has been performed in major cities and venues across the country including at (le) Poisson Rouge, Galapagos, Symphony Space, and Lincoln Center (New York), Woodruff Arts Center (Atlanta), the Atlas (Washington D.C.), Initman Theater (Seattle), and the Hobby Center (Houston), and internationally in Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia. His music has received awards from Meet the Composer, ASCAP, and New Music USA. In addition to the concert stage, Bill's music is regularly used by choreographers and dance companies throughout the country.
As a conductor, Bill has commissioned and premiered dozens of works by such notable composers as Phil Kline, Marc Mellits, Belinda Reynolds, Jad Abumrad, Evan Ziporyn, and David Lang. In 2006 he founded The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, who have been profiled in numerous publications including Newsweek, the New York Times, and Billboard Magazine, and featured on NPR's Weekend Edition, All Things Considered, and WNYC's Radiolab. Beyond their many campus events they have performed concerts in Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C., at New York's Bang On a Can Marathon, as members of the all-star ensemble assembled by the Kronos Quartet to perform on the In C 45th Anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall, at (le) Poisson Rouge, and at the Make Music New York summer festival.
Bill has produced three critically acclaimed recordings by the ensemble, named to top year-end lists by the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Weekly, Time Out Chicago, and many others. Music from their first CD, Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, was recently named one of the top five classical recordings of the decade by WNYC's John Schaefer. Bill resides in West Michigan with his wife and three children. When not working on music Bill can usually be found in the woods, washing his truck, or watching the Detroit Tigers.