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Bryce Dessner

Publisher: Chester Music

Quilting (2014)
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
15 Minutes

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Programme Note
Bryce Dessner Quilting (2014)
Quilting, co-commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is my first stand alone work for orchestra and is loosely inspired by the American tradition of quilt making. I composed Quilting while living most of last year in Paris. During my time there, I thought a lot about what it means to compose symphonic music as a young American in the 21st century, when so many of the many masterworks which are programmed year in and out by orchestras across the country are European. I considered which artistic traditions defined the American 19th-century. I began to think of the American crafts-tradition of quilting as a foil to the high-art tradition of European orchestral composition.

As the score for my new work began to take shape, I started thinking about the manuscript itself as an object, its vertical and horizontal planes create a kind of patterned geometry of their own. Visually the way a musical score is woven together like patchwork brought to mind quilts and the great American tradition of quilting. I imagined about how conducting an orchestra can feel like stitching a piece together, or sewing together a large number of musical ideas and musicians into a coherent and transcendent whole.

Quilting was an integral part of American vernacular in the 18th and 19th centuries, the African-American quilting tradition is especially fascinating, and the quilts tell the stories of the women and communities who made them. The names of the quilt patterns themselves can have their own sense of narrative: 'jacobs ladder', 'drunkards path', 'solomon's puzzle', and (my favorite for its relevance to this piece) 'the road to California.'

Bryce Dessner

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  • 02 MAY 2018
    Friedberg Concert Hall, Baltimore, MD
    Peabody Modern Orchestra
    Joseph Young, conductor
  • 20 OCT 2017
    Reflektor Bryce Dessner
    Hamburg, Germany
    Symphoniker Hamburg
    Katia und Marielle Labèque, piano; Bryce Dessner, guitar; Aaron Dessner, guitar; Alan Pierson, conductor
  • 18 NOV 2016
    Kennedy Center, Washington, DC
    National Symphony Orchestra
    Bryce & Aaron Dessner, guitars; Jacomo Bairos, conductor
  • 21 APR 2016
    Quilting London Premiere
    Barbican Centre, London
    BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Joshua Weilerstein, conductor
  • 25 SEP 2015
    Quilting European Premiere
    Muziegebouw, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
    Philharmonie Zuidnederland
    Lukasz Borowicz, conductor

    Other Dates:
    26 September - Theater aan het Vrijthof, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  • 28 MAY 2015
    Quilting World Premiere
    Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA
    LA Philharmonic Orchestra
    Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

    Other Dates:
    30 May - Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA

Dessner is exactly the kind of composer who personifies what might be next for classical music. The final section is the most effective. Here pitches begin to slide as they might on an electric guitar. When a whole orchestra does this, you sense it in the pit of your stomach the way you do when an airplane looses altitude during turbulence.
Mark Swed, LA Times,29/05/2015
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