"Aheym" is a collection of four new works by Bryce Dessner performed by the Kronos Quartet. Each piece displays the sort of earnest, transparent beauty found in the music of composers such as the great Estonian Arvo Pärt (no I am not in any way claiming that Dessner is an American Arvo Pärt or anything close to it; there is here, however, much gorgeous linear and often tonal music). Drawing on his own Jewish heritage, the stories behind these works are as touching and colorful as the music. This is excellent modern music for string quartet.
The title work is written to portray the ideas of flight and passage-"Aheym" means 'homeward' in Yiddish-and it specifically draws on experiences from Dessner's grandparents, who immigrated to New York from Poland and Russia. The repetitive lines are fast and driving, the mood is intense and suspenseful.
|Dessner (middle) with the Kronos Quartet|
"Little Blue Something" is inspired by a pair of Czech musicians that Dessner's sister Jessica met on a street in Copenhagen. Drawing on what Dessner describes as their "strange and lovely music," the piece combines folk music, minimalism, and direct quotation.
The next track is dedicated to Kronos's lighting designer, Laurence Neff, and named after a Holy Week service called Tenebre. It examines the relationship between music and light while using a variety of texture and layers. Kronos is joined by the musician/singer Sufjan Stevens performing an octet of voices on Hebrew letters.
"Tour Eiffel" features the Brooklyn Youth Chorus in a setting of a poem by Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro. "I chose it for its musical qualities which include text of a French folk song and solfège syllables as well as images of approaching modernity like 'the electric wing' and 'telegraph antenna,'" writes Dessner, who also appears on the track with his guitar. Percussion, piano, and trombone are also added, and the end product is nostalgic and beautifully hypnotic.
Here's a paragraph taken from Dessner's site:
Bryce Dessner, guitarist from The National and Clogs who has also collaborated with Steve Reich, Philip Glass, David Lang, Sufjan Stevens and many others, released Aheym, an album of quartets, on November 5th on Anti- Records. The album finds Dessner collaborating with Grammy Award-winning Kronos Quartet, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary season. Aheym features four original compositions by Dessner performed by Kronos Quartet as well as an appearance by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Dessner and the quartet first crossed paths when Kronos founder David Harrington approached Dessner about writing a piece for the quartet’s performance at the Celebrate Brooklyn! festival at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in 2009. The ensuing piece, “Aheym” (meaning “homeward” in Yiddish), was informed by the stories of Dessner’s Jewish immigrant grandparents who settled near the park and, as the pair’s collaboration grew, became the album’s title track.