Around a week ago in New York, thanks to a tip by Adam Cuthbért, I was able to devote at least a little time to music and could attend a concert at Le Poisson Rouge heralding the release of the new album, Towards Daybreak, of one of his professors during his years at Grand Valley State University, Bill Ryan. For the occasion the composer was present, along with the ensemble dedicated to performing his work, Billband – performing under this eponymous-euphonious moniker were Ashley Bathgate (cello), Vicky Chow (piano), David Cossin (percussion), Michael Lowenstern (bass clarinet), Pablo Mahave-Veglia (cello), Jonathan Nichol (saxophone), Doug Perkins (percussion), and Todd Reynolds (violin) – several of whom likewise travelled from elsewhere in the country to the city for the event. The group played I believe nearly all the tracks from the album with verve, devoting themselves to the performance with great concentration (Reynolds, Chow, and Nichol were each particularly fascinating to watch), and deployed their talents, which are considerable, both as an ensemble and throughout the several passages or pieces where one or the other instrument took the lead or even went entirely solo.
The album, signed by every member of Billband, is available in limited quantities from the Bang on a Can Internet store.
Apart from his work as a composer, Ryan is known for his leadership of the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, which has won prominence in the USA with a number of recordings and live performances of works by Steve Reich and Terry Riley; its work has been published by the Innova record label, by which his own albums have also been issued.
On Ryan’s Youtube channel a video recording of Bathgate’s performance of “Simple Lines” was uploaded a couple of days ago, and I have included it in a short playlist, along with a different arrangement of the same piece for a large cello ensemble, as well as a portion of a piece, not included on the album, entitled “Stream”:
The tracks on his first album, Blurred, have been loaded onto his Soundcloud page; here are two of them.
On Innova’s Soundcloud page two tracks from Towards Daybreak have been made available, “Blurred” – in a version longer than is the one included on the first album – and “Sparkle.” Now, while the first of these is the last track on the album and the second the penultimate one, in the ideal sequence of this crepuscular music it seems to me as though it precedes the latter, heavily enwrapped as it evidently so much more nearly is within the state of sleep, and thus corresponding to a point situated earlier in the course of a night, whereas the other conveys that specific five a.m. feeling that comes after many hours awake when one is rubbing the grogginess from one’s eyes: so in placing oneself in the midst of Ryan’s music, it appears in the first case that the very blurriness of or in one’s mind is what has been rendered into articulate audibility, while in the second, although daybreak is not yet dawning, it’s as though one’s second wind has already started to blow – in sprightly sound.
In accordance with this sense of these tracks’ ideal or actual succession, here is “Blurred”: