Words: Steve Smith
Photograph: Jonathan Piper
Words: Steve Smith
Photograph: Jonathan Piper
“For Duane is an album about friendships and how community has shifted my music in the 10 years I’ve lived in California,” Nicholas Deyoe says of his second album for the Los Angeles-based label Populist Records. Born in Colorado, the composer, conductor, and electric guitarist has become a linchpin in the burgeoning Southern California new-music scene – not least as the co-founder of the innovative and acclaimed concert series wasteLAnd.
An illuminating survey of recent works, for Duane amply demonstrates Deyoe’s ability to fashion absorbing aural vignettes pitched at extremes of intimacy and violence, lyricism and noise. “Listening to the work of Nicholas Deyoe is no small undertaking… navigating a pathway through this raw and perilous terrain is an exhilarating, immersive, and ultimately very human endeavor,” fellow composer Daniel Tacke writes in an introductory essay in the album’s accompanying booklet.
“This is music built on a deep sense of trust that could not possibly exist without close collaborative ties.” Tacke adds, amplifying Deyoe’s statement about the centrality of community. Aptly, for Duane features some of Deyoe’s closest collaborators: cellist Ashley Walters (whose own new Populist CD, Sweet Anxiety, includes two further Deyoe compositions), soprano Stephanie Aston, violinist Batya MacAdam–Somer, Aperture Duo, and wasteLAnd.
The album is due on Friday, Oct. 20… but thanks to Deyoe and Populist Records, you can hear it streaming here in its entirely, exclusively—right here, right now.
To accompany this preview, Deyoe generously provided his thoughts about the entire album, and the relationships represented therein:
The musicians on this album are people that I work with frequently whether they are playing my music, or I’m performing with them as a guitarist or conductor, or simply enjoying as an audience member. My first collaborations with the three soloists, Stephanie Aston, Batya MacAdam–Somer, and Ashley Walters, all began in 2007 when we were graduate students at UCSD. The five pieces on this album feel like some of the most personal music I’ve ever written. The music is driven by personal reflections on friends and family. It is full of love, but complicated and angry. It is frenetic energy and pent–up frustration, but also calm and reflective. It sings and shouts in the same context.
Lullaby 6 “for Duane” is a concerto for Ashley Walters (with wasteLAnd) and is the 14th piece we’ve worked on together. This includes a few ensemble pieces, several chamber pieces, and two solos. Her part is the culmination of everything we’ve done together over the last 10 years and all of the ways she has shaped the way that I think about writing for the cello, and collaborating in general. (Both of the solos are included on Ashley’s album, Sweet Anxiety, coming out the same day as for Duane.)
As Ashley as shaped my conception of the cello, Stephanie Aston has defined how I think about the voice and what I want voice to be in my music. Stephanie has the most phenomenal control over her instrument. She is completely comfortable in the microtonal lines that I write and she can float with sweet purity for days and then turn a corner and peel the skin from your face. Working with Stephanie (and spending my life with her) has shaped more than just what I write for the voice. Her ability to combine the lyricism of bel canto singing with the angular gestures and shifting timbres of Ferneyhough, Boulez, and Jason Eckardt opened the door for what I think of my “style” now. I love dense textures, unstable harmonies, harsh noises, and I try to string things together by using these sound worlds in a vocal way. My material is usually derived from vocal utterances, or physical sensations. It was working with Stephanie, and watching her perform, that led my musical thinking down this path. This album features Stephanie on two pieces: She is unaccompanied in Immer Wieder and with ensemble (wasteLAnd) in Finally, the cylindrical voids tapping along.
The oldest piece on the album is Lied/Lied, composed at the beginning of 2013 and recorded in 2014. It was also the most difficult to compose. Batya trusted me with some very personal poetry and a long-form bio that was an experiment in answering the question: “what would happen if artists wrote honest bios?” The result was something that talked about personal feelings and anxieties surrounding biographical events rather than the events and accomplishments themselves. After a few failed attempts at setting the bio as a complete text, Batya and I settled on the idea of fragmenting the bio and the poetry into short movements. I’ve never worked so closely with somebody, setting their own words for them to perform. There’s no way I would have been able to feel comfortable with a project like this if it weren’t for our existing friendship and open/honest communication. If I went in a direction that felt wrong to Batya, she told me. Editing and Mixing this recording three years later, I found myself feeling increasingly touched by the trust Batya showed, letting me use this text and release the recording.
My relationship with Aperture Duo (who recorded 1560) is younger than the rest these collaborations, but feels connected to the same world. We first met when they were playing another piece of mine with wild Up, and I was immediately a fan. They have given life to this piece in a way that is beyond anything that I imagined while composing it. In the time since the premiere, they have taken ownership of the piece in an extraordinary way. Adrianne Pope and Linnea Powell make the music, and their movements around the space while playing it, feel completely organic. It feels like they’re improvising (despite the fact that they’re regularly maintaining absurdly complicated rhythmic unison with each other).
Doing this project with wasteLAnd follows the same thread of how important this community is to me. We began as a concert series designed to highlight how excited we were about the musicians in LA. There isn’t a fixed roster, and we present other ensembles just as frequently as performances by what has come to be “the wasteLAnd collective.” wasteLAnd as a performing ensemble or as a concert series is driven by our love of the people in our musical community. This is the same feeling that has driven all of the music on this album for me.
You can preorder your own copy of for Duane using the link in the Bandcamp player, or make yourself a note to pick it up at your favorite retailer on Oct. 20. That same day at 8pm, Deyoe and Walters will share a record-release double bill at Thymele Arts in East Hollywood, CA… admission is free, and details are here.